Robert Benson: Sovereign Citizen – October 8, 2010

Mr. McKinley spawns a host of imitator in Robert Benson. Photo by John Osborn

John Osborn

Eye Correspondent

ARCATA – Robert Benson speaks slowly and softly, being careful with every word uttered and making sure it was truly conveying what he wants to say.

If it weren’t for the long beard, Benson could easily be mistaken for a businessman with his sleek suit and the intellect behind his words. But he is not, nor does he diminish what he is – a houseless person trying to live life to its fullest and without the discrimination that is an inevitable consequence of that lifestyle here in Arcata.

Although Benson sees the lack of “observance for the First Amendment” by City and law enforcement officials as a major reason he is running for office, he also shared a number of economic and social policies he would strive to accomplish if elected.

Benson is one of seven people vying for two open seats on the Arcata City Council this November, a field full of individuals representing a wide berth of Arcata society.

Born in the Midwestern city of St. Louis, Benson moved moved to Pennsylvania during the seventh grade. In 1992, after having attended high school, he joined a Grateful Dead tour, becoming what is affectionately called a “Deadhead.” He spent the next 16 years traveling, cleaning up trash to score tickets, and dishing out vegan Pad Thai to raise funds. The experience, he says, thought him about America and how to survive and be independent outside of the traditional machinations of society and within a thriving counterculture.

“It allowed me to develop a healthy sense of liberty,” Benson says. “That was the good life.”

Benson first visited Arcata in 1992, where he “discovered a balance with nature and society” he had  not seen previously in his travels. While visiting again in 2008, he ended up staying here not so much for the cliché awe-inspiring gravity that has captured so many others, but rather for legal ramifications resulting from his campaigning for Ron Paul, a staunch libertarian Congressman who ran for president that year.

While campaigning for Paul outside of Mazzoti’s, the bouncer, Benson says, demanded he leave and when he didn’t, an officer with the Arcata Police Department asked him to move on and when he didn’t, he was arrested for being drunk in public. The charges were later dismissed, but the incident, and subsequent ones after, led Benson to file several suits against the city and one against Arcata Mayor Alex Stillman.

“Like I’ve seen numerous times with other citizens,” Benson says, “[the officer] said I was drunk, and that just seems to be what they do when they want to arbitrarily arrest you. They find a reason.”

This experience, magnified by other instances involving himself and others, made it clear to Benson that Arcata’s reputation of being a peace-loving paradise is long gone, and he believes it will have ramifications for the city in the future.

“I’ve never experienced this in all my travels,” Benson says of the City’s disdain for the houseless. “This place used to be very kind, but to make it the worst place I’ve been to is complete overkill.”

Benson is deeply troubled about what he sees as the arbitrary enforcement of laws by APD, the weight of which tends to fall on the shoulders of the less fortunate.

“It’s illegal to be without a house in Arcata,” Benson says. “If you sleep outside of a house, you’re going to get a ticket.”

Benson makes an effort to regularly attend council meetings, and although he has not reviewed any of the economic plans drafted by the City, his ideas on economic growth mirror findings within the City’s strategic plan.

For example, Benson pointed to the empty land between Samoa and the Arcata Marsh on I Street as a prime location to develop green industries, particularly with the local talent available. Overall, he sees more talk than action by the council in that regard.

“I think Arcata could kind of pioneer something like that,” Benson says, adding that incentives should be offered to attract businesses and satisfy a growing demand nationally for green products.

Benson also believes the City should consider lowering the sales tax in order to encourage more people to shop in town.

Benson believes it’s long overdue for the City to have a public restroom available in the Downtown area, especially for a city of its size. If the City is willing spend millions on its current transitional housing project, which he supports, it should be able to muster the funds, and will, to build a restroom.

“It’s quite an issue,” Benson says. “It makes Arcata look bad.”

But Benson says the City needs to address the needs of the houseless, particularly by establishing a “civil militia camp,” a place where anyone can live, learn life skills, engage in community service, such as blazing trails or picking up trash and develop mutual respect with one another and the community. He feels a camp of that nature would exaggerate the contrast between those here who want to work with the community and those who have no respect for it.

“People might feel more of a duty to correct their own behavior,” Benson says of offering a camp of this nature.

Benson believes the City isn’t bike-friendly enough and that the current trails are insufficient. He sees tourism as a viable industry for Arcata and thinks expanding bike and pedestrian trails will increase the number of visitors. He supports the current Arcata Ridge Trail project and wants to see such a trail expand to Eureka.

As for marijuana, Benson says the current restrictions on patients to grow their medicine isn’t realistic, but at the same time, he thinks regulating the amount of dispensaries is a good thing.

But ideally, Benson wants to see an Arcata that respects the rights of its citizens, may they be houseless or not. He wants to see a council that responds to the people, not a few special interests. He points out that how one treats the least advantaged in society is reflection of the community’s character as a whole.

“There’s a lot of hatred here,” Benson says. “[The houseless] need a safe place to be.”


