In 2017, Brennon Jones made headlines with a thoughtful act of kindness. The Philadelphia native began giving the city’s homeless people free haircuts. The loving act merited praise online, from Mayor Jim Kenney, and Philadelphia’s City Hall which granted him permission to set up provisional barbershops on the street.
However, on April 14 of this year Jones, now 30, says he was approached by an officer who demanded he “shut down immediately” without any justification. Jones refused.
“I told him I wouldn’t shut down until I got more information,” Jones said. “The whole initiative is built around the homeless. I don’t just give them haircuts — I feed them, I clothe them and provide them with toiletries as well.”
A cellphone recording of the encounter has since gone viral and been viewed more than 700,000 times.
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
The officer eventually continued on but left Jones rattled. “I was a little fearful,” he tells PEOPLE. “At the time … I was cutting my fifth person.”
A statement from the Philadelphia police alleges residents in the area complained about the leftover hair. The cops say Jones wasn’t told to shut down but to simply move “due to complaints from businesses about loose hair on the street.”
Jones doesn’t buy it and insists he has someone with him to clean up the hair after he’s done with his haircut.
“I feel as though that may have just been their excuse to clear their name,” the barber says. “[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 has been cutting hair for a while and reportedly works from 11 AM to sunset and can be found between 8th and Market. Despite the unsettling interaction with the cops, Jones says he won’t stop.
“Issues come and go. It may be the cops one day. It may be somebody else the next day,” Jones says. “I won’t let it discourage me in any way … I’m just focused on providing a service for the less fortunate.”