From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
Lights, Camera, Tickets! Klieg Lights at City Hall--Throwing Light on the Shelter Shortage
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Thursday Aug 19th, 2010 5:59 AM
To combat increasing police and city pressure against PeaceCamp2010 at City Hall and to halt ticketing of homeless people throughout Santa Cruz for the "crime" of sleeping, homeless folks and their supporters will be going to the Homeless Services Center Board of Directors meeting today at 5:30 PM to demand the Board issue a statement that there is NO shelter available except after a 4-6 week waiting period for the rest of the summer. As police "spotlight" the homeless at night with new sleep depriving klieglights, homeless activists hope to spotlight the real situation for all to see.
City spendthrifts and creative police brainstorming apparently combined to set up 14' high klieg lights--such as swept the Pacific Avenue crowds on Halloween--to spotlight homeless sleepers throughout the night in front of the City Hall.

This is admittedly a harsh step up from driving away youth downtown with classical music at the Metro Bus Station or eliminating benches downtown to "move along" "undesirables" at the whim of nearby merchants.

Complimenting this dehumanization process was Tuesday's "sidewalk scrubbing"--a hosing down of the homeless area in front of City Hall and a sustained slander campaign trumpeting the Sentinel's "child molester" story. A homeless guy, previously convicted of a sex offense, was traveling with his pregnant girlfriend from San Luis Obisbo and Paso Robles.

They both sought and got help from Danielle Long, the Downtown Social Worker. Instead, in another midnight raid on PeaceCamp2010, police arrested the girlfriend on a camping warrant from Paso Robles. The next night as he sat at the PeaceCamp2010 literature table, the man was arrested as well--for the crime of failing to register. The Sentinel and Deputy Chief "Cover-Up) Kevin Vogel (see are headlining this guy's failure to register as some kind of threat to the community. Thanks, but no thanks.

Some nights ago cops began herding and concentrating PeaceCamp2010 protesters into the small area on Center St. in front of the City Hall across from the main library. They threatened to (falsely) arrest anyone falling asleep or covering up with blankets elsewhere in the City Hall complex. Since the complex is open to the public 24 hours a day, this threat is either empty or unconstitutional. In addition both the Sleeping (MC 6.36.010a) and Blanket (MC 6.36.010b) are infractions that specifically do not allow for custodial arrests.

With PeaceCamp2010 protesters were coralled in the small area fronting the sidewalk, police further threatened that any belongings or protest materials left on the flat seating areas would be confiscated as "abandoned".

Then in a clumsy and bewildering display indifferent to its symbolic and historical significance, police set up a tower of 4 14' high klieg lights, such as was used on Pacific Halloween to light up crowds, which duplicates the conditions in Guantanamo and Pelican Bay prisons. The intense illumination is reminiscent of concentration camp spotlights. On the bright side--so far no guard dogs snarling on leashes and barbed wire--but a 24-hour First Alarm security guard is regularly lurking about. (Some folks on Pacific Avenue have also noted the replacement of softer lights there with more high intensity lights in the last half year on that street).

Powering the lights is a noisy and fume-spewing diesel generator which also "helps" by making sleep more difficult (and more toxic) for the homeless--for whom there is no legal shelter, in spite of misleading claims by city and police officials.

After two days of stalling and stonewalling, the Homeless Service Center [HSC] finally issued Art, an elderly homeless local, one of their "no room a the inn" letters, which homeless people then take to court to get their false citations dismissed.

Art was one of over 30 who got misdemeanor citation for "unlawful lodging" (i.e. sleeping) at the county building at PeaceCamp2010. And the first I've heard of to get one of the HSC's standard letters.

Within a day or two after he finally got the letter, Art was given a second misdemeanor lodging citation (in spite of showing the police his letter). They arrested him for sleeping in front of City Hall and took him away in handcuffs. He has not been seen since.

Attorney Ed Frey, who started the PeaceCamp2010 protest on July 4th, suggested that police simply check with the HSC to see if there's a shelter bed available before issuing tickets (See If not, don't ticket unless there's another health or safety problem--and deal with that rather than criminalize sleeping--a necessary human activity.

