Is Phoenix Jones a villain?

Phoenix Jones, Seattle’s own self proclaimed “superhero,” is the most publicized real life superhero, as part of the Real Life Superhero Movement. He is also known as the leader of the Rain City Superhero Movement, Seattle’s branch of the RLSHM.

Jones was arrested early in the morning on Oct. 9 for assault charges.

Jones was filmed running towards a crowd of people that seemed to be engaged in an argument.

The alleged argument took place under the viaduct in downtown Seattle. In a video recording by Ryan McNamee, a Western Washington videographer, Jones is seen approaching the group and targeting them with pepper spray until a woman, asked to be called Maria, screams for him to stop. Maria begins to fight back against Jones, claiming he “sprayed her in the eyes.”

According to Matthew Warnick, a South Puget Sound Community College student, the RLSHM is exciting “As long as they don’t take it too far.”

In the video, Maria begins to beat him with her shoe and purse as she yells for him to leave her and her group alone. Maria later told the Ross and Burbank Show that she was angry with Jones for chasing her and that she felt she was attacked by someone straight out of a comic book. She continues to say her and her friends may have been in a heated discussion, but not a fight.

“This stuff happens all the time if you’re in downtown Seattle, but there wasn’t going to be anything too violent going on there.”

Whether by calling 911 or chasing away car-jackers, Jones has previously gained public support for his actions. With incidences like the arrest of Jones, police are becoming more cautionary.

Would this superhero intervention be helpful at SPSCC? Director of Security Lonnie Hatman said, “We would welcome extra eyes that would report incidents, suspicious activity, or concerns from real life superheroes, or anyone from the campus community. It could be a problem if they, or anyone else, goes beyond reporting to taking physical action, especially if they are not trained in how to legally and properly do so.”

Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel said, “There’s nothing wrong with citizens getting involved with the criminal justice process as long as they follow it all the way through.”

This means calling 911 and waiting for the proper authorities to control a volatile situation. RLSHs generally don’t have the experience or legal authority to control a situation. The backlash of trying has at times been nearly fatal.

The authorities are concerned about the safety of the public and of these masked vigilantes.

Jones has claimed to have been stabbed, shot, and to have had his nose broken during an altercation earlier this year.

As the movement grows, so does the chance of injuries, and even mortality.

“Superheroes,” the 2011 documentary that won numerous awards, displays the intention and somewhat controversial experiences of being an RLSH.

One aspect that becomes clear through the documentary is that each superhero has a different idea of their role in society.

The film features the superhero named Life, who uses his title to help the people of his city in small ways, such as providing food, toiletries, and a kind word.

On the site, heroes can be found on glamorous photos that spotlight their outfits and anonymous names.

Among them is Knight Owl, a pacific northwest based emergency medical technician who stumbled upon the movement as a result of writing a comic book.

“I thought, ‘Let’s throw out the whole Bruce Wayne-type of thing, and instead consider what a college student with limited resources would do?’ That’s when I found some early Superhero websites, and I made contact with some people.”

After gaining experience as a first responder in Iraq he came back to perfect Knight Owl.

“We are not role-players and this is not pretend. My mission is basically what falls in line with firefighting and EMT—you do the best you can to alleviate pain and suffering, and maybe even save someone’s life,” said Owl on his profile.

It appears that for every die hard “superhero” risking his life to break up alleged fights, there is someone out there taking a less aggressive approach.