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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons

Sleep Ban Fighters Regroup after Saturday Morning Police Raid
by Robert Norse
Saturday Aug 18th, 2007 7:40 AM
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.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Becky Johnson
Saturday Aug 18th, 2007 10:06 AM
Ryan Coonerty is quoted in the Sentinel bragging about the "amazing services" we have for homeless people in Santa Cruz. We at HUFF don't diss these services, acknowledging that they are vital and life-sustaining. What the public needs to know is that these services don't even come close to duplicating what an ordinary person needs to survive in Santa Cruz. And, indeed, the homeless death toll is equally "amazing" given that 42 died last year officially ( more unofficially) a new record and one which Coonerty would rather we forget.

For example, two washing machines for over 3,000 homeless people in the County. Three (sometimes cold) showers. Lockers for SOME unhoused individuals. Food FIVE days a week.
Emergency shelter for 2 - 3% of those currently homeless in the City.

Meanwhile, the Jones decision says you can't arrest for sleeping or keeping warm with a blanket in a situation where inadequate shelter exists. The police last night had nowhere to send those folks where they could LEGALLY sleep. The City is VIOLATING Jones every night and may end up having to pay those folks for the persecution they are actively engaged in as a matter of public policy.
by Robert Norse
Sunday Aug 19th, 2007 10:16 PM
I met today with a number of the homeless protesters--Demone, Amanda, John, and Stephen Harper. Harper was quoted in Squires' story "Homeless camp-in booted from lawn in front of Santa Cruz City Hall" at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2007/August/19/local/stories/03local.htm).

Still recuperating from the week of surveillance and pressure at City Hall, the protesters are regrouping, taking time off, and assessing what to do next.

I discussed the six nights of protest at City Hall on my radio show today (soon to be archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb070816.mp3). On Thursday I'll be playing protesters' response to SCPD Zack Friend's smearjob (quoted authoritatively in the Sentinel article above) 6-8 PM at 101.1 FM.

After two hours of tabling in front of Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz today, I came up with the following:


PROTEST AN UNEXPECTED VICTORY

The protest was originally intended to be a rally, speak-out, one-night sleep out and meeting with the mayor and vice-mayor. Instead "Homies for the Homeless" took it upon themselves to set up a safe space for protesters and non-protesting homeless alike to sleep at night.

Mayor Reilly and Vice-Mayor Coonerty rejected their responsibility either to offer emergency shelter for homeless people or call off the police and their $97 sleeping ban tickets to allow the homeless to shelter themselves as best they can. So the protesters took on the Mayor's job.


BATHROOM BARBARISM

Mayor Reilly, Councilmember Robinson, and City Manager Wilson were all approached about the issue of an open bathroom at night, which Homies for the Homeless [HfH] agreed to monitor and keep clean. Reilly initially expressed interest but subsided soon into silence. Robinson promised to call back, but never did. Wilson refused to meet with the protesters.

Instead, the protesters deviced their own sanitary solution. They used the City Hall bathrooms during the day, and the Locust St. Parking Garage bathroom until 11 PM when it closed. The Locust St. bathroom is due to be closed to the public and turned into an employees/customers-only bathroom for the exclusive benefit of the nearby Little Shanghai restaurant. I got this information from retiring Public Works Parking Authority Boss Matt Ferrell a few months ago. (Another reason was complaints from Parking Garage employees of homeless people using the bathrooms)

Downtown businesses have vetoed a plan to install a 24 hour self-cleaning bathroom (at the absurd cost of $250,000). Earlier the city spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars remodeling the Westside Lighthouse Field bathroom. Alll the temporary portapotties installed in 1999 are now gone--under various pretexts. And, of course, we hear how dirty and unsanitary the homeless are when they piss in the bushes.

The City's long-term purpose seems to be a thinly-disguised: to discourage the homeless and poor from being in Santa Cruz at all and allow decencies only to those willing to spend money.

So the HfH protesters themselves stepped in in to provide what city bureaucrats intentionally denied them: private sanitary bathroom facilities.


CREATIVE CRAP CONTROL

Crow provided his own vehicle and a makeshift toilet which allowed for disposable dumps on the first night. Thereafter Donna and Shane allowed their own RV's bathroom to be used by folks with urgent nighttime needs.

