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Sleep Ban Fighters Regroup after Saturday Morning Police Raid
A 3 AM raid by 8-10 police officers, with a follow-up by half a dozen an hour and a half later dispersed many of the homeless people sleeping at City Hall. At least four received citations for "illegal sleeping" even though the officers had no legal place for their victims to go--in the teeth of the Los Angeles Jones decision banning nighttime ticketing of sleepers and campers there. Some of those ticketed and some of the activists announced a meeting today 2 PM at the Firefly Cafe at 131 Front St.
Campers trooped off to find individual sleep spots after SCPD officers staged two raids on the City Hall grounds, threatening and then ticketing folks sleeping there early this morning.
In response to requests "where can I go to sleep legally?" there were told alternately "there's nowhere in the city you can camp" (a true statement), and "move away from the protest and you'll be able to sleep without us bothering you." They were also handed a professionally printed "Homeless Resource Card" which listed services which were either closed, full, or irrelevant.
The officers did not disagree when long-time homeless people told them the information they were giving was false and/or unhelpful. They also did not look terribly happy doing what they did.
I was contacted by phone around 3 AM and got down there by 3:30 when the first "wave" of police had come through, ID-checking, warning, and dispersing the less-committed homeless sleepers or those with jobs later that day. Several waited defiantly for the police to return to get tickets, but grew tired, and packed up and left to find hidden sleeping spots
Police also threatened to confiscate and destroy property instead of holding it either as evidence or unclaimed--as required by law (as well as the recent federal Kinkaid decision in Fresno). Amanda Barnett reported they threatened to cite her for puppy off a leash.
The protesters maintained a safe place for several dozen campers to sleep for nearly a week and raised the issue strongly enough to produce the first-in-this-century description of the city's homeless nighttime sleeping ban in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Friday--a story which prompted a long debate online on the Sentinel website. [http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2007/August/17/local/stories/05local.htm and http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/06/18439219.php]
Protesters announced they were regrouping in a series of meetings over the next few days. One will be later today at the weekly Human Rights Organization at 131 Front St at the Firefly Cafe [425-4467 http://humanrightsorg.org]. A second will be held after the Potters Hand meal at the Town Clock noon Sunday. A third will happen two hours later in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz at 2 PM where tablers will take up the "Boycott Bigotry" protest against Vice-Mayor Coonerty's anti-homeless statements [see Sentinel article above as well as http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/06/18439222.php and http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/06/18439219.php]
A major purpose of the protest was to train homeless people in how to respond to and document police bullying under the unconstitutional Sleeping Ban and to sign them up as plaintiffs in the forthcoming lawsuit masterminded locally by attorney Kate Wells. The six-night protest signed up 10-20 more plaintiffs, for a total of 45 or more.
I will be playing tape of the police bust this morning on Free Radio Santa Cruz tomorrow at 9:30 AM and possibly have a few guests in giving first-hand testimony.
The show will be archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb070819.mp3 .
More details in my next report. I'm real tired.