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Indybay Feature
Black Street Hawker Busted for Badmouthing Business Downtown
by Robert Norse
Wednesday Jul 18th, 2007 12:11 AM
Jason Paschal, an African-American street tarot-card reader, called police after he was called a "nigger" and spat on by a man seen conferring with O'Neill's workers. Instead of the spitter behing apprehended, 5-6 SCPD officers handcuffed and jailed Paschal for "disturbing the peace" because of his outspoken criticism of O'Neill's.

Paschal, a tarot card reader, was arrested in the early afternoon when he was protesting outside O'Neill's Sports Shop across from the Cinema 9.

Paschal, an outspoken African American guy, recently returned to town after a year's stay-away order from Pacific Avenue (he was told he could only enter shops "by the back door").

Paschal is outspoken and roughhewn (to say the least) in his aggressive presentation towards the public. When angry, he uses inner city street vernicular ("cunt").

Paschal is also a diabetic who uses insulin and uses medical marijuana--a legal activity in Santa Cruz (but not, according to the police, on Pacific Avenue--who do what they can to harass legal users, such as Craig Canada).


Five years ago,Paschal was the target of repeated harassment by Sgt. Loran "Butchie" Baker. The lead cop in mall crackdowns back then, Baker carried on a long campaign to drive Paschal off the mall.

Baker’s campaign against “the Reverend”, as Paschal called himself, involved jailing Pashal for “possessing a milk crate”, citing him for “tarot card reading without a permit”, harassment under the “Move Along Law”, and possession of “paraphernalia” (Jason’s insulin syringe and needles).

When these measures failed, Baker unilaterally and repeatedly contacted authorities in New Hampshire, pressing them to pick up Paschal on a minor marijuana beef where he’d left the halfway house he’d been assigned. Paschal had spent 2 1/2 years of a 4 year prison sentences when he was 19 for selling to an undercover cop, his first offense.


On the same day Emily Reilly endorsed the WAMM lawsuit in a press conference on the steps of the County Courthouse, Becky Johnson reports, Paschal was jailed in New Hamphire. After solitary confinement, a hunger strike, and assistance from influential relatives, Paschal was finlly released. Baker succeeded in having Paschal extradited on a minor marijuana beef, but Paschal returned months later and resumed his street hawking.

Baker and some merchants apparently didn’t like the extraverted and aggressive “ghetto black hustler” manner Paschal conducted his spiritualist table, where he would openly, unapologetically, and colorfully announce his skills and opinions.


On Sunday, Paschal reported being spat upon and called a "nigger" and told to get out of town by someone who came out of O'Neill's. He called the police and made a complaint. Five or six police reportedly showed up, but instead took Paschal to jail on a charge of "disturbing the peace", apparently leveled by O’Neill’s employees.

The upside-down response of police officers, called by Paschal to report an assault against him, happened several years ago before he was driven out of town and banned from the Avenue. Officer Wendy Bines and other officers, he reports, declined to follow up on similar racial threats and epithets. If his account is accurate, history is repeating itself.

In the recent Sunday incident, Paschal reports the police previously told him he had to move his tarot card reading and public speaking from the sidewalk across from the Cinema 9, 100’ feet down the sidewalk in accord with the only-in-Santa-Cruz Move Along law. Police, Paschal said, claimed this was on complaint from O’Neill’s workers.

Later when I interviewed two women working at O’Neill’s at the counter, they said they were unaware of any earlier complaints from the store, but that the police had been called when Paschal moved his display device closer (but still 20’ away from the O’Neill’s entrance).


The Move-Along Law is being selectively enforced, apparently ‘on complaint’ (which is not how the law reads). Another performer, Mr. TV was targeted a few months ago. He observed other performers and panhandlers generally being ignored by police, anbd refused to disassemble his stand. Mr. TV’s display takes about 15 minutes to set up and breakdown. In response, he was charged with “having a commercial stand” “panhandling within 3’” and “panhandoling by following.” Mr. TV has demanded a jury trial--which was turned down--but goes to court trial in August.

After being handcuffed and taken away, his property left on the sidewalk, Paschal reported on Sunday that he was released an hour letter without his marijuana medication. Police have been more active harassing medical and recreational marijuana users in spite of Proposition 215 and the recently passed voter initiative Measure K, making marijuana enforcement the lowest priority (for private property use).

Paschal subsequently flagged down Officer Hoppe and requested police protection from further incidents of spitting and hate crime verbal abuse, but Office Hoppe declined to provide it. When Paschal subsequently demanded Officer Hoppe (one of the officers who’d arrested Paschal earlier) contact his sergeant to secure the video tapes from O'Neill's to identify the suspect who spat on him, Hoppe pedaled off on his bicycle after saying the matter was “under investigation.”

The next day a sergeant called back, but said the O’Neill’s cameras did not cover the inside of the store, from where, Paschal said, he’d seen the spitter conferring with O’Neill’s employees.

Paschal said he had originally been making general criticisms about the downtown merchants, urging a boycott because of their discriminatory laws and treatment of poor people and people of color, when, the police told him he had to move along.


Steve Harper, a friendly witness, felt that Jason was not disturbing the peace and that he was being treated outrageously by police. He reported to Johnson that he saw a manon a bicycle talking to the managers at O’Neill’s and then go over and spit on Jason, but did not hear what was said. Harper later spoke to the police about the matter.

Other street observers suggested Jason was "over the top", abusing those coming in and out of O'Neill's, and expressing too much negativity.

Subsequently, Paschal reports, he ran into “the spitter” with his wife. The spitter ran, but he spoke with the wife.

Other witnesses were generally negative in their impressions of Paschal, claiming he was angry and negative. They were also discomforted by his hostile critique of the businesses, whom Paschal accused of backing discriminatory laws and racism.

Video-journalist Becky Johnson videoed some of the accounts. I recorded others which I'll play Thursday 6 PM-8 PM on Free Radio Santa Cruz.

Paschal’s case seems to involve race, class, prior police harassment, merchant collusion, police selective enforcement, and police mistreatment of property, as well as a more repressive merchant-created and police-enforced “code of conduct” on Pacific Avenue.

I encourage anyone with more information to contact HUFF at 423-HUFF.


Previous articles about Paschal can be found at:

Paschal has been interviewed in the past on Free Radio Santa Cruz: (December 11, 2005--calling in from Los Angeles) (February 26, 2006: Paschal cops a plea and is banned from Pacific Ave)
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
Court Date set for Paschal ArraignmentBecky JohnsonMonday Jul 23rd, 2007 10:29 PM
Jason Paschal tries to get the SCPD to investigate a Hate CrimeBecky JohnsonSaturday Jul 21st, 2007 2:00 PM
Jason is a good manJohn ThielkingWednesday Jul 18th, 2007 10:13 AM
Fucked UpSolidarityWednesday Jul 18th, 2007 9:51 AM
SCPD Police withheld his insulin needles for the 2nd timeBecky JohnsonWednesday Jul 18th, 2007 7:23 AM
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