When someone (perhap a protester, perhaps not) took a dump on the floor of the City Hall bathroom during the day, the protesters cleaned it up. I heard this some nights ago when it happened. The lurid incident described in the Sentinel of smearing feces on the walls was not reported to protesters and is one I'd like to see some documentation about.

This kind of inflammatory description is the reason some of us call the Sentinel "the Urinal." The Sentinel blandly broadcasts police allegations--used to justify unconstitutional behavior backing up an unconstitutional Sleeping Ban. With no opportunity for the protesters to reply--a tactic often used at City Council by Councilmember Rotkin to spin any criticisms the public is able to give in the brief three minutes allowed.


MORE INFO SOUGHT ON SCPD SPINMEISTER ZACK FRIEND'S INFLAMATORY ALLEGATIONS

I will be making a Public Records Act request tomorrow to get the specifics behind the police allegations of bad behavior at the protest It seems strange that protesters were not confronted with these concerns at the time they happened. Particularly since Friend links them to the protest and used them as justification for his Saturday morning roust. Why weren't specific arrests made and citations issued for "city employee complaints...[of] vandalism, lewd behavior, and drug use". Could it be that the police didn't find enough real probable cause of real crimes here?

Even city employees need to be reminded that making a false police report is itself a crime. Zack Friend's lurid exaggerations should be.

Friend's assumption that the protesters were deliberately "escalating this to a level to get a police response and garner media attention," flies in the face of the efforts I saw protest leaders making to assure the protest was drug-free, peaceful, respectful, and attentive to police concerns (other than the SCPD's unconstitutional demand that homeless people stay awake all night as demanded by MC 6.36.010a, the Sleeping Ban).

Friend's smearspin is a familiar SCPD tactic. Sgt. Flippo, in his effort to acquire more "tools" for the SCPD, used the same approach with the Downtown Commission some months ago in an attempt to make all parking lots off-limits to the non-auto-owning public.

Parking garages are still forbidden zones for the homeless at all times of the day and night, even in the rain under Vice-Mayor Coonerty's "15 Minute Trespass" law (the 15 minute limit is for the person parking the car or bike; folks without cars or bikes are forbidden entirely).

The Sleeping Ban was originally proposed by the SCPD in 1978 and has been doggedly defended as a "useful tool" for interrogating otherwise innocent people and giving the police selective enforcement powers to drive their unfavorite folks out of town. It's also a catch-all law to criminalize and remove poor people generally with a city staff intent on gentrification.


SQUIRES' SLANTED SENTINEL STORY IGNORES THE JONES DECISION

Jennifer Squires did make her way to a meeting of the Human Rights Organization on Saturday afternoon (come on down--every Saturday 2 PM at the Firefly Cafe 131 Front St.).

After spending fifteen minutes with us, she used absolutely nothing we told her in the story. She also adamantly refused to include the main point of the protest: to document police ticketing and harassment of homeless people in a very public place (City Hall) in the teeth of the Los Angeles Jones decision banning those kinds of tickets.

That decision guarantees homeless Skid Row residents of Los Angeles the right to sleep at night, even to put up a tent at night, without police interference. This puts "liberal" L.A. far ahead of Santa Cruz.

Squires expressed little interest in asking City Attorney Barisone, Police Chief Skerry, or Vice-Mayor Coonerty (Mayor-to-be in November, the only lawyer on the Council, and the Council's self-appointed homeless services expert) how they expect to avoid financial liability when sued. Squires is apparently uninterested until an actual lawsuit is filed and the City faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

We're working on that.


PLAINTIFFS SIGNED UP FOR LAWSUIT

Another victory for the 6-day sleepout was the 20 additional homeless people that signed up for the lawsuit, being prepared by attorneys Kate Wells and David Beauvais. We are still thousands of dollars short of the amount needed to pay for court fees, expert testimony, depositions, etc., but the initial lawsuit will probably be filed in the next two months anyway.

Instead of some probing questions on that issue, Squires gave us another undocumented police red herring: "Problems included reports of graffiti on City Hall, a woman setting up camp inside a bathroom, a couple caught having sex in a trash enclosure, marijuana use and people sexually harassing a female nighttime janitor to the point that she felt uncomfortable coming back to work, Friend said." No citations. No documentation.

