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Homelessness in California is now punishable by a year in jail. Free Gary Johnson!
by Steven Argue (steveargue2 [at]
Sunday Jun 26th, 2011 1:07 PM
Homelessness in California is now punishable by a year in jail.

Free Gary Johnson! Overturn the Convictions of Ed Frey, Arthur Bishoff, Collette Connolly! Hands off Christopher Doyon!

End Laws making it Illegal for the Homeless to Sleep at Night!

Seize Housing From the Banks for those Who Need Housing! For a Nation Wide Jobs Program Building Housing for All!
[Photo by Liberation News. Daily protests at the Santa Cruz Courthouse from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM Monday through Friday demanding freedom for protesters convicted of sleeping.]

Free Gary Johnson! Overturn the Convictions of Ed Frey, Arthur Bishoff, Collette Connolly! Hands off Christopher Doyon!

By Steven Argue

For protesting on the county steps against Santa Cruz laws that make it illegal for the homeless to sleep at night, homeless activists Gary Johnson (no relation to Becky Johnson) and Attorney Ed Frey were sentenced to 6 months in jail on June 10th. Bail was set for Ed Frey, pending appeal, at $50,000. Their only act of civil disobedience was sleeping. This occurred at their three month protest called “Peace Camp 2010”. Revealing the political nature of the draconian sentences, Judge Gallagher told homeless activist Gary Johnson that he “could get some sleep in jail” before they were dragged away in chains for their 6 month sentences. The law they were protesting makes it illegal for the homeless to sleep at night, outside or in a vehicle.

On Friday, June 24, after two weeks in jail, Ed Frey was released on bail pending appeal with his bail of $50,000 dollars reduced to $110. Supporters quickly passed the hat and Ed Frey was released from jail on bail. Gary Johnson still sits in jail.

Also convicted for sleeping at the protest were Arthur Bishoff and Collette Connolly. A fifth protester, Christopher Doyon didn’t show up for the kangaroo court trial and bench warrant was issued. A sixth protester, Eliot Anderson was freed by a hung jury that failed to convict him. A juror said of the case, Anderson should not have to gas his dog to try to get into a shelter to legally sleep.

Many potential jurors were upset by the fact that they were to sit through a two week trial for the “crime” of sleep. One example was an elementary school teacher who said, "When I first came to Santa Cruz, I lived in my van for three years. During that time, I was hassled, arrested, and jailed. There is no way I could be impartial in this case considering the pain these people are suffering." A number of potential jurors said such things, but of course they never made it on to the jury. People who are aware of what is going on generally don’t make it onto juries in the United States. Those less aware people who made it onto the jury were told, in a typical manner, that they weren’t allowed to have their own opinions. In the oft repeated mantra of blind stupidity and injustice in America’s capitalist courts, Judge Gallagher told the jury, "Even if you disagree with the law, you must follow the law."

The four protesters were convicted of state anti-lodging law 647(E) for sleeping at the protest. Arthur Bishoff and Collette Connolly did not show up for the absurdity of sentencing and warrants were issued. Ed Frey and Gary Johnson were offered 400 hours of Community Service and 3 years probation for sleeping. In response, Gary Johnson, homeless, asked, "How can I take probation to obey all laws, when you've defined "sleeping" as lodging to the jury, making it a misdemeanor crime? How can I not sleep for six months during probation?" On basic principle and inability to comply, both Gary Johnson and Attorney Ed Frey turned down probation.

This was reminiscent of an earlier Santa Cruz case where Sandy Loranger did time in jail for feeding the homeless soup. When the judge offered her counseling instead of jail Sandy Loranger replied, "If feeding my fellow people is a crime, I am beyond rehabilitation."

The protest Gary Johnson, Ed Frey, Arthur Bishoff, and Collette Connolly were prosecuted for was peaceful in nature with the only act of civil disobedience being the illegal act of sleep outside. Basic protest facilities were included with Attorney Ed Frey providing the protesters with a needed port-a-potty. This helped provide the homeless with a safe place to sleep for months, despite the city government’s failure to provide such needed relief for its citizens.

