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City Takes Broadcaster to Court for Chatting at the Metro--Trial Friday May 15 1:30 PM
by Robert Norse
Thursday May 14th, 2009 9:09 AM
Over 6 months ago on Sunday 11-2-08, I was approached by a Metro Security guard at the Metro Transit Center in downtown Santa Cruz. I was interviewing two homeless men for Free Radio Santa Cruz. The guard insisted I leave. I declined to do so. He called the police. He insisted I be given a citation for "Refusal to Leave a Business When Asked"--a charge with an apparent fine of $200+ Police did so and demanded under threat of custodial arrest that I leave the property. I was forced to do so. A week or two later I returned with a group of protesters and we reasserted the right to be in that public space.
HOW IT BEGAN

Two homeless men, Les and Jack, approached me after my Sunday radio show as I walked along Pacific Avenue and complained that religious sermons were coming out of the speakers at the Pacific Ave. entrance to the Metro Transit Center. They said they'd complained and were told to leave with the sermonizing continuing.

I then went to the Metro, found they were correct, and began recording what the Metro speakers were broadcasting. I then approached a security guard who refused to identify himself or his superior and declined to help me. In subsequent public records act requests, the guard involved still remained anonymous.

I then approached a Metro Supervisor who arrived on the property--Mr. Ed Nelson--who had the religious sermonizing turned off, explaining that classical music was customarily used to "discourage" assemblies of young people on the adjacent public sidewalk and in front of the Metro Center. All this is documented on audio tape available on line on this website (see below).

An hour later I returned and began interviewing Jack and Les near the sidewalk at the broad entranceway to the Metro Center next to Pacific Avenue. When a security guard directed two Latino men to "move on", I advised them that they had the right to be there. A second security guard, whom I later learned was named D. Delgadillo, then approached me and demanded I move. When I insisted he identify himself, he demanded I leave the property.


BUSTED FOR CHATTING AT THE METRO

The SCPD instead of defending my right to be there and advising the Metro Security guards to stop bothering me, forced me to leave the property on threat of arrest.

A Metro supervisor subsequently humiliated me further and banned for the day because I was visibly tape recording the complaint I made to her and her response.

More of the story can be found at:
"Ticketing for Standing and Talking at the Metro Bus Stop Sunday"
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/11/04/18548934.php


TRIAL ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON

The charge is refusing to leave a "business" when asked to do so.

Attorney David Beauvais of Berkeley will be defending me in the case. Attorney Kate Wells will be filing the subsequent
federal law suit for damages. The trial will be before Judge Ariadne Symonds without a jury. City attorney Barisone or one of his attorneys will presumably be appearing for the city.


SUBSEQUENT PROTEST

I returned to the Metro Transit Center a week or two after the police incident with a group of people, distributed fliers, and tried unsuccessfully to get Metro management to clarify what the rules were for the public and what the powers of their security guards were (i.e. could they simply ban people whose attitude they didn't like). I got no answer. However on this occasion, with videocameras rolling and lots of witnesses, the same guard did not harass or attempt to arrest us.

The story of the protest is told at in a subsequent posting on indybay.org/santacruz in the story--" Rotkin Claims: No Flyering Allowed at the Metro Center--Protest 11-26 11:30 AM"
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/11/25/18552885.php


ROTKIN'S ROLE PROTECTING THE POLICE

Vice-Mayor Mike Rotkin (who has been on the Transit Board for some years) initially advised me there was no "flyering" allowed. I wasn't flyering when I was cited on November 2nd (simply standing and talking to two homeless guys). When I heard Rotkin's outrageous rule, I and others organized a peaceful protest that specific included distributing a flyer that described what happened on November 2nd.

We spoke to members of the public and distributed literature for about an hour. Rotkin subsequently called me and advised me that he was mistaken--that it was okay to flyer the public at the Metro Transit Center.

As long as it didn't "disrupt business."

Somewhat later in a subsequent interview, when I brought it up again, Rotkin apologized for the misunderstanding, but took no action to look into the bogus ticket.

