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Indybay Feature

Swing Along with the Sinister Sidewalk Singers

Friday, April 09, 2010
1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Event Type:
Robert Norse
309 Cedar PMB #14B Santa Cruz 95060
Location Details:
1520 Pacific Ave. on the sidewalk in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz, run by the Coonerty family. Ryan Coonerty is the current vice-mayor. His wretched record around homeless civil rights and general civil liberties is itemized at


On January 6, the SCPD facilitated four false arrests--$445 citations for singing political songs on the sidewalk during a homeless political protest. (See "Sinister Street Singers Cited on Sidewalk" at )

On March 26, City Attorney John Barisone arrived in Dept. 1 with numerous witnesses, indicating he was taking over prosecution of the case. This contradicted Sgt. Michael Harms's claim that such song tickets (technically "Unreasonably Disturbing Noises" citations under MC 9.36.020) are prosecuted "by the citizens themselves" and not at taxpayer expense. The City Attorney is clearly spending public time and money to prosecute defendant Becky Johnson.

Johnson was charged with singing songs like "Downtown" ( in an "unreasonably disturbing" manner. Johnson gives her own description of the harassment that broke up the political protest at

The ordinance itself is absurdly vague and subjective, violates Constitutional First Amendment protections, and gives no standards to the singers (or those complaining) about what is an "unreasonable" volume to sing at. When asked how loud was too loud, the citing Officer Shoenfeld refused to answer.

At Johnson's first hearing, Judge Ariadne Symons in Dept. 1 adopted a prosecutorial attitude, forcing a rapid court date on Johnson, then denying her attorney time to prepare a case, and finally ordering her to be personally present during the proceedings--all exceedingly unusual procedures in an infraction prosecution.

Symons sensitivity for civil liberties can be seen by her actions in an earlier c"trespass" at the Metro Transit Center case. There I'd insisted that religious sermons being played over the loudspeaker be turned off and refused to leave on the order of a security guard who refused to give his name and later claimed I was "blocking" the 6' long "Metro Center" sign. (See "Judge Returns Guilty Verdict In Metro Trespass Trial " at

Also charged are Robert "Blindbear" Facer and Robert Norse (the writer of this announcement), who go to trial later this month and next month respectively.


Since January the Sinister Sidewalk Singers have been sadly silent--and this Friday marks their return to the public arena.

In hopes of restoring a little song and sunshine to Pacific Avenue, some of us will be tuning up our voiceboxes, and perhaps even some guitars, to reprise such homeless favorites as "Downtown", "Sgt. Harms is Coming Downtown", "Silent Night, Sleepless Night".

Come join us at 1:30 PM in front of the Bookshop where we'll hope to have a panel of experts eager to help the police fine tune their Singing Citation Standards (which they've so far declined to release).

Bring a chair of your own (otherwise you're banned from sitting on the sidewalk within 14' of a building under the Rotkin-Coonerty Sitting Ban).

There will be some sitting space along the planter surface, one of the few planters the SCPD and Revelopment Agency haven't spent $6000 making unsittable by moving out the railing as they have at the New Leaf and Pacific Trading Company planters.

Those who don't want to risk arrest by singing, are invited to witness the ongoing concert and help the community determine just what kind of singing is and isn't allowed on the public sidewalk.

You can also bring your own gag, to dramatize your eagerness to comply with the City's laws as enforced by the SCPD, to be kept on to dramatize your insistence on keeping a low silent profile.

We will be making a continuous tape recording (and perhaps a video recording) of the entire proceedings to document volume levels and other SCPD antics.

We may try to present the documentary record of our public information and entertainment campaign into the trials of Johnson, Facer, and Norse to show how unreasonable the "Unreasonably Disturbing Noises" prosecutions actually are.


There will also be literature and petitions encouraging Santa Cruz's City Council to eliminate its repressive and archaic Sleeping Ban law (as Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Richmond, and Laguna Beach have done) as well as other anti-homeless laws.

The Armory Winter Shelter program ends in mid-April leaving 1500-2000 homeless people with emergency walk-in shelter for less than 5% of their number. Current law makes falling asleep after 11 PM outside a house or hotel completely illegal on all public property. Tent donations for a possible Tent City will be accepted.
Added to the calendar on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 10:36PM
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Robert Norse
Fri, Apr 9, 2010 7:00AM
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