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Indybay Feature
Wed Aug 8 2007 (Updated 08/14/07)
Know Your Rights, Homies for the Homeless and Santa Cruz GDI
Efforts to Turn the Tide of the Downtown Police State
After six weeks of organizing for a federal lawsuit against the sleeping ban outside Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz, Coonerty remains mum on the basic issue: The judicially-established fact that nighttime sleeping bans violate the federal and state Constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. More than 16 months ago, such a ban was overturned in Los Angeles on Skid Row. A year ago, Richmond changed its law to comport with this ruling (the Jones decision). This spring San Diego settled with its homeless community, agreeing not to enforce laws against sleeping and camping at night.

On August 12th Free Skool Santa Cruz offered a Know Your Rights workshop on the sidewalk in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz. The workshop was followed by a teach-in to end the sleeping ban in Santa Cruz at City Hall. The teach-in included songs, stories, food and a Guerilla Drive-In screening of Sir! No Sir!, David Zeiger's documentary chronicling the largely forgotten anti-war activities of American GIs and other members of the military during the Vietnam era.

About 30-40 folks slept out on the City Hall grounds to urge Mayor Reilly to abide by the Jones decision and stop ticketing homeless people for sleeping and covering up with blankets at night. Sargent Harms and another member of the Santa Cruz Police Department arrived at 6:10 AM to roust the protesters. Several responded by asking "Please direct me to a legal place to sleep" and the police had no answer. After giving two tickets and calling for back-up (Officer Brandt and two others), Harms adopted a posture of "friendly cooperation" with the protesters, while his companion videoed the whole area and everyone in it. On August 13th, about 15-20 protesters voted to return to City Hall with more support and possibly move their protest onto Pacific Avenue to raise its profile. imc_photo.gif Read More and View Photos

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