American civil rights activist and writer, Jeff Thomas Black, stands beside a couch located at the Globe Hotel. Black claims his bag containing his U.S. passport, wallet and other items including a 400-page manuscript for a book that he wrote while in county jail was stolen from him while he slept on the couch during the morning hours of Aug. 18. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Man who stole and burned U.S. politician’s portrait has manuscript he wrote in prison stolen in Nanaimo

Jeff Thomas Black stranded after passport and other items taken while he was sleeping downtown

Jeff Thomas Black should be on his way home to the United States by now.

Instead, the 51-year-old self-described civil rights activist and writer, who says he has outstanding criminal charges against him and an upcoming court date in Oregon, has spent the last 48 hours searching downtown Nanaimo for any signs of his backpack, which he claims was stolen this past weekend.

“I’ve walked miles around this place,” Black told the News Bulletin outside of the Globe Hotel. “Anything within a mile radius of this place, I’ve been looking.”

According Black, he spent the early morning hours of Aug. 18 sleeping on a couch located in the rear gated area of the Globe Hotel and when he woke up around 6 a.m. his backpack – containing his U.S. passport, $320 in cash, drivers licence, debit cards, legal documents and manuscript he had written while in an Oregon jail – was gone.

“I was planning on leaving on the ferry and the nice folks at the Globe said I could crash on the couch and leave in the morning and so I did. Somebody walked into the gated closed awning area outside somewhere between 1 a.m. when I fell asleep and 6 a.m. when I woke up and stole my bag from about two feet away from my head,” he said. “Everything of mine is gone.”

Black said his cellphone wasn’t taken. He has reported the theft to Nanaimo RCMP and has also reached out to the U.S Consulate office in Vancouver but was told he needed to visit the office or submit a passport application form, which he said is difficult because he has no money.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t have one penny,” Black said.

He explained that has been vacationing in Nanaimo since July and that he reached out to the News Bulletin in hopes that someone in the community may have come across his backpack. He said what he wants most are his legal documents and his manuscript, which he estimates is about 400 pages.

“My passport can be replaced, my driver’s licence can be replaced and the $320 is gone, but I really just want my writing,” he said. “I want my writing and I need my writing and my legal papers. It is not useful to anybody else on this planet.”

Black describes himself as a civil rights activist, writer and “political prisoner” who works with families he said are victims of police brutality and murder in the U.S. His activism made headlines in Oregon earlier this year when he filmed himself stealing and later burning a portrait photo of former Portland mayor Neil Goldschmidt – who admitted to sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl during his time as mayor but was never prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired – from city hall.

Black said he briefly went to jail for that incident after he called the police to report himself for the theft of the portrait. He said the incident was to protest a lack of response from Portland’s city council to the family of a man who he said had been killed by the police.

“I believe there are things worth fighting for and I believe that the government of the United States and the government of the City of Portland are so corrupt that I personally, as a civil rights writer and father, needed to do something about it,” he said, adding, “My focus is always on peace and on civil rights and so I am very clear about disavowing violence and the street and gang violence that goes on in Portland, Ore. and other places. I believe violence is a tool of the state.”

Black said in June, before coming to Nanaimo, he was released on bail from Multnomah County Jail in Oregon. He said he spent 20 days in solitary confinement after he was arrested for entering city hall despite being banned from the property, which he said was a result of a series of “civil disobedience” incidents there.

According to the Oregon Judicial Department, Black has been charged with two counts of obstructing governmental and judicial administration and two counts of criminal trespass in the second degree. He has pleaded not guilty and is acting as his own legal counsel. A court date has been set for Oct. 10.

“Yes, I’m a criminal and I am facing over three years of charges for my life but I am a man of peace and I am not violent. I believe my civil disobedience is for the public and for the people and for my kids,” Black said.

It was during his time in Multnomah County Jail that Black said he wrote the manuscript that he’s desperately hoping to find. He said the manuscript is eventually going to become a book called Brutal Reality which talks about his time in jail and police brutality in the United States, particularly in Portland.

“I saw the heinous, heinous slavery and torture that goes on in that place,” Black said about his time in jail. “They made a huge mistake putting a civil rights writer in that jail because I learned. I got to see the absolute worst of the worst places where they put people.”

At the end of the day, Black said all that all he really wants is his manuscript and legal documents so that he can go home.

“I really just want to get back to Portland,” he said. 
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