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Bashful Bernard Braves Bench Ban Wednesday 12:30 PM April 29

by Robert Norse
In protest against the latest homeless crackdown and the newest Downtown Ordinance expansions, Human Rights Organization activist Bernard Klitzner will be challenging the "Sit on a public bench for more than an hour, get a ticket" law.

Meet at the sidewalk in front of Rosie McCann's on Pacific Avenue and Lincoln St. Bernard will also be speaking at Santa Cruz City Council shortly after 3 PM today on the issue.
In April, City Attorney John Barisone initiated a lawsuit that will spend thousands of dollars of city money to criminalize Anna Richardson and Miguel deLeon, homeless musicians, for sleeping downtown at night. (See "Santa Cruz seeks injunction against homeless couple" at )

Santa Cruz, as is well known by readers of this website, has no legal walk-in emergency shelter for 95% of the homeless community. Parks are closed at night. Parking garages and parking lots are now covered by ex-Mayor and bookshop seller Coonerty's Parking Lot Panic Law which forbids even reading a book in your car.

The city has pulled out dozens of benches, at the whim of merchants, with no public notice, hearing, or appeal. For thoses that remain, they've become a kind of forbidden zone marker--since it's now become illegal to sit down on the sidewalk within 14' of any such bench.

And on the benches themselves, it is now illegal to sit for more than an hour after having been warned.

The "Progressive" Rotkin-Matthews City Council passed these laws 7-0 as "helpful tools" for the police. Not particularly helpful unless your goal is to move people along and away who are not part of the Merchant Vision and leave such decisions in the hands of the police.

Public Space has repeatedly contracted over the last decade in Santa Cruz under the pretext of public health and safety with the SCPD, City Manager-for-Life Dick Wilson, and the Downtown Association leading the way.

Come and watch Bernard's shoes get chalked by dutiful meter maids. Check out the Happy Hosts as they warn Bernard to move or else. See how many cops it takes to haul away a grey-haired benchsitter. See one elderly activist stand up for the rights of hundreds of other people--not just the homeless, but the elderly, the disabled, the tired, even the tourists downtown.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meets the same day at 9:30 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe (Pacific and Spurce) to discuss support activity. The Human Rights Organization will meet Saturday 3 PM at the same place to evaluate the effect of the protest and consider future action. Those who have been harassed or ticketed by authorities downtown or witnessed such can get in touch with Copwatch at 423-4833 or come to the Copwatch table in front of Borders Bookstore on Saturday at 5 PM at Pacific and Soquel.

For those who wish to help Anna Richardson and Miguel deLeon, the two targets of City Attorney-for-Life Barisone's latest "sleep downtown, go to jail" lawsuit, contact their attorney with Jonathan Gettleman at 427-2658 or jonathangettleman [at] . The two go to court Friday May 15th at 9 AM in Department 4. Gettleman needs declarations from ordinary folks who DON'T regard them as a public nusiance. You don't need to know them personally, just observed them.
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by John Thielking
Way to go Bernard. I will see if I can be there too, though I don't fancy getting a ticket as I have to maintain a spotless record for my occasional job.
by side note
please post upcoming protests to the calendar, which will also be placed on the newswire.
by Robert Norse
Around 12:30 PM, Bernard arrived and sat down with a sign that read "It's Illegal to Sit on a bench for more than an hour: just watch me!", on the bench in front of Rosie McCann's at Pacific and Lincoln. Buffeted a bit by wind and cold. Bernard moved to the bench across the street in the sunshine near Graphics. There he sat, facing traffic, talking to passersby, and lining up future Copwatch volunteers.

Perhaps more aptly to be dubbed "Copchase" in the future.

Squadcars rolled by three times, declining to stop, even when he called them. Two hosts walking by, told that he'd been on the bench for more than an hour refused to stop and officially warn him and hurried off.

An interested person called the police station and reported he was illegally sitting on a bench. No response.

Around 2 PM or soI walked up to Officer Warren, walking down the sidewalk across the street and told her that I wished to make a complaint and report a crime--a violation of code section MC 9.50.013. She initially refused to talk to me. When I insisted that I wanted to make a citizen's arrest of the violator, she kept telling me to leave her alone.

Finally when I pointed out that were I a merchant reporting a similar crime, she'd be there with her ticketbook in a moment, she said she'd contact her sergeant and get back to me. I made the mistake of taking her at her word instead of demanding she cross the street and either give a citation or a warning for what was a visible violation of the code section that the Downtown Association, SCPD, and City Council created three months ago.

She continued to refuse to come across the street and warn Bernard he was in violation, or to take my citizen's arrest that he was violating the law (which he was). Some of this was audio and videotaped and may be available for viewing later.

I intend to play some of this on the air either on Thursday's FRSC show at 6 PM or Sunday between 9:30 AM and 1 PM.

Two supporters from the Santa Clara County Peace and Freedom Party came all the way from San Jose to support Bernard and give out fliers. The response from passersby was favorable and mostly from women.

As the day grew later, Bernard shrugged, got up, and left.

A victory for Bernard's bench sitting vigil in one sense.

A clear indication that police and hosts are selectively enforcing laws to avoid negative publicity. If you bring enough videocamera support and make the police look ridiculous, they'll go somewhere else, perhaps.

The question is what happens when the activists go home and only the lone homeless person with his backpack is left sitting to face the sharp "move along" from the next uniformed harasser?

The Human Rights Organization will be discussing the issue further at its next meeting Saturday 3 PM at the Sub Rose Cafe.
by Becky Johnson
Bernard put his derriere on the line on behalf of homeless people who need to use public benches for longer periods than housed people do. Despite purposely violating the law in open civil disobedience, police and hosts declined to warn or cite him. Bernard has put one more nail in the coffin of the argument that these ordinances were initiated against "behavior" and "not against homeless people."

These ordinances are thinly-disguised loitering laws.

These ordinances are intended to be selectively enforced.

Thank-you, Bernard for showing everyone the truth of this sad fact.
by Robert Norse
Interviews and commentary of the April 29th protest can be found at (about 1/2 way through the audio file).
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