After making headlines for providing free haircuts for the homeless in his beloved Philadelphia, barber Brennon Jones is demanding answers on why his charitable efforts have now drawn the wrong type of attention.
In a video uploaded to Twitter by Muslim activist StanceGrounded, the Haircuts 4 Homeless founder is seen being accosted by police officers for ... cutting hair?
“Philadelphia Police tying to shut down a black man giving free haircuts to the homeless,” StanceGrounded vented in his viral tweet. “THIS IS INFURIATING. THIS IS SO OUTRAGEOUS. Retweet!”
But in his quest for answers, Jones came up well short.
“A police officer approached me and told me I had to shut down immediately after receiving a call from a sergeant,” Jones told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I asked for the sergeant’s name and badge number and a legitimate excuse why. He didn’t give me any information of why I had to shut down, he just told me I had to.”
But after informing the officer that he had received permission to provide haircuts on the sidewalk to those in need, Jones refused to budge. Which, of course, didn’t stop the officer from placing some phone calls and seemingly arguing with Jones in the two-minute viral clip.
Something even the St. Louis-based Ethical Society of Police—a collection of black police officers who address racial discrimination within police departments—called bullshit on.
“Why do we continue to interfere where we don’t belong? This isn’t a police matter,” the organization tweeted. “Furthermore, he’s doing something that brings our community together. Let the man help others.”
And while thousands of users took to social media to voice their frustration, with some even offering legal counsel, thankfully cooler heads prevailed—as Jones was permitted to continue his duty as a good Samaritan as long as he ensured that he was cleaning up the hair. Which he was more than likely doing already.
“I try not to let anything stop me from the mission and the mission is bigger than myself, and it’s all about those people who are forgotten, who are looked down on, who are talked about and mistreated,” Jones said. “Lives are literally changed, there’s a rebranding of humanity and it’s all ‘cause [of] this initiative. So I’m gonna keep going and I won’t let nothing get in the way of the goal and that’s to spread love.”
Thus far, the Philadelphia Police Department has yet to provide an official statement on the matter but did offer a tepid response on Twitter.
“We learned this happened on Wed 4/10 at 8th & Market,” they tweeted. “The officer approached the barber and initially asked him to cease due to complaints from businesses about lose hair on the street. The barber agreed to sweep after each cut. Barber was not shut down, not cited, not moved.”
But despite the favorable outcome, Jones asserts the police are being dishonest.
“I feel as though that may have just been their excuse to clear their name,” he told PEOPLE. “[The officer] didn’t say they’d receive any complaints, he didn’t say there was hair blowing, he just said, ‘You have to shut down immediately.’”
Jones also maintains there aren’t any businesses close enough to his makeshift operation to be agitated by any loose hair, and noted that he has a helper who cleans up after he finishes each haircut.
All I know is I’m happy this story didn’t conclude like so many others do—with unnecessary violence. And that Jones won’t allow this mishap to dissuade him from his higher calling.
“Issues come and go. It may be the cops one day. It may be somebody else the next day,” Jones said. “I won’t let it discourage me in any way […] I’m just focused on providing a service for the less fortunate.”