The protest also shamed the city government into modifying the city’s law that makes it illegal for the homeless to sleep at night by providing a dismissal of the charges in court if the homeless being charged with sleep can show that they were on the waiting list for the insufficient shelter provided at the Homeless Service Center at the time they were ticketed. Other protests in the 1990s shamed the Santa Cruz City government into reducing the fine for sleeping at night outside or in a vehicle, but the Santa Cruz City Council continued to keep sleep at night for the homeless illegal at that time as well.

During those protests in the 1990s activists were arrested and brutalized by the infamously repressive Santa Cruz Police. Activist B.D. was tackled off his soap box and pepper sprayed by the Santa Cruz Police for giving a speech in favor of the homeless in front of numerous eyewitnesses and a video camera. In 1998 this author was beaten and arrested, spending four days in jail, for exercising my First Amendment right to distribute literature. It was literature in favor of rights for the homeless and opposed to police brutality.

The law for which Gary Johnson and Ed Frey were arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced was Penal Code Section 647(E), for “unlawful lodging”. This is a California state law. It was also recently used in August 2010 by the Santa Barbara Police to ticket Courtney Caswell-Peyton, a Santa Barbara disabled woman who fell asleep in her wheel chair. She showed-up for court worried about the possibility of getting her first conviction for any crime. Facing strong protest in that case, the Santa Barbara DA dismissed the charge in the “interests of justice”. While happy about not being convicted, she left court saying she was still homeless and questioning why she had no place to sleep.

Unlike the Santa Barbara dismissal, Gary Johnson, Ed Frey, Arthur Bishoff, and Collette Connolly were convicted in the notoriously bad Santa Cruz courts. Judge Gallagher is making an example of them for standing-up against the anti-homeless laws of Santa Cruz. The suspected reason cops charged the four with the state law rather than the Santa Cruz anti-sleeping law was a loophole where city laws didn’t apply because the protest was on county property. But, as a cop once told this author, “this is Santa Cruz; we can find a law for anything”. And find a law they did.

In 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an earlier version of Penal Code Section 647(E) was unconstitutional in the case of Kolender v. Lawson. It was an anti-vagrancy law that was brought to the supreme court after it was used by San Diego Police to repeatedly harass a Black man with dread locks who was committing no real crime. As a result of that Supreme Court ruling that version of Penal Code Section 647(E) was repealed by the state legislature in 2008.

Since the overturning of the original 647(E) a new version was passed by the State Legislature which states, “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” “are guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor". Lodging is being used as a euphemism for sleeping here. This is the law the four protesters were convicted under.

In May 2011, this anti-homeless law 647 (E) was made even worse with the State Legislature making a second violation punishable of up to a year in jail and $2,000 fine. So now homelessness in the state of California is punishable by up to a year in jail if one is caught doing it twice.

Voting for this worsened anti-homeless law were Democrats and Republicans alike, including local Santa Cruz Democrat and darling of many reformist liberals, Bill Monning. Monning voted for that increased penalty at the same time that the people who actually stand-up for human rights were fighting the constitutionality of the law in court with their freedom on the line.

Here is a full list of those who voted for the worsened anti-homeless law: Achadjian, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Beall, Beth Gaines, Bill Berryhill, Block, Blumenfield, Bonilla, Bradford, Brownley, Buchanan, Butler, Campos, Carter, Charles Calderon, Chesbro, Cook, Davis, Dickinson, Donnelly, Eng, Feuer, Fletcher, Fong, Fuentes, Furutani, Galgiani, Gatto, Gordon, Grove, Hagman, Halderman, Hall, Harkey, Hayashi, Hill, Huber, Hueso, Huffman, Jeffries, John A. Pérez, Jones, Knight, Lara, Logue, Ma, Mansoor, Mendoza, Miller, Monning, Morrell, Nestande, Nielsen, Norby, Olsen, Pan, Perea, Silva, Skinner, Smyth, Solorio, Swanson, V. Manuel Pérez, Valadao, Wagner, Wieckowski, Williams, and Yamada.

None voted against.

