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Disabled with only 30 minutes to spare. Navigating the 15 minute parking lot paranoia law.
by Tim Rumford ( sleepisaright [at] live.com )
Sunday Jan 27th, 2008 10:03 AM
How the 15 Minute parking Lot Trespass effects the disabled.

Disabled with only 30 minutes to spare.
Dealing with the 15 minute parking lot paranoia law. by Tim Rumford

The Santa Cruz Municipal Code Chapter 9.64 concerns the use of public parking lots and garages and was later amended to apply to all downtown public lots, and went into affect in mid-November, 2007. The law prohibits any person from staying in a parking garage or lot for more than 15 minutes and then only if your parking or retrieving your car or bike. If your disabled and can prove it, you have 30 minutes.

The law is unconstitutional in nature, is a complete unnecessary waste of resources and our tax money. There is already a law for anything that could possibly happen in a parking lot or garage. Public property, traditionally called “The Commons”, is is OUR property. How can we trespass on property we collectively own? The City has stepped up its pace of removing our rights and use of the commons over the years. Its time we take it back before its all gone. The Drummers, Trash Orchestra, and the community came together as the City Police assembled a few blocks away. The Jan 23 protest was very successful in my view. In numbers we will take back our rights.

However, how does this law impact a disabled person who may not have the protection of 100 protesters?

Here is one example: I have been disabled since a severe spinal injury that ended in surgery and some titanium embedded in my spine.

I also have neurological and immune system disorders from catching encephalitis while in the tropics in 1997. Encephalitis is basically swelling of the entire brain caused by a virus or infection. Although I lost everything, my house, wife, business, two cars and all my belongings -- I consider myself extremely blessed. Many people died - I lived. Many became comatose forever -- I woke up. Many were left unable to read or with severe mental disabilities. I regained much of what the big E took from me over a long three year recovery. Loosing everything can be an illuminating experience, but that part takes time and perhaps a story for another time and forum.

So I have to be very careful in how much energy I put out. I can feel great one moment and need to rest the next. I can't walk long distances without having to rest. A long walk for me is four blocks. I can look fine and feel horrible which makes expressing my limitations difficult at times.

My first paranoid encounter with this law occurred while I legally parked in a disabled spot to take a friend I was helping navigate the demoralizing social service system to see his Social Security lawyer. I was tired, spent. I needed to rest. So I showed my friend to the door of the lawyers office near the Santa Cruz Roaster and I fled to my car to rest. I was neurologically not well, as I often get when I am tired and in pain. In the parking garage were three groups of shoppers all having conversations with friends, all breaking the law.

I was aware of the law which only made my condition worse. I was not in the mindset to speak to any number of officers who know me and don't particularly like me, even know I have never been convicted of anything as an adult beyond dropped charges from protests or parking tickets. I do cop-watch and write on poverty issues. I file complaints against officers. So they don't like me much. I sat in my car and noted the time.

Officer Kine came cruising through and stopped blocking the back of my car. He looked at me and grinned while writing in his notebook. I am sure he was noting me and my car despite the other three groups chatting away right next to him. My heart began to race. All the Free School “Know Your Rights” tactics went through my mind and back out the other end. These tactics work, but only if you can remember them. I am prone to seizures and when I am stressed the tics and neurological problems worsen as does my anxiety and memory. I can have trouble speaking when I get this...whacked out. The simple thought of dealing with a cop in this state just makes it spiral into a worsening condition. Thats when its time to go home and call it a day, but my friend had not returned and I would never drive in that condition.

The grinning officer left, but I knew in 30 minutes he would return. Although he could have written me a ticket right there as I was not retrieving my car nor parking.

You have to understand that if an officer thinks your off your rocker, you can end up in the psyche ward, or worse -- on the end of a taser gun. That exact event happened and ended in a tragic unnecessary death because the officers mistook a seizure as a gesture of violence. You can read about it here - http://wizbangblog.com/content/2005/04/30/video-shows-5-t.php

or Google “Seizures taser deaths” and you will be surprised at the number of people who die due to the cops not understanding the nature of neurological disorders.

I tried to mellow myself out. I started reading to try and ground myself. The Cosmic Banditos was a good book, but it was too hard to focus. Time was passing. Just as the 30 minutes was up, the officer drove in from the opposite end of the lot. I was directly in front of Clouds. At this exact time my friend also came back. He got in the car as Officer Kine came back and pulled near my car as we quickly backed out. “Is that officer looking at you?” “Yes, I believe he is, get us out of here.”

The officer followed us to the very end of Ocean St. where we headed towards Felton.

Why? Why does this have to be this way? Although my fear and anxiety and problems are mine, I own them and I am responsible for my actions. I felt demoralized sitting in my car afraid. I was not so afraid of the cops , but how they would react to me, or how my body would react if at all.

I escaped only due to the timing of my friend. This officer would love to cite me for anything he could.

Then there is my mother. She is severely disabled. She is an X merchant from better days downtown, and like me often waits in the car while others continue to shop or do whatever they are doing downtown.

Now they simply do not go because she does not want to support the mall with these laws in place. She wants the right to sit in her car unmolested by the cops. True, she is aware they wont hassle her, after all she is disabled and her husband is shopping. This law is made for the poor, many disabled. It will and has been selectively enforced. Just as dogs on the mall are allowed for tourists and good consumers but not allowed for the poor, or even if you just look poor. The same could be said for sitting on the planters, which tourists sit on do as the City continues to remove the benches. Got to keep those shoppers moving. The homeless and poor are consistently harassed and cited for the same thing. The removal of benches also effects the disabled. I would hope this takes no explaining...

This may seem like a small thing, but to me it is not. I would bet a wooden nickel that most disabled advocacy groups will support the ending of this law. I believe one angle at stopping this law would be to contact all the Disability Rights Organizations and explain how a disabled person can't sit in their own car and rest on public property. With enough pressure form such groups, the talking heads that rule this City would not want the bad publicity and would cave with enough pressure.

Some good old fashion direct action like the Trash Orchestra dished out is one of the things we need to continuing doing to stop this, not just for the disabled, but for everyone, even the nine other people that remained in the lot, still talking when the officer returned and followed us, their shopping bags in hand -- they were immune.

Why does the most liberal town in the U.S. need free speech zones? Why is being poor a crime? Being poor and disabled seems to be even more of a crime. They have less resources to sleep, many are bound to wheelchairs or can't hike to their hidden campsites to avoid our other unconstitutional law, The Nighttime Sleeping Ban.

Of course there is an instant fix for all of this, its called money, credit cards, debt, and consumerism. Personally I would rather have my rights returned to me. But thats just me. I don't need shoes with flashing lights. I don't need pre-stained jeans or designer cloths made by child slaves. I just want my rights and my freedom. I thought that was the American Dream -- at least that is what my mother taught me.