Bumfight’s Sequel: Cause for Alarm

In front of a camera, they beat each other for food, beer and money. One bloodied homeless man pummels his foe in a public toilet. Another tears out his teeth with pliers and rocks. Billed as the star and formidable antihero is “Rufus the Stunt Bum,” who voluntarily rams his head into fast-food restaurant signs and breaks his best friend’s leg in a brawl.

These degrading and blatantly exploitive sequences make up the 60- minute shockfest, “Bumfights: A Cause for Concern,” which was released in 2002. After four misdemeanor convictions, seven felony charges, three civil lawsuits, and condemnation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Las Vegas producers Ray Laticia and Ty Beeson released a sequel to the controversial video this fall. Already banned in some countries, many will consider this sequel just as alarming as its predecessor.

But what is even more alarming is that that violence against homeless people is getting worse — and now more people are videotaping it.

Last August, in Chicago, four teenagers videotaped themselves beating up and urinating on homeless people. The same month in Cleveland, teenagers videotaped each other taking turns shocking homeless men in their genitals with stun guns. The tapes have yet to be released to the media, but Sgt. Ray Burner, who led the investigation in Cleveland, says, “I’ve never seen anything like it in 18 years, except on T.V. Did you ever see the movie ‘Jackass?’ Well, that’s essentially what we’re talking about.”

Some say that today’s youth can’t separate reality and fiction.

This video isn’t fiction. Its premise is brutal and straightforward. Kids get the idea that this harassment is O.K., older teens realize they probably won’t get caught, and 20-year-olds concoct projects in which they too can make money from similar exploitation.

There is a new video from Canada, complete with a flashy bumfights.com-like website, called “Crazy Pricks.” This video includes scenes of twentysomething men driving around in their sport utility vehicles asking homeless men for directions, punching them, and then driving away, laughing. This isn’t about raising the level of “political correctness;” this is about protecting a struggling class of our society.

Incidents like these leave us to wonder: How deep does this run?

The answer is not an easy one. Homeless people don’t have cell phones to use to call 911, and many are not considered reasonable witnesses because they suffer from alcoholism or mental illness. Police don’t specifically track hate crimes against those experiencing homelessness, and, all the while, municipalities across the country are passing anti-vagrancy/homeless laws, pushing the most vulnerable population into the shadows– and into isolated situations. These careworn people have no place to go, and are more and more vulnerable to people who think it’s amusing to degrade homeless people and catch it on video.

For more information on how the video was made, legal proceedings, and press reports, please visit  http://www.nationalhomeless.org/civilrights/hatecrimes.html.

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.