As the California state government, dominated by Democrats, passes anti-working class austerity and extremely harsh anti-homeless legislation, the Democrat holding power in Washington, Obama, wages wars in an increasing number of the world’s countries for the profit of arms manufacturers, oil corporations, and other imperialist capitalists and locks-up suspected whistle blower on U.S. crimes against humanity, Bradley Manning, under intolerable conditions. Bradley Manning is accused of releasing the helicopter footage that shows U.S. troops nonchalantly gunning down civilians including journalists, first aid respondents, and children in cold blood. Instead of charges of murder for those who committed it, it is Bradley Manning who goes to prison under Obama. Likewise, billions that could be used in a saner society for housing, healthcare, and education are squandered on war.

Meanwhile, the local Democrats in power in Santa Cruz send out their county and city cops to silence protests for human rights for the homeless, support legislation against immigrants like the “Secure Communities” program, and threaten to cut the already meager wages of In Home Support Workers, wages needed to provide the care that helps keep the disabled, elderly, and dying in their homes. While Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty supports the city’s anti-homeless laws, police repression, and has signed on with the anti-immigrant “Secure Communities” program, he opposes measures that would help fight homelessness like an increase in the minimum wage and has been part of carrying out austerity that includes the lay-off of workers and cuts in homeless services while at the same time hiring more cops.

As the current crisis of capitalism threatens the break-down all that is left that is civil in our society, the Democrats charge ahead with the Republicans in making sure it is the poor and working class who pay for the crisis of capitalism, not capitalist profits. All reformist dreams of the Democrat Party in any way being a source of any sort of “hope” should be abandoned in favor of recognizing reality. Labor unions must abandon their illusions in the Democrats and stop giving them our money and instead prepare to fight by putting union dues in strike funds. The true power of labor will never be found groveling at the feet of hostile Democrat politicians. Instead, labor has the potential to win demands by shutting down the profits of the capitalists.

As opposed to the Democrat’s program of more war, more cops, criminalization of poverty, political repression, and austerity labor should move forward with our own demands. Those could include a massive jobs program to house the homeless, the seizure of housing foreclosed by the banks to be used by those who need it, and an end to capitalist medicine in the United States, a major cause of debt, homelessness, and death. Without an independent fight-back of the working class, using the power of the strike for political demands, the situation will just continue to grow bleaker.

A revolutionary worker’s party should be built to advocate and lead on just such a class struggle program. To remain a tool of the working class in the long run such a party also needs to have an anti-capitalist program for the building of socialism. Political parties without a clear anti-capitalist program, once in power, just become mere rulers over the inherent injustices of the capitalist system. Instead of capitalism, an egalitarian socialist economy in the United States with production based on human need rather than capitalist profit could provide everyone with a job, housing, health care, and free education. Such a society needs to be built on principles of workers’ democracy rather than Stalinist dictatorship or American style dictatorship of the wealthy.

The alternative to socialist revolution becomes increasingly clear as capitalist society becomes less and less able to take care of its people; climate change caused by capitalist greed becomes an increasing threat to the future of human civilization; the capitalist state becomes increasingly repressive; and the leading capitalist countries plunge the world into war after war of imperialist domination and conquest. As the great German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg said in 1918, the alternatives are socialism or barbarism.

Free Gary Johnson! Overturn the Convictions of Ed Frey, Arthur Bishoff, Collette Connolly! Hands Off Christopher Doyon!

End Laws making it Illegal for the Homeless to Sleep at Night!

Seize Housing From the Banks for those Who Need Housing! For a Nation Wide Jobs Program Building Housing for All!

This is an article of Liberation News, subscribe free
§Gary Johnson is Out on Bail!
by Steven Argue Tuesday Jun 28th, 2011 10:20 AM
Forwarded message from Gary Johnson:

Breaking news...

I JUST got out on bail (pending Appeal), from (eventually Minimum) Medium Security Jail in Watsonville (aka The Farm).

