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Constricting and Restricting Public Assembly Back at City Councl
Tuesday December 10
Santa Cruz City Council Chambers
Exact time is uncertain, but the laws are items #14 and #15, directly after the Consent Agenda. To be safe, show up at 2 PM.
COUNCIL MEETS AT 2 PM
The Council will again be convening at the unusual time of 2 PM. Probably because the Coronation of incoming Mayor “Rattlesnake” Robinson (so termed because of close collusion with the anti-homeless and vicious Drug War policies of Take Over Santa Cruz.
For those interested there traditionally been a post-coronation cakes-and-drinks celebration across the street in the Civic Auditorium to which the public is invited. This has been a chance to mingle with those in power and spend a little time indoors before returning to the freezing streets.
THE NEW LAWS
Agenda item #15 restrictvely rewrites the entire sections on public demonstrations for what were previously termed “Commercial and Non-commercial Events.” They have been relabeled “Public/Major Events” & “Public Gathering and Expression Events”
The staff report can be found at http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/gm3nxoa24g4uqu55k4gs1zrb/382360111252013053508496.PDF .
Quite simply, the law rewrite criminalizes protests that have more than 50 participants (previously the “allowed” maximum was 100). permit requirement has now tightened apparently so that 50 rather than 100 people require a permit. Marching in the street is no longer provided for except through costly street closures. Permits must be applied for 5 days rather than 36 hours in advance.
The law passed 6-1 at the First Reading and is likely to slide thru the Council swamp like shit through a goose tomorrow. I pointed out that most protests don't seek permits—that's the point of protests: the First Amendment is our permit.
Repressive authority from Birminghan Alabama in the 60's the murdering generals in Egypt in 2013 have all used “permits” as a way of suppressing dissent.
I encourage indybay readers to examine this ordinance themselves. Like the Sidewalk Shrinkage ordinance severely reducing space for public performance, political tabling, panhandling, vending, and art display, this ordinance passed its first reading without police testimony that the current law has any problems.
Kathy Agnon, the Permitmeister, presented a very sunny account of the proposed new laws. She however didn't provide any documentary evidence indicating a history (either anecdotal or otherwise) of such problems.
PUBLIC RECORDS--STILL NOT PROVIDED
My attempt to get public records was delayed by Agnon & other city staff, in spite of what I'd thought were assurances from Nydia Patino. I'd hoped to have records of permit applications and rejections for the last six months available. Accordingly, as usual, we have the staff's arguments in favor of laws instead of any solid evidence that there's a real problem that needs fixing. We need some more objective record beyond Agnon's expertise and good will.
For the texts of the old and new laws, go to http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=479&doctype=AGENDA and look up agenda item #12. You can also view the video of public testimony and Council discussion there.
The texts of the proposed Public Assembly-restricting new laws is also available at http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=482&doctype=AGENDA without the clarification of what's being changed.
If you value your right to publicly assemble and march in any cause, this ordinance should have a big red warning light attached to it, considering the make-up of the Council.
GLOOMY PROSPECTS AHEAD
The likely next mayor (Lynn Robinson), and the past record of this Council and the City Manager in cutting back public space, public assembly, and public accessibility suggests empowering the police in unhealthy ways—even against smaller gatherings, to say nothing of the DIY New Year's Parade coming up in several weeks.
Considering the phony hysteria generated around “public safety” that is likely to be front and center on “Rattlesnake” Robinson's January agenda, further restrictions on the right to gather to demand redress of grievances is the last thing we want right now.
MORE OF THE SAME PSUEDO-PUBLIC SAFETY
The parallel with the recent ordinance changes constricting street performance and art is instructive. The hypocrisy and special interest nature of the "display device" ordinance was obvious then and has become more obvious since.
Obstructive commercial signs have sprouted on the Pacific Avenue sidewalks in spite of the balleyhooed "trip and fall" pretext used to criminalize laying out a blanket.
This "danger" as well as the Robinson-Comstock-Mathews "upscale aesthetics' concerns also prompted the constriction of tabling, vending, and performance space, and the expansion of "forbidden zones" now encroaching on 95% of the sidewalks downtown for non-merchant activity.
HARASSMENT REPLACING TICKETING
But probably many have noticed that most every performer, vendor, even political tabler down there is in violation of the letter of the law as passed on September 24th—as pointed out in a recent Santa Cruz Weekly article.
Hosts and police have given out few if any citations, but harassment has stepped up. Some cops are now claiming that craftspeople are allowed to display their jewelry/art for donation only 6 times a year and must thereafter get a business license..
So may it be with this "Parade Permit" ordinance--last hauled out notoriously to ticket Whitney Wilde, Curtis Reliford, and Wes Modes for "walking in a parade without a permit" on a DIY New Years event 3-4 years ago.
I have been in at least several dozen marches down Pacific Avenue in the last few decades, probably more, and none of them had a permit. Nor were there citations, arrests, and/or prosecutions to my knowledge. But enabling police, the city attorney, and compliant bureaucrats with restrictive laws is not a good idea.
Defending the traditional freedoms Santa Cruz peaceful protesters have enjoyed ultimately requires exercising them. For the first time “political signs” were “allowed” in the Xmas parade last Saturday (though I've always ignored such clearly unconstitutional restrictions).
The ordinance coming up tomorrow on the afternoon agenda empowers more repression and makes spontaneous protest more risky, They need to be sent back for a public process of discussion--with those directly affected and with the public at large.
Earlier info on the first reading at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/11/25/18746832.php
Added to the calendar on Monday Dec 9th, 2013 5:04 PM