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Chris Doyon ("Commander X") Gets A Warning-less Lodging Ticket
Earlier this afternoon near Cafe Huff, a table set up with free coffee and literature at Occupy Santa Cruz, Chris Doyon got a misdemeanor citation for sleeping on the grass next to the table, where he had apparently dropped in exhaustion after four days (he reports) without sleep. In an escalating crackdown on the peaceful protest, two deputies gave Doyon the citation without a formal warning or any indication of a specific complaint. This is 5th or 6th 647e ticket given in the last 24 hours by deputies. Such charges are punishable by up to 6 months in jail and $1000 fine. Legal support is badly needed.
SLEEPING DURING THE DAY ON THE GRASS NEAR THE PROTEST NOW A CRIME?
Doyon reported supporters from Occupy Santa Cruz, including HUFF activist Becky Johnson videoed the mid-day sleeping citation and objected vigorously to what seemed clearly an attack on the protest and on a principal protester. Johnson runs a daily table (Cafe Huff) which provides free coffee and literature to campers and OSC protesters. Doyon led the march to City Council Tuesday before last, demanding that the Council go on record denouncing the police violence in Oakland against its protesters and instruct police here to respect the first amendment rights of this community.
Doyon is also facing a misdemeanor trial for another 647e citation/arrest from last year's PeaceCamp2010 (PC2010). And he is under federal indictment in San Jose for overloading the County's website last December to protest the County's costly and vindictive prosecution of the PC2010 defendants.
Activists Ed Frey and Gary Johnson from PeaceCamp2010, a 3-month long homeless protest last year, were convicted of "lodging" in an outrageous decision in the court of Judge John Gallagher, who instructed the jury that "sleeping is lodging". According to his decision, anyone who falls asleep on public property anywhere can face jail and fines.
The 647e charge has been used in the past against political protesters, but rarely leads to court action. Santa Cruz seems a particularly vindictive or profligate jurisdiction in actually taking 647e cases to trial. Currently many protesters in Sacramento are facing 647e charges for their continuing protest.
An analysis of the law (previously known as 647j) can be found at http://www.well.com/~xanthian/public/homeless/CPC_647j.html . PeaceCamp2010's blog and Becky Johnson's blog detailed the misuse of this law against the protesters at the courthouse last year at http://www.peacecamp2010.blogspot.com/ and http://beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/search/label/647%20%28e%29 .
Housing Now! in Santa Cruz activist Linda Lemaster is currently fighting such cases in Gallagher's court with the assistance of local attorney Jonathan Gettleman. Gettleman is chellenging the very basis of the prosecution in an extensive writ of habeas corpus. (See http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_19268074). Joe Schultz, of India Joze, will be cooking a benefit dinner for Linda's defense in early December.
PLEICH AND THE PERMIT CONTROVERSY
Later in the day activist Steve Pleich stirred controversy by announcing an unauthorized meeting and negotiation with city authorities for a limited camping permit in San Lorenzo Park. See http://occupysantacruz.org/2011/11/04/city-constrains-osc-to-terms-of-unrequested-permit/?mid=51
The General Assembly delayed any decision on the issue, but some were outraged that Pleich seemed to be continuing to act as unauthorized middleman, in a manner that amplifies and legitimizes the very hostile authorities we are challenging. In the past Pleich frightened protesters into moving the protest from Mission Plaza Park to its current location by suggesting he had "special information" from SCPD Deputy-Chief Steve Clark.
It has been the position of many that protests don't need a permit and that the action as an occupation is exactly that--a reclaiming of public space without seeking permission, approval, or apology.
It is also a class assertion of support for the poor and homeless who have been relentlessly harassed by police authorities and criminalized by the Santa Cruz City Council. The impoverishment of the country is the target of Occupy Wall Street, which holds the behavior of big financial institutions, coopted government agencies, and the wealthy 1% --and the system they've created-- as responsible for the current crisis
So what is Pleich doing then--holding closed-door meetings with hostile authorities and then fronting their proposals? It strikes me as an tempting but ill-advised method of sharing illegitimate power with those authorities, and doing so in a way that misleads those he claims to represent. This is being done not only without authorization, but in rather clear violation of both the objectives and the process OSC has chosen.
Pleich has held himself forward as unofficial spokesperson, legal authority, and self-appointed negotiator in a posture that has alarmed me. He has refused to share his legal documents, canceled or not held legal committee meetings, and simply declared he alone is the legal committee. When challenged to show the documents he's created (a proposed Injunction to stop the kind of harassment that we're now facing), he's refused to show his work and stalked away saying "we're done".
I'm a member of the legal committee and aside from feeling this kind of elitism is personally disrespectful, I believe it violates the basic transparency we're attempting to achieve at Occupy Santa Cruz. I admit that uber-leadership posturing pisses me off. This is what I see Pleich unilaterally assuming and putting forward to other attorneys, authorities, and media. It may fit hand-shaking baby-kissing politicians, but has no place at Occupy Santa Cruz.
Pleich's backroom permit proposal will be up for discussion at tomorrow's General Assembly. For Pleich's convenience, the General Assembly created a special 4 PM session (two hours beyond the normal 2 PM Sunday assembly time). I'm afraid that by presenting it, Pleich may gain cachet with authorities who seem to be using him as a megaphone for their emasculating demands, but sacrifices the democratic/consensual/transparent process and gives the authorities their own spokesperson within the camp--Pleich himself.
LET THE CITY MANAGER AND POLICE CHIEF SPEAK OPENLY, NOT USE FRONTMEN.
If City Manager Martin Bernal wants to propose something, let him come down to the General Assembly and do so. He can then be questioned and held accountable, rigorously cross-examined. Perhaps even educated.
But by working through Pleich, Bernal and the police authorities are able to avoid accountability and responsibility as well as accessibility.
I've personally a lot of admiration for what I hear about Pleich's other work with needles exchange, suicide prevention, and homeless advocacy (he has a Monday night homeless legal assistance project at Father Joel Miller's Monday night feed at the Calvary Episcopal Church and other meeting times out at the Homeless Services Center). He has been a co-host on my Free Radio Santa Cruz twice-weekly show. However, Pleich also makes it clear he is a politician running for City Council and has a high opinion of his own expertise. He seems accustomed to being in an unquestioned leadership role, which is at odds with the mission of Occupation Santa Cruz. And his apparent attempt to maintain "credibility" with existing authorities is also a contradictory factor.
I've suggested that future "negotiations" be made by a rotating committee of three, that police threats and blandishments be brought directly and explicitly to the General Assembly or dismissed as divisive rumors, and that new legal committee be formed (especially necessary now that the sheriffs and police are writing frivolous lodging tickets.
It's important for the community, the General Assembly, the camp, and OSC supporters to remember that the real power lies with the protest, its supporters in the community, and those waking up to their real power here and suffering increasing pain as the economy tanks.
We need some heavy legal support that is willing to accept the fundamental leaderless premise of Occupy Santa Cruz. It it's not forthcoming, then the D.A. is required to appoint Public Defenders--not a bad thing, since it's a huge expense for them and an opportunity to further demosntrate the abuses of the current system. For those, of course, who want to risk jail in this movement.
The Sentinel's slant on the permit issue can be found at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_19268074 .
Please report in detail any police contacts--who, when, where, what was said, who witnessed, etc. Videoing or audioing them is also useful. If you see someone being approached or ticketed, call others over to witness and speak out.