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Tony Ryals
Sunday Jun 26th, 2011 7:11 PM
Santa Cruz, California...

by Tony Ryals

It's named for a cross they hung him on,
Though what he did is now unknown,
Then the Romans who strung him up,
Used his religion on the masses like an opiate,
Now we live in a town named for this means of execution,
While our police chief dreams of a final solution,
For those dirty street people and economic confusion,
Lock them up says he and force-feed government-approved drugs to those asses,
While the good people here can put on their sunglasses,
And read the bible, the opiate of the masses.

Hi! About 1976 Bella Stumbo, a reporter
for the Los Angeles Times,
did a story with a big photo of me in my van,
which I lived in.

The van had a piano held in with steel angle bars
to support it while driving. I lived in it.

No one ever told me back then that it was illegal to live in my van.

Cris Ericson
I heard that the L.A. Times is slowly putting
all the back articles Bella Stumbo did
on the internet,
because she passed away.

Check out the photo of me that she took!
I had short, dark hair.

I went to Los Angeles to do some talent nights,
and the girl group I hooked up with insisted
I dye my hair blond, and it has been blond
ever since.

Tell the Los Angeles Times to hurry up and post online
this particular photo journalism story that Bella Stumbo did
of me, Cris Ericson, sometime around 1976.
by Charles R.
Monday Jun 27th, 2011 7:01 AM
you may find our site of interest

"The working class and the employing class have nothing in common."
IWW founding congress opening statement
by Craig Louis Stehr
(craigstehr [at] Monday Jun 27th, 2011 9:33 AM
Beginning July 1st, the FREE Berkeley Catholic Worker breakfast will be served in the dining room at Vet's Hall, located on Center Street between Milvia and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Also, People's Park is open for afternoon naps.
by Screw their laws!
Monday Jun 27th, 2011 12:52 PM
Way too often, people who could get on juries and prevent such unjust convictions keep themselves off of those juries by admitting that they might be biased against those repressive or reactionary laws. Good people in those situations should say what is necessary to be accepted on the jury, except for telling provable lies.
by Charles Argue
Monday Jun 27th, 2011 6:17 PM
Great article Steve!
by Becky Johnson
Thursday Jun 30th, 2011 7:27 AM
One has to ask what the County is doing. Using PC 647 (e), the statewide anti-lodging law against protesters, is selective enforcement. Arresting, trying, and jailing for those who "settle in" "live in a place" or "sleep" without permission of the owner, has the potential of filling up our jails to the bursting point. Judge John Gallagher literally told Gary Johnson "You can sleep in jail!" What kind of social engineering is this? I thought debtors prisons were considered barbaric. Arresting and jailing homeless people for SLEEPING without the permission of the "owner" (don't the citizens own public property?) is the worst "solution" for homelessness proposed. Jury trials are very expensive. And they disrupt the lives of 160 citizens each time. It's not like we pay jurors for their service!

Many jurors revolted in the Peace Camp 6 trial. They felt that the issue was too minor to disrupt their lives for up to 2 weeks to determine if some homeless people and some housed supporters "slept" "settled in" or "lived in a place" without permission of the "owner". Doesn't EVERYONE "live in a place?" Indeed, how can you avoid NOT doing so?

Either Sheriff Wowack and DA Bob Lee intend to arrest every homeless person they see and try them for "illegal lodging" OR they SELECTIVELY ENFORCED THIS LAW in order to disrupt a LEGAL PROTEST! Obviously the latter is true.
by Steven Argue
Saturday Jul 2nd, 2011 8:17 AM
The county is thinking what all governments think when they carry out repression. They are thinking that the price they pay for their repression will be smaller than what they will be able to achieve through their repression.

In this case they are thinking that the price of shutting down Peace Camp 2010 with draconian 6 month sentences and warrants hanging over many protesters heads combined with the chilling effect that would have on future protests is worth it. In their calculations the backlash this will cause of people becoming upset and active and/or of people drawing radical or revolutionary conclusions will be smaller and the fight back their repression provokes less significant than what their repression achieves. In a nutshell that is mostly what they are thinking, combined with their desire to further harass and criminalize the homeless who were the majority of people protesting.

