A Philadelphia barber is searching for an explanation after he says police ordered him to stop giving free haircuts to the homeless, a service he does twice a month at his outdoor shop.
Brennon Jones, 30, said he was cutting hair between 8th and Market streets in Center City earlier this month when he was approached by an officer who told him to “shut down immediately.” The officer didn’t give a reason, however.
“I told him I wouldn’t shut down until I got more information,” Jones told PEOPLE of the April 10 incident, adding that he was “upset” and “confused” by it all.
“The whole initiative is built around the homeless,” he said. “I don’t just give them haircuts — I feed them, I clothe them and provide them with toiletries as well.”
A video of the incident posted on social media shows the cop speaking with Jones, then lingering in the area to make some calls to his chief in an effort to get the barber to leave. Several community members are seen rallying around Jones as the officer continues to hassle him.
“It’s a man giving out free haircuts to the homeless and they out here harassing him,” a man behind the camera says.
According to PEOPLE, Jones first received national acclaim in 2017 when he launched his Haircut 4 the Homeless project, servicing the city’s displaced and struggling residents. His acts of kindness caught the attention of Philly Mayor Phil Kenney, as well as another barber who offered up his shop so that Jones could continue giving free haircuts.
“It wasn’t about me giving a barbershop,” owner Sean Johnson told FOX 29 at the time. “When you look at the homeless and the things that they need, I looked at it as more. I built something and I want to see it keep going, and I want to see it do a great thing.”
Their agreement fell through after eight months, but that did not stop Jones from continuing to do good in his community. Later that year, City Hall gave him permission to set up his makeshift shop on local streets.
Since then, the Philly man said there’s been no issues over his free curbside haircuts until this month when he was approached by police. He admitted to PEOPLE that he was “a bit fearful” at the time.
The officer ultimately let him continue cutting hair but told him to make sure he tidied up afterward, sweeping up any hair left behind. Jones said he’s confused, and still hasn’t received any explanation from police about the incident.
In a statement, the police department told PEOPLE that Jones was ordered to stop cutting “due to complaints from businesses about loose hair on the street.”
“Barber was not shut down, not cited, not moved,” the police said.
However, Jones said there aren’t any businesses close enough to his outdoor shop to be affected by loose hairs. Plus, he said he has as helper to clean up after he’s done cutting.
I feel as though that may have just been their excuse to clear their name,” Jones 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.’ ”
Watch more in the video below.
Philadelphia Police trying to shut down a black man giving free haircuts to the homeless.
THIS IS INFURIATING. THIS IS SO OUTRAGEOUS.
— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) April 14, 2019