Police who give out citations know will be dismissed later in court if the HSC letters are presented since they establish a "defense of necessity". Since police know these letters are regularly issued and shelter is unavailable during the summer months, cops citing and harassing sleepers are guilty of nothing less than conscious and systematic harassment--punishable by law.

Daniel White, Shelter Director at the HSC, had already told another homeless man (Timothy Smith) in front of witnesses (I being one of them) that there is no walk-in emergency shelter at all any night between April 15th (when the Winter Armory Shelter closed) to November 15th (when it may reopen). White did suggest anyone could sign up on a 4-6 week waiting list. He repeated this statement under oath in court on Thursday August 5th in the Injunction trial of Anna Richardson and Miguel de Leon.

So far, the HSC's Monica Martinez has declined to give out a letter documenting these sworn statements on paper. This apparently has confused Sentinel editor Don Miller who wrote a recent editorial suggesting there was shelter available ( Invited to correct his inflammatory misinformation, Miller has remained silent. Meanwhile Jennifer Squires continues to write articles dismissing the shelter emergency as a mere "protester claim" rather than the established fact it is.

To do so, of course, would be to expose the police ticketing practice as not only cruel, costly, and futile, but also make the city legally liable for endorsing and funding a regular form of abuse used to "discourage" homeless people from staying in Santa Cruz.

An earlier version of this story appeared on the PeaceCamp2010 website. Go there for regular updates on PeaceCamp's adventures.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Nightwing
Thursday Aug 19th, 2010 3:39 PM
"Thanks, but no thanks"????

THE GUY MOLESTED CHILDREN!!! It was part of his release agreement that he needed to register where he's living. It makes no difference if the guy is housed or unhoused. He's a child molester and needs to register. You guys have clearly gone round the bend of reality.
by Laughing
Thursday Aug 19th, 2010 8:49 PM
Robert, you've gone off the deep end, if you hadn't already. The difference between a concentration camp and Santa Cruz City Hall, is that those people at the latter can simply stand up and walk away, free people. You are such a drama queen.

While you guys were at the shelter, did anyone sign up for that waiting list? No? Why not?

by Black Waltz
Friday Aug 20th, 2010 2:10 PM
Yes, people can indeed walk away from these "concentration camp" conditions, however these men and women are attending this Government-run emulation for the specific purpose of bringing awareness to its existence. You are literally saying that citizens of Santa Cruz should turn a blind eye to clear breaches of constitutional law and CONCENTRATION CAMP conditions. Any sane person would then assume your alternative is that they should hide in a hole. ... A pathetic assertion, clearly vomited by a true sheep.

You aught to wake from your infantile comfort. When you were a child, all of this human rights stuff would have been incredibly obvious to you. What happened to change how you view your fellow man? What has the word homeless become to you?!?!?

I sit in utter disbelief...

The assertion that a HOMELESS registered sex offender (traveling with his pregnant girlfriend) should register immediately within the town he is in, or face a clearly too-prompt arrest, is simply ridiculous to me. I have never seen someone's personal fears obliterate someone else's rights so mercilessly. It is rather comedic that Police scare tactics work so swimmingly when fed like fodder to sheep.

The two of you should be completely ashamed. "Nightwing" and "Laughing"

May the flying spaghetti monster have mercy on your souls >.>
by DW
Saturday Aug 21st, 2010 8:32 AM
It's California law that homeless sex offenders must register within 24 hours of each change of location. The guy who got busted at PeaceCamp deserved being arrested. His rights aren't being violated. Our right to know where sex offenders are is.
by Lydia Blanchard
(lydiablanchard [at] Saturday Aug 21st, 2010 2:02 PM
I am assuming that Robert Norse is correct in writing that the sexual abuse conviction mentioned in this article was for a 14-year-old having had sex with a 13-year-old. If the 14 y.o. had been six months younger, he would probably have had a different, lesser charge. Child abuse legislation is full of such circumspections that can create injustices, though in general it is correct not to give younger children the legal right to permit their being used sexually or to use others sexually.

Being the object of child sexual abuse often gets emotionally (and complicatedly) in the way of later, adult free choice of sex and of partners. That is a horrendous legacy. But I urge caution regarding making judgments. Some very thoughtful people who have used children have later understood their actions (more deeply than I thought possible) and taken solid emotional steps toward not repeating them in their lifetimes. And making amends.