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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

The Chalking Menace--Cops Block One Lane of Pacific Avenue for an Hour
by Robert Norse
Saturday Oct 4th, 2008 6:59 AM
Friday the 3rd, Officer Forbus and his companion parked their squad car, completely blocking a traffic lane in the narrow street between Cinema 9 and O'Neill's. Their target: Whitney and her announced once-a-month chalk-in. The two cops gave David Espinoza a costly infraction ticket for drawing four small concentric blue circles in one square of the sidewalk. Meanwhile the Women in Black stood by, a dozen strong, and had little to say about the issue.
Whitney Wilde describes the Chalking Incident at
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/10/01/18542313.php?show_comments=1#18542820 .

Forbus and his partner arrived by squad car around the same time I did, parking their vehicle in the middle of Pacific Avenue, so that one lane of traffic was fully blocked. A second car with Officer Winston showed up, parking behind the first squad car, creating a pretty clear traffic obstruction on a busy Friday night. After getting out, and walking around briefly, Winston left.

Forbus and partner stayed, however. I left after half an hour, but Whitney reported the police stayed on, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, as Whitney announced to passersby that chalking was illegal in Santa Cruz, she holding two boxes of Sidewalk Chalk, purchased from Palace Arts Stationary across the street.

In the last year, police have ignored chalking by HUFFsters in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz and at the Drum Circle (i.e. where there were enough people doing it to make their ticketing look abusive and ridiculous--as well as to be potentially resisted). Where they could target one or two people, Forbus went to it with vigor. Admittedly "on complaint" from Steve of O'Neill's.

Folks threatened with a ticket have a right to be "taken to a magistrate" prior to signing a ticket --which is a promise to appear in court. That procedure is now a standard part of SCPD protocol because required by state law, and pushed vigorously by attorney Kate Wells in the early 90's. However if the courts are not open, since the jail does not have a "magistrate's clerk" on duty as I'm told they're supposed to, you're likely to spend the weekend in jail unti the courts open int he morning.

Forbus did not inform Espinoza of his right to be taken to a magistrate. A rough-hewn but not unsociable officer, the chalkchasing constable is memorable to me for prior incidents. He gave out six citations to a group of street people sitting in the shade of a building around the corner from the Mexican restaurant near the Metro--for sitting (not panhandling) within 50' of an ATM, without a warning.

This was around the time the gentrification gestapo removed all benches in the Metro block to drive away "undesirables". The ticketing also took place on the hottest day of the year, where the only shade was around the corner from the ATM. Those ticketed also reported prior harassment and ticketing for sitting on the utility boxes and other nearby structures. The "Move 'Em Along" agenda moved right along.

Back to the chalking ticket. Espinoza also suggested he might have been warned. Forbus brushed it off by saying "Mr. Norse here could have warned you." He then later, as Whitney writes, apparently suggested I was the one who "provoked" the ticket. Based on Whitney's account that the police stayed for half an hour after I left, it seems the police didn't mind a highly visible presence--two cops standing in one place on the sidewalk with a squadcar roadblocking a lane for an hour downtown.

It reminded me of the use of three officers in a highly visible drumcircle patrol week after week in late August and early September.

Apparently the Whitney's indybay announcement called for emergency action by the DTA (Downtown Association), which reportedly met and discussed ways of dealing with the threat of erasible chalk.

Women in Black were having their weekly vigil on the corner of Cooper and Pacific nearby. One woman came over to sympathize and ask a few questions. I believe another may have sent for a camera. A third went up and shook hands with the cops. Considering the number of people there (10 or more), I noted their general lack of solidarity with a political artist on an issue that directly impacts political activists--the right to use erasible sidewalk chalk on the public sidewalk to put out a human rights message.

Perhaps we weren't respectable enough.

Or perhaps friendly fascism may be bad for Palestinians, but okay for Santa Cruzans.

I'll be playing audio of the bust and my "watch your taxpayer dollars at work" town crier response on Sunday at 9:30 AM on 101.1 FM. Tune in and call in.

Please stop and witness such police antics.

Phone in reports of such incidents to 423-4833.

Phone City Council (420-5020) with complaints.

Advise the Downtown Association (429-8433) that you oppose using the SCPD as their private goonsquad to squash artistic and political First Amendment activity.

Such behavior certainly doesn't encourage me to exchange increasingly devalued dollars for tourist knickknacks in the coming depression.