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Midnight Busts at PeaceCamp2010 Renew Protest Determination
Last night around midnight, nearly 40 people, mostly homeless, faced a squadron of seven deputies headed by Sgt. Fred Plageman. The Sleepbusters strode about the area rousting sleepers, writing misdemeanor citations to those they'd previously "warned", and shortly thereafter arresting those who hadn't left their sleeping bags or were sitting on bedding. One protest leader--"Curbhugger" Chris Doyon--was isolated from the group, then targeted and jailed in what seemed a planned maneuver around an old warrant, designed to decapitate the leadership.
"NO ROOM AT THE INN" AND A REPRESSIVE LAW THAT MAKES SLEEP A CRIME
Last night PeaceCamp2010, the homeless-run campground in front of the County Courthouse at 701 Ocean provided a 34th night safe sleeping zone and protest demonstration Situated in front of the County Courthouse, the sleep-out was replete with signs and literature exposing the current shelter emergency.
They urged the court to overturn the Sleeping Ban conviction of a 63-year old homeless man, Robert Facer, end the Sleeping Ban for the City's 1500-2000 homeless, and dismiss all past citations. In late June, the courts delayed Facer's appeal for another two months, prompting Facer's attorney Ed Frey to rent a portapotty and begin a protest sleep-out in front of the County Building. "Justice can't wait; people must sleep tonight" declared Frey.
"These people are innocent," Frey insisted. "The courts have declared they will dismiss tickets since there is no shelter--so why are they being rousted at night?" These facts are generally being ignored by media, politicians, and even social service providers--perhaps nervous about keeping their funding and political capital.
THE POLITICIANS WASH THEIR HANDS
Mayor Mike Rotkin and Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty have both publicly supported the "drive away the homeless" 11 PM to 8:30 AM outdoor and vehicular Sleeping Ban at issue, without suggesting any place where the homeless community--which has to sleep at night--can be legal. (See "Cracking Down on the Homeless--a Debate Between Mayor Rotkin & Activist-Attorney Frey " at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/07/08/18652988.php and "Sleeping Ban Debate – Broadcast on Community TV. Voices of the Village" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/11/14/18461204.php)
DEPUTIES ESCALATE FROM THREATS TO CITATIONS TO ARRESTS
Around midnight the peace of the camp was violently disturbed by the largest gang of sheriffs yet (7) intent on frightening away protesters and forcing sleepers to abandon the relatively safe and well-lighted spot, provided with sanitary facilities compliments of attorney Ed Frey in the form of a nightly portapotty.
NEW LAW TROTTED OUT WITH MORE SEVERE PENALTIES FOR SLEEPING
The posse, led by Lt. Plageman began A brusque and systematic roust of those trying to sleep on the steps, plaza, and the wheelchair ramps--unused spaces at night out of range of the frequent sprinkler system which wet down the lawns and any homeless folks sleeping there. According to activist Becky Johnson, the uniformed gunmen shined flashlights into faces, shook people awake and handed them a typewritten letter claiming they were violating "California Penal Code section 647 (e)" the state's anti-lodging law.
PC 647e is a misdemeanor state law which makes "lodging" a misdemeanor. It makes it a crime for anyone "who lodges in any building, structure, vehicle, or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it."
One would of thought, that since that was the public, that the area would be open to the public. PC 647 is a "disorderly conduct" statute with a long list of subsections. Subsection e is squeezed between a "no loitering near a bathroom" section and a "drunk in public" section. The law has been used against homeless people and homeless protesters in San Diego and Sacramento and occasionally in Santa Cruz County.
In essence, the deputies are claiming that sleeping on county property is in and of itself "disorderly conduct" Disorderly, that is, if you're visible, poor, and without any legal shelter. An interesting upscale re-definition of "disorderly".
COSTLY TRIALS AND A VAGUE LAW: NEW RESTRICTIONS ON PROTEST
If the charges are actually filed, the law requires a jury trial and an appointed Public Defender for each defendant. Unlike the City's infraction MC 6.36.010a--the Sleeping Ban law--it can cost the county $10,000 to $20,000 per trial--or such was the estimate made several years ago.
Plageman's Posse also gave out a warning which read
" You are lodging here without the permission of the owner or the person entitled to control this property. Therefore, you are in violation of California Penal Code Section 647(e), a misdemeanor. If you continue to lodge here, you will be cited and/or arrested for this violation. This action is not intended to interfere with your non-lodging demonstration during business hours. Lodging at any time will not be tolerated."
The next to the last sentence revealed a new and ominous clampdown by the County authorities on the right to protest generally when its offices weren't open. All-night vigils, for instance, would be eliminated. This led to the general expectation that deputies were likely to return to drive away or arrest those not sleeping but just exercising their right to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.
One woman, Amber, who was simply sitting on a sleeping bag, was handcuffed, cited, arrested, and taken to jail. Three other men who had been trying to sleep were summarily cuffed and carted off.
HARASSING THE INNOCENT
Becky Johnson describes the scene and the arrests in more detail at http://peacecamp2010.blogspot.com/2010/08/5-arrests-dozens-of-misdemeanor.html . She also discuss some of the legal issues being raised and/or avoided.
Writes Johnson, "Everyone was rousted. Old women. The sick. A young woman begged for a safe place to go. 'I'm homeless, ' she told the young deputy. 'I feel safe here. If I go back down by the river I'm afraid I'll be raped.'
'I don't know what to tell you, ' he replied, 'You can't stay here.'
At least one of the many citations written gave an arraignment date of September 22 at 8:30 AM.
