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Parking Lot Panic Law Used to Disperse Drummers
by Robert Norse
Thursday Jan 3rd, 2008 10:37 AM
On two successive Wednesdays, police have ordered the peaceful drum circle to leave their traditional spot in the public parking lot behind Tacqueria Vallarta and Logos using Mayor Coonerty's Ban on Public Assemblies in parking lots. The new merchant-backed law prohibits lingering in a parking lot or garage unless you have a vehicle there (and then only for fifteen minutes). It removed ten blocks of public space from public use.
Suzanne, a lead drummer, reports that last Wednesday, December 26th, Sgt. Dan Flippo drove away the drum circle around 6:30 in the evening. When asked why, he claimed the Farmers Market folks had "complained". However there was no Farmer's Market that day.

Yesterday--a week later-- two police officers (Officer Kline and a female officer) reportedly drove by and ordered drummers to leave at 3:30 in the afternoon. Food Not Bombs and the drummers then moved to the sidewalk at Soquel and Pacific outside New Leaf Market.

The city has set up no promised "free speech" zones--though the entire law is an outrageous police state measure that denies decades-long traditional use of the lots and garages. The law begs for a constitutional challenge since it bans public access to areas traditionally used for First Amendment activities. No attorneys (and not the ACLU) have volunteered yet for this task.

It was passed at the urging of Coonerty, the SCPD, the Downtown Association, and the Mathews-Coonerty-Robinson Downtown Task Force--which continues to hold closed meetings.

It sailed past the Downtown Commission with no police stats showing any particular "crime crisis" in the parking lots or garages, opposed even by the local generally useless ACLU.

It seems to be part and parcel of the Coonerty Crackdown . This includes massive grants to Chief Ranger John Wallace (adding 7 cops and rangers to his park patrol), downtown sweeps, the infamous Triple Fine zones and multi-jurisdictional goonsquads at Halloween and New Years, the attack on Councilmember Madrigal for his suggestion of possible racial profiling last fall, and the increase in Sleeping Ban citations (with shelter for less than 10% of the homeless community).

City Council backers of this law, one community activist remembers, promised the law would not be used to harass legitimate First Amendment activity (like the drummers and Food Not Bombs). As I feared, this law is a cultural assault, being used to change the character of the downtown under the pretext of increasing public safety (though no such showing was made).

Call in to discuss the issue tonight on Free Radio Santa Cruz at 101.1 FM 6-8 PM (also streaming at http://www.freakradio.org) when I'll also be interviewing one of the co-founders of L.A. Copwatch. On-air number: 831-427-3772.

See "Last Chance to Stop the Parking Lot Panic Law" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/10/20/18454864.php

More extensive article: "Mayor to Back Public Assembly Ban in Parking Lots; Interview Replayed 10-18 FRSC 6:15 PM" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/10/18/18454618.php

Leave a message for Suzanne of SAFE (Society for Artistic Freedom and Expression/Streetperformers Against Foolish Enforcemenet) at 423-4833.

Time to fight back?