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  2. Robert Benson said:

    Happy Pills,
    Your sentiments of good will are gratefully well received. I must correct your allusion, though, that I am royalty. The People, in their private capacities, constitute the royalty that you speak of. I am no more, or less, of royalty than you and all your friends. I have began asserting the fact, in hopes of establishing the proper relationship between the Government and the People. God has given the People their sovereign rights and by the grace of God and the blood of Patriots (or Matriots, as the case may be) We have secured them under the Constitution. Under the guise of the United Nations, the Rothschild cartel of banksters seek to eliminate these rights, reducing the People to subjects. Under the Rothschild Agenda, the People will be forced to labor in the name of fraudulently inflated national debt under the gun of international troops (for more information see “Report from Iron Mountain” on or in a competent search engine). I apologize, if I offended you with the Slave reference; I employ it intending to motivate my fellow Americans to break their chains of complacency. Enjoy!

  3. Happy Pills said:

    Great news. Me and all my friends will be voting for you. You are a breath of fresh air for Arcata. We need royalty on the Council!

  4. Robert Benson said:

    Slave Happy Pills,
    I, regrettably, assumed the debate was at the Eureka station. After the Post Office sent a nonstandard “Who’s there” demand, I was no longer allowed to stay at my friend’s place and I misplaced the letter with the location. I have not given up on my bid. If elected, I will fulfill my obligations with unprecedented diligence. However, it appears that Alex Stillman is not alone in discriminating against the lower class and that Arcatans are quite pleased with her accomplishing the closing of the Endeavor and passing the no panhandling ordinance, as she planned. Perhaps, I have lost some hope and faith, though, not intent, by any means. Thank you for noticing.

  5. Happy Pills said:

    King Benson;

    Why did you not attend the Arcata City Council candidate KEET debate? Have you given up on your bid for City Council?

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  7. Robert Benson said:

    Dr. Drake,
    Greetings and health. I deeply apologize for the error. I am new to forums. I had just been libeled severely on a previous Arcata Eye Forum and may have made an inadvertent assumption. Media is an animal.

  8. Robert Benson said:

    Flower Girl (or so she says),
    Thank you, for the olde discriminatory line -how original. NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that I possess a joyous life, am working on a job, and I will move on at my will. Though I deem it impolite to tell others what to do, in order to even the score, I will say: Learn to honor and respect yourself and you will honor and respect others. Enjoy!

    Thank you.

    Happy Pill,
    Check with the Sheriff and local police and, then, compare with local reporting; for information on the bodies. As to the hate crime death statistics, the following quotes and links are from a Time/CNN 2008 article and a 2009 Report from the National Coalition of the Homeless;

    Time/CNN 2008 Article: “The attacks on homeless street people are particularly vicious. “They are the most vulnerable people in the country,” says Tony Taylor, a research associate at the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Over 1 in 4 attacks that are reported against the homeless end in murder. That’s huge compared to one-tenth of a percent of other protected classes,” he said, referring to categories of individuals currently protected under federal hate-crime legislation.” and

    NCH 2009 Report: “The violence continues and with forty-three known deaths, 2009 was the deadliest year for attacks on homeless people in a decade and the second highest since NCH began tracking the violence in 1999. NCH has found startling data in the number and severity of attacks. However, the reports also acknowledge that since the homeless community is treated so poorly in our society, many more attacks go unreported. Hate crimes against the homeless community is a growing wave in need of public attention.
    • 1,074 reported acts of bias motivated violence have been committed against homeless individuals between 1999-2010
    • 291 homeless individuals lost their lives as a result of the attacks
    • Reported violence has occurred in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC
    Our data also suggests that the perpetrators of these attacks tend to be young men and teenaged boys. In the eleven year history of our hate crime reports the vast majority of the attacks against homeless people have been committed by youth as young as ten years old. In 2009:
    • 80 percent of the attacks were committed by people under thirty years of age
    • 98 percent of perpetrators were men
    • Nearly one in three attacks ended in death” Enjoy!

    Thank you, again. Enjoy!

    Happy Pills,
    Life is too short to be scared. Live free or die! Enjoy!

  9. Robert Eckart said:

    Kev: Ask Benson-in-hedges ! Class action lawsuits from smokers and supporters of their dead bodies….!!!

  10. Happy Pills said:

    Oh names. Sorry I misunderstood what you meant by full attribution. I write under a pseudonym out of fear.

  11. Happy Pills said:

    Full attribution from King Benson, WTF? According to the King, “… I have discovered that numerous dead bodies have been found, all of “transients”; just, outside Arcata’s city limits. These dead bodies, typically, go unreported by local news outlets. One out of four hate crimes against poor people end in death, compared with a part of one percent with the federally recognized hate crimes…” Missed the attribution.

  12. kevpod said:

    Yes, well, one thing about Mr. Benson – he states his beliefs with full attribution, not as “Happy Pills” or “Flower Gal.”

  13. Robert Benson said:

    In reflection, this is perfect evidence of the discriminatory profiling of which I have issue. Dr, or Mr., Drake plainly knows nothing about what he utters. If he is a professor, I pray he speaks with more competence when in that capacity. Thank you, for the insight into the education system. Enjoy!

  14. Robert Benson said:

    “but rather for legal ramifications from his camp…” Mr. Drake, would you care to elaborate upon your omniscient proclamation? Perhaps, including how you became a competent judge in the matter. Please respond, if I can refresh your memory about any particulars. I am perfectly willing to get into discussion. Abuse of police power is no small public issue. Enjoy.

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