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Federal Hoedown: In Court with Four Attorneys, Three Mayors, One Cop, and a Bad Judge
After five years, the Norse vs. City of Santa Cruz trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow in San Jose--Wednesday March 28 at 8:30 AM 280 S. 1st St. with jury selection.
Throughout the last two decades, the Santa Cruz City Council has struggled mightily to ignore its police department's policies of citing, arresting, and expelling homeless people from the City. With shelter space for less than 5% of those outside most of the year (and 10% in winter), the city nonetheless maintains an unusual and cruel ban on the act of sleeping at night (11 PM to 8:30 AM) as well as a ban on covering up with blankets during the same period (MC 6.36.010b).
Robert Norse, an activist with HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) has repeatedly raised this issue at the City Council. For the last seven years, he has been unable to get the issue on the Council agenda, though hundreds of homeless people have received $90 citations during that period and thousands more harassed. The assault rate for homeless people outside is 4 to 10 times that of those indoors. The death rate is also significantly higher.
Norse is suing City Council for two specific instances of arbitrary and selective repression: a false arrest in March 2002 because he raised his arm in a silent fleeting mock-Nazi salute after the council shut down another speaker before the usual Oral Communications time had ended, and a second in January 2004 for "walking in a parade", "whispering", and "talking back" to the Mayor.
Scott Kennedy made the second arrest; Chris Krohn--pressured by Tim Fitzmaurice--made the first.
Norse contends that the Mayor or a hostile Councilmember uses a practice of raising a point of order and using a Council rule selectively to claim a "disruption" is taking place. Then if Norse or the targeted critic objects, he or she is called "disruptive" and ordered into silence or banned from the meeting.
Judge Whyte initially threw out the case, but was forced to rehear it five years later by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Whyte may again throw out the case, this time on the grounds that all the Councilmembers and the arresting police officer (Sgt. Loran "Butchie" Baker) have limited immunity.
I shall update the case later today. Leave questions and comments on this website, or call 423-4833.
If the case goes forward as expected, jury selection will begin at 8:30 AM Wednesday morning and I will be the first witness to testify in the afternoon.
Wish me luck. Come to court.
City Council meets tonight and the public can speak at Oral Communications at 7 PM to the Community. Those who oppose the current crackdown downtown as well as the ongoing policy of citing and arresting homeless people for sleeping in violation of the Federal Courts Jones decision (banning such a practice in Los Angeles's Skid Row) should come down and speak up.
I also encourage folks to consider creating a Poor Peoples Union, such as exists in Olympia, Washington--a group that formed the ongoing homeless encampment---Camp Quixote. Organizers Matt and Jesse are in town. Leave a message for them at 423-4833.
Judge Whyte apparently told the attorneys he is having trouble deciding how to proceed with the case. So the opening of the case is delayed until Thursday morning--same time, same place.
I'm still hoping to post the original videos (once posted but long since disappeared from santacruz indymedia.
I'll be speaking about the case at City Council tonight.
For earlier earlier stories on the mock-Nazi salute case, go to
http://www.huffsantacruz.org/articles/falsearrest031204.html (some references now gone)