Governments carry out repression because it often works. It is always the job of leftists, the labor movement, and others who believe in political freedom to make sure such cold blooded government calculations are wrong.
The "Oscar Grant Committee, to Stop Police Brutality and State Repression" considers the Santa Cruz ordinance against "sleeping in public" to be UNJUST . particularly in the light of the ongoing housing crisis spreading across the country, where millions of people have been turned out of their homes do to the ongoing economic depression.

We demand that all the charges against Homeless Rights Organizer Gary Johnson and others arrested, that occurred as a result of the peaceful non-violent homeless rights protest be dropped and any convictions overturned.

We offer our solidarity and support to Gary Johnson and his supporters in the struggle for Human Rights and Dignity for the homeless.
by J.C.
Saturday Jul 2nd, 2011 11:33 AM
Steven, you are a great writer. One would have to be a Zombie to read this, complete with historic factual data, without getting High Blood Pressure from the anger it inspires. Alice said about wonderland that things just get curiouser and curiouser; if the book was written today she would comment that things just get ridiculous and more ridiculous. Oh, maybe that was what she was saying; as the totally incredible nonsense piles up like shit in our society. Health and Happiness to you and your wife, JC
by Carole Seligman
Saturday Jul 2nd, 2011 2:15 PM
I support Gary Johnson as well as efforts to get rid of laws such as the one under which Mr. Johnson was arrested.
by Adam Cornford
Saturday Jul 2nd, 2011 5:07 PM
Such laws are as old as class society. I'm sure someone else has quoted Anatole France's famous observation: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges." The clear conclusion is that we need to get rid of class society. That's what I'm all about. But fighting laws like these gets people moving together, and nothing can change without that. I support Gary Johnson and everyone else in his situation.
These laws are inhuman and must be fought! I will circulate this article and information about these crimes against the most downtrodden. As the old labor saying goes, we are only as strong as our weakest link--an injury to one is an injury to all!
by Fight the Government
Wednesday Jul 6th, 2011 7:32 PM
James McMurtry "We Can't Make It Here"
by Firemonkey
Wednesday Aug 1st, 2012 2:50 PM
Did Steven Argue flunk history? It has been shown that socialism is a failure; during the Soviet Era in Russia, the government got all the benefits--imported cars, fine clothes, plenty of food, etc.--while the common people were forced to steal from one another, or stand in long lines to buy food and necessities in skimpily stocked stores. Most of the goods were stolen by the dock workers; everyone was out for themselves. What makes you think it will work any better here in the U.S.?
I agree that the banks should have the foreclosed houses taken from them and given to those in need, however we need to look at the real reason for the foreclosure crisis. People were told that with creative financing, they could afford more house than their income allowed. Who wouldn't want that? But then companies kept sending jobs overseas to third world countries, causing people to be laid off. This lead to loss of income, followed by foreclosure when the number of people seeking jobs greatly outnumbered the jobs available. No job led to no house, and on the street. And those "Capitalists" you call greedy? Those are the ones that provided the jobs, which enabled the people to live in homes, which led to a drop in the homeless rate. Surveys show that only 6% of the homeless choose to live on the streets. Other than foreclosure and unemployment, other reasons for homelessness is releasing foster kids from the system the minute they turn 18 without giving them basic living skills in order to function in society, the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, as well as domestic violence (women and children fleeing from domestic violence usually have no backup plan), as well as, yes, you mentioned it, low paying jobs, particularly wage stagnation combined with lack of affordable housing. But the problem with raising wages is that it causes the cost of everything to rise as well, setting off a vicious circle. I think a better idea is to educate the criminal justice system, particularly the police, as well as politicians and lawmakers. Also, the general public. Studies have shown that homelessness is usually a temporary problem, with the vast majority of people living on the street for a period of 6 months to 2 years. Since no city has sufficient numbers of shelter beds available, it would be a good idea for everybody to get over their NIMBY thinking on the subject of homelessness and build more shelters. More drug, alcohol and mental health facilities should be made available to the homeless. If organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Smile Train can travel the world performing medical treatments on patients in the neediest parts of the world, why can't it be done here? Veterans' organizations should be reaching out more; these men and women gave up a significant part of their lives to keep us free, and for them to end up on the street is a national disgrace.

By the way, is Argue your real name?