TARGETING THE LEADERSHIP
"Curbhugger"Chris Doyon, often spokesperson for the camp, was the first to be arrested as he videotaped the police apparently for a past warrant on a minor charge. He suggested they had planned the arrest in advance, waited until he was isolated from the group on the other side of the building, then swooped. The usual procedure in such minor cases is to issue a citation, but the deputies seemed to have a broader political purpose.
"Lt. Plageman also broke his word regarding not making arrests and using force," said Chris heatedly on returning from jail some hours later. "Now we know what his word is worth. It won't stop us. We'll be back." Chris described jail conditions as unhealthy, abusive, and medieval. He noted the deputies cuffed the homeless group and left them in a van for an extended period while joking about the situation.
Survival sleeper and protester Orbit had earlier tried to get shelter at the Homeless Services Center or at least a letter from the HSC officially clarifying what they told him verbally--that they had no shelter (see http://peacecamp2010.blogspot.com/2010/08/no-shelter-why-wont-homeless-services.html ). He was denied the shelter and the letter from the HSC, and Lt. Plageman's phalanx took him away in handcuffs anyway, advising him that his property wouldn't be released until Monday at the earliest and refusing his entreaties that his friends be allowed to keep it.
TARGETING SICK AND ELDERLY WOMEN WITH NO PLACE TO SLEEP
Dianne, an older woman, sick for days, who required emergency ambulance treatment forty-five minutes after Plageman's previous raid several days before was sent into the night stumbling and sobbing.
The group's elder--Colette--declared her willingness to be arrested and various other began to lie down, but deputies, apparently satisfied with their human haul, filed off ignoring the escalating "violations" of PC 647e. A group of 5-6 of us agreed to wait with bedding to be part of the "second wave" of arrests, and another support group lingered nearby to be helpful. By morning, however, the deputies had not returned.
Under implicit threat of confiscation, Attorney Ed Frey told the group he'd have to discontinue providing the nightly portapotty. "But I'll be sleeping with you", he reportedly added. "We're here for the duration," said another. "The Sleeping Ban", smiled one woman as she lay on her sleeping bag, "We'll not stand for it!"
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Check the latest at http://www.peacecamp2010.blogspot.com/ .
The community is invited to come on down to witness and participate in this attempt to regain community space for community use, to expose the abusive behavior of authorities trying to drive away the visible homeless, and to help change the anti-homeless Sleeping Ban law.
The City Council can be contacted by phone at 831-420-5020.
Volunteer to help by calling PeaceCamp2010 at 831-675-6096.
Legal workers, media help, food, blankets, and computer access are particular welcome.
RADIO COVERAGE COMING UP
Though Free Radio Santa Cruz is currently not broadcasting, it is still streaming at http://www.freakradio.org. I will be playing audio of the latest attempt to destroy the protest and force the homeless protesters out of sight around 9 AM. Assuming I'm not in jail, I'll begin an early show around 7:30 AM or 8 AM and run into 1 PM. Call-in number: 427-3772.
The show will be archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb10081708.mp3 a day or so later.
10 p.m.: Attorney Ed Frey has decided to continue to bring the nighttime portapotty in spite of the increased sheriff pressure. This means people will have a sanitary place to do their business as well as a bit of privacy. Plus the opportunity to wash their hands afterwards.
Curbhugger Chris reported it was a huge job cleaning up the mess left in the wake of the deputy disturbance last night.
Dianne, the older woman with medical problems, was taken to the hospital some hours she was forced off the site by Lt. Plageman. She gave instructions to have her stuff returned to PeaceCamp 2010 where it currently awaits her return.
Christine is teaching her friendly pooch new tricks with the aid of a hulahoop and a bag of treats. Chris says he wishes he could video her frolicsome training, but has to save his videospace for potential police invasions.
Lt. Plageman walked into the center of PeaceCamp20 about an hour ago, surveyed the scene, did a head count and walked off.
Ed Frey is sleeping on the site himself--to protect his clients and support the protest.
Spirits seem to be high.
Back from Peace Camp where attorney and activist Ed Frey was surrounded by 7 deputies, and told to identify himself and rouse himself to leave or get arrested. He said he simply wanted to go back to sleep. Deputies handcuffed him, confiscated his sleeping bag and mattress, and led him off to a patrol car to be taken to jail.
Off to the side, Brent Adams was angrily denouncing deputies in the strongest language. No mainstream media were on the scene but Bradley of Indybay and Curbhugger Chris of PeaceCamp2010 as well as yours truly of Free Radio Santa Cruz, were rolling the tape and the video.
The deputies also disassembled a large camp of possessions near the site of the old service station (since demolished) at Ocean and Water, confiscating 7 shopping carts and numerous other knickknacks.
They presented Curbhugger Chris with one of their signature "advisory" documents, sayign they'd return to to cite and then arrest. Chris had his ID neatly laid out for examination. Also waiting on the chopping block: Christine from Ireland and Colette from the local levee. Carrying signs and reciting his own poetry: Orbit, arrested last night for "illegal lodging", but tonight acting as a town crier and comment-tarian.
More audio on this later today streaming on Free Radio at http://www.freakradio.org .
Show runs from 8:30 to 1 PM.
Two arrests and a half dozen citations is tonights total. One protester remains in custody, refusing bail and on a hunger strike.
The two persons arrested during last nights assault upon Peace Camp 2010 have been released. The raid lasted until nearly 6:00 AM.
10 protesters remained throughout the assault, the occupation remains unbroken. Moral among the protesters is very high !
Peace Camp 2010 lives and others are already returning. Estimate 15 people and two dogs on site. WE ARE NOT AFRAID !!