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Indybay Feature

Freedom Sleepers Back To Bed Down at City Hall in 8th SleepOut

Tuesday, September 01, 2015
6:00 PM - 6:00 AM
Event Type:
Phil Posner (posting by Norse)
Location Details:
City Hall Courtyard and Nearby Sidewalk at 809 Center St. across from the Main Library on one side and Civic Auditorium on the other.

Authorities continue to harass and cite members of the Santa Cruz unhoused community with $157 Sleeping Ban citations.

This is happening even though there is no emergency walk-in shelter for the city's 1500-2000 homeless; waiting lists are full and generally seem to require a "path to housing", social worker, and/or disability check.

No member of City Council has taken any action to either restore emergency food, shower, laundry, and/or toilet facilