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Ticketing for Standing and Talking at the Metro Bus Stop Sunday
I witnessed Robert Norse get ticketed a few feet from the public sidewalk at the entrance to the Metro Bus Center last Sunday (11-2) where he was interviewing homeless people. This happened an hour after he complained about religious sermons being piped out to the sidewalk on loudspeakers above the entrance.
I was down on the mall Sunday and overheard Robert Norse getting a complaint from two men who said that a religious station was being broadcast through city-funded loudspeakers out onto the public sidewalk from the Metro Bus Station.
Norse went up there with his tape recorder and recorded some of the sermonizing. The Metro security guard, a tall black dude, didn't want to hear his concerns, particularly since Norse was recording everything quite openly. The guard refused to give his name or his superior's name.
A few minutes later, I observed Norse talk with a supervisor, another older black guy, who took the matter more seriously and said he'd deal with it.
An hour later Norse came back, tape recorder in hand, and the loud speakers were silent. He the interviewed a couple of homeless guys there. A security guard came over and told two Mexican guys to "leave the area"--this was all a few feet from the public sidewalk near the entrance to the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue across from Streetlight Records.
When Norse suggested this was a public area, the guard told him to leave. He asked the guard's name. The guard, noticing Norse's unconcealed tape recorder, refused to give it. The guard left and returned with a second guard, who again interrupted Norse's interview with the two men and demanded he leave.
Norse told him the area was both open to the public and funded with public money. He asked to be left alone. Instead, the guards called the police. An Officer Albert came, who then gave Norse a trespass citation and demanded he leave the property or be arrested. Norse delayed signing the ticket until a Sgt. Swaneck arrived.
Swaneck agreed that if it weren't a Sunday, he'd take him to a magistrate for a probable cause hearing, but since it was Sunday, if Norse didn't sign, he'd just take Norse to jail. Norse signed the ticket, and then stood off the property and continued to interview the guard who'd just ticketed him. The guard was cooperative, strangely enough. Norse said he might play the interview on his radio show and gave the guard his card.
I heard Norse ask the guard whether the security guards had permission from their bosses and from the SCPD to order anyone off the property for any reason. The guard thought so, but called his supervisor to find out.
The next supervisor (a new one), a woman in a car, drove up, got out, and demanded that Norse stop tape recording. He explained there was no expectation of privacy in a public place, that he was a reporter, and that he was also tape recording for his own safety--since he'd already gotten a citation. He wanted to make sure that false stories weren't made up about his behavior. He was also on the public sidewalk at this point. Plus the guard didn't seem to object.
The woman became angrier, but did give her name. She ordered Norse not to return to the Metro that day. And refused to talk further. He didn't answer his question about whether the guards had authority to arrest anyone who didn't leave--for any reason.
Norse told me the ticket he got said he was violating MC 9.60.0101 (a)--"Remaining on a business property after being requested to leave". Both he and I agreed that the transit center is hardly a private business. It looked to me like the guards didn't like Norse challenging their authority and might have been worried he'd give other people ideas.
Norse said he might be returning later this week to determine if other people have also been harassed by the security guards and the police there. He said he might set up a table and give out some flyers, either on the sidewalk or in the Metro Center. That should be fun to watch.
He said he could be reached at 423-4833 or during his Thursday radio show.
I thought the whole thing was ridiculous and a little scary.
I read in the Good Times about UCSC having a new policy of not allowing the public on campus without special permission.
Do you have to get approved to use the buses as well?