He was also not helpful in securing documents for my trial, clarifying the rights of passengers, or advising the Metro and City Attorney to drop the case. He could have spared the city,
county, and Metro Transit District money in these lean times by acting promptly and fairly to quash this groundless prosecution.

Instead we're going to trial Friday.


POLICE MISUSING THE LAW TO DRIVE AWAY THE POOR

The trial will also highlight the collusion between security guards and the Santa Cruz Police Department in accepting an unlawful arrest.

Members of the public at the Metro are supposedly protected by a law that requires they be given written notice, a specified period of time, and an opportunity to have a hearing--as well as the right to use the facilities unless actual disruption is occurring (MC 9.60.0101 - TRESPASS ON PUBLIC TRANSIT FACILITIES)

Police and Metro Security Guards have colluded instead in using an inapplicable broader law that allows private businesses to order people off their property. Obviously, the Metro is not a private business, but a public facility. Even if it were, MC 9.60.010 REMAINING ON BUSINESS PROPERTY AFTER A REQUEST TO LEAVE. provides exceptions for "prohibited discrimiantion", "duties relating to common carriers", and "inhibition of...freedom of speech or assembly."--all of which were involved.

It took six months worth of Public Records Act requests and discovery demands to get the SCPD to cough up some statistics: Not just me but five other people have been apparently wrongly charged under this broader law instead of the more appropriate MC.9.60.0101). It's a nice way of sweeping people away from an area without any due process.

Of course, that's what happens to homeless people all around Santa Cruz.


AUDIO OF THE ENTIRE INCIDENT AVAILABLE

Those who want to hear what happened on November 2nd can go directly to the audio file included in the first story. I recorded virtually everything that I and the various guards, supervisors, and police said--as well as the original complaint I received that the Metro was broadcasting religious sermons over its loudspeakers.

It may have been management resentment at my raising this issue with the security guards that motivated the subsequent harassment.

I was also critical of the guards for harassing poor and possibly homeless people hanging out there who were doing nothing wrong. And refusing to identify themselves or their superiors when asked to do so.

The public is welcome to attend the trial. I shall move to have it audio recorded for public broadcast, but judges have become increasingly secretive in the past few years, so I may be banned from making a recording.

If you can't make it on Friday, I'll be discussing the case on my Sunday show at 11 AM on Free Radio Santa Cruz at 101.1 FM (http://www.freakradio.org).

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by brent
Thursday May 14th, 2009 10:15 PM
I'd be there if I could but I've got to work.
Stay strong!
by Interested in outcome.
Friday May 15th, 2009 2:19 AM
I also have to work tomorrow afternoon, make sure to update us. Good luck.
by With what?
Friday May 15th, 2009 9:08 PM
Solidarity with a trust fund baby who has a personal vendetta against any type of organizational structure? Solidarity with someone who looks for ways to insert themselves into benign situations and become enough of an irritant that they can get arrested and thus bloat their ego by "fighting the man"?

No thanks. I'll save my energies for real problems, real victims, and real solutions.

by Jennifer Squires (posted by Norse)
Saturday May 16th, 2009 11:37 AM
The Sentinel reporter (Jennifer Squires) wrote an account that does touch on a few key issues. Pretty small though for a 1 1/2 hour trial. It's page B 2 in the lower left-hand corner.

You can find the story on line at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_12383944

There are the usual troll trash comments attacking me personally, but some supportive ones and some that go to the issues: The comments are posted at:
http://www.topix.net/forum/source/santa-cruz-sentinel/THC20P7VTOBERVK6A#lastPost

I hope to be posting my own account soon and will be discussing it tomorrow morning on Free Radio at 11 AM. The judge did not allow us to make an audio recording, though the court made one, which we can purchase for some hefty sum.

--RN
by Angry Anarchist
Saturday May 16th, 2009 3:40 PM


The idea that human beings have the right to exist on private or city property only if they are there for business purposes should be a slap in the face to every fellow activist who stands for the right for homeless people to exist and be fed and talked to if anybody wants for it is public space and the freedom of the press whether it be private or independent news to interview anybody they want out in public.