Sentinel business as usual of course, but disappointing after Squires' surprisingly good Friday story ["Homeless protest stakes claim on sleeping in Santa Cruz" http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2007/August/17/local/stories/05local.htm]. It featurned the Sentinel's first exposure of the actual wording of the City's unique Sleeping Ban in nearly a decade.


SEVEN KINDS OF VICTORY

Homies for the Homeless--ordinary homeless people who came together in outrage and solidarity and stayed together for a week--did seven things:
(a) They provided a protective area for other homeless people for six nights;
(b) They used the democratic process in a direct and inspirational way to gather pages of signatures for presentation to Mayor Reilly (who put off meeting with them until after the police had driven them away);
(c) They trained each other in how to deal with police wake-up's in the future by demanding of police a legal place to sleep or the right to be left alone per: the Jones decision;
(d) They prompted the first decent story in the city's only major newspaper on the lethal mix of totally inadequate summer shelter and police enforcement of an abusive law;
(e) They encouraged homeless people to document SCPD, Ranger, Host, Boardwalk, and merchant abuses and not slink away into the night;
(f) Thehy strengthened ties and raised spirits among the homeless community for the next stage of the protest--to be done both on the streets and in the courts; and
(g) They drew from the homeless community themselves their own leadership and organization, a process of struggle where homeless people become independent of poverty pimps, liberal "helpers", and radical writers (like myself).

And they fed and took care of each other for a week in the face of a hypocritical and hostile police response.

Not a bad report card for a protest that only expected to be a one night sleep out.



Get in touch with Homies for the Homeless through HUFF at 423-4833.

HUFF meets Wednesday 9:30-11:30 AM in the breezeway between the County Building and the Courthouse near the coffeecart. We're working on the lawsuit. Call us if you want to help.
by John
Tuesday Aug 21st, 2007 8:19 AM
Hey Robert, how many homeless do you let stay at your home every night? You have the means to do so.
by Robert Norse
Wednesday Aug 22nd, 2007 3:30 AM
For more bigoted banter,such as John's taunt, check out
http://forums.santacruzsentinel.com/cgi-bin/forums/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=4&t=000605&p=6 or
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2007/August/19/local/stories/03local.htm or
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2007/August/17/local/stories/05local.htm

For a hilarious satire, go to Steve Argue's mock Sentinel article at
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/21/18442098.php

To help end this bigoted law, support the lawsuit against the Sleeping Ban by calling the Human Rights Organization at 831-425-4467 or e-mail them at info [at] humanrightsorg.org .

Or join up to monitor police, courts, rangers and Council with HUFF at 423-4833 (e-mail rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com)

You can also contact City Manager Dick Wilson, Mayor Reilly, Vice-Mayor Coonerty at 420-5020 (or any member of Dick Wilson's City Council) and demand they follow the Jones decision and spare the city the legal expense.

Contact homeless homeless activists directly by calling Donna Deiss at 325-5684

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)
by Becky Johnson
Wednesday Aug 22nd, 2007 6:30 AM
While the "Homies for the Homeless" protest was in progress, the police approached them about a generator on the City Hall property which they used to power a cellphone. They cautioned them on any signs "attached" to anything and about "dogs off leash". They did NOT approach them about sex in the recycling area, drug or marijuana use, or graffiti. Deputy Chief Patty Sapone did confront protest organizer, Amanda Barnett, about the poop "on the floor of the bathroom". Amanda knew nothing about it or who had done it. Someone from the protest went and cleaned it up anyway---but did not see anything "smeared on the wall". Amanda says she did ask the female maintenance worker for a black plastic garbage bag, which she was given.

No citations were issued for drugs, lewd behavior, graffiti, harassment, or public defecation (IF the poop incident happened as described by SCPD spokesman, Zach Friend, why wasn't the man cited or arrested?

The only citations issued were for sleeping or for covering up with blankets!!
by Rico
Wednesday Aug 22nd, 2007 4:53 PM
Nothing personal, since I know the man, but...

Zach Friend = professional liar.

Tough job. Making the town's largest and most violent gang seem palatable to the majority of the population who not only endures their abuse good-naturedly but pays their bills. Amounting to close to 55% of the city budget, by the way.