Anybody who stands for democracy shouldn't denigrate others for their support in matters especially pertaining to the homeless. Unless you have totally forgotten what you stand for with too much pride I don't understand it. America claims that it believes in the freedom of movement and expression and freedom of the press.

"Solidarity with what" some of you might say. "This is a non issue."
"There are more important things". What this man did was a great test of bravery if you ask me and helps to reflect the kind of society we live in. We need more people like him doing the same things.

What would your opinion be on "food not bombs" if were refusing to hear an ass hole in hat with a gun or business man trying to force them from feeding a homeless man on the street?

“Non-issue “?

You should take that back. Words like this make other activists look bad as if we don't care about the homeless anymore because we have bigger issues to deal with now.

THAT'S HELLA FUCK'T UP AND YOU KNOW IT!

by Bobby Northern
Sunday May 17th, 2009 8:45 AM
We reserve the right to refuse business to anyone.

guess your rights trump rights of others?
by With What?
Sunday May 17th, 2009 3:38 PM
I don't understand what you're trying to say here:

"What would your opinion be on "food not bombs" if were refusing to hear an ass hole in hat with a gun or business man trying to force them from feeding a homeless man on the street?"


But in regards to your other points? My opinion remains unchanged. This seems to me an issue and case that Norse created, as is his frequent wont. The guys he is championing weren't kicked out of the metro, or harassed for being homeless. If anything, it seems to me they were impeding on someone elses right of free speech because they decided they didn't like the radio show that was being played. And Norse then went and got in the face of a working class, low paid security guard whose just trying to feed his family and tried to make a 1st amendment case out of it. The guard essentially told Norse to beat it.

Its not like the metro was going around picking out people to harass. Robert essentially got in front of them and demanded that they harass him.
Sorry, I aint gonna get behind that. Robert asked for it and he got it. *shrug*.
by Robert Norse
Sunday May 17th, 2009 9:52 PM
I did draw the attention of the management (Supervisor Ed Nelson) to the fact that Christian sermonizing was being broadcast over the speakers and he properly responded by turning that stuff off (though it had apparently been going on for several days according to a business owner inside).

However he apparently didn't advise the guards that they have to identify themselves if asked to do so--particularly if they're threatening you with (false) arrest. Requesting a security guard identify himself and audiotaping his response is not a basis for claiming "disruption at the Metro", just as "standing in front of a sign" isn't either.

What's at stake here is not having the "right attitude" and the "proper respect" for authority. To get respect, folks in positions of authority have to be respectworthy. The guard on the witness stand was unable to find any specific rules prohibiting what I was doing (talking with two homeless guys, demanding he identify himself when he began to question me, tape recording his responses). The SCPD officer should have known there's a specific code section for the Metro which protects patrons and the public generally from being evicted on the whim of a guard. The fact that they're still defending their own conduct six months later shows that little has changed. And much needs to be changed.

It's natural that a security guard wouldn't like his refusal to identify himself tape recorded, since that seems to me to be misconduct per se. But it's quite legal (and an important safeguard) to tape record police when they interact with you.
The point of this whole trial is to put the police agencies and their defenders in the Metro, city bureauracy, and courts, that they can't harass with impunity. And hopefully result in their becoming more responsible for what they do and not hiding behind anonymity and a shield from the media by silencing recording devices (except their own, of course).

If critics want to support a police state, that's their option. Which is fine, but not really relevant to the issue.
by Robert Norse
Tuesday May 19th, 2009 5:45 PM
My extended thoughts on the trial can be found at
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/05/18/18595792.php
("Friday's Trespass at the Metro Trial--Notes from the Defendant"
by Sum Dim
Sunday May 31st, 2009 4:19 AM
Extended thoughts? How much more do we need to extend ourselves over this, Robert? Seems like you've covered it all right here. And then some. Sorry I missed the trial. I was at the beach, and then I went to Tacos Moreno for an excellent taco. Hope it all turned out well for you, though.
by Shadow
Wednesday Jun 10th, 2009 6:50 PM
Sum Dim says "Hope it all turned out well for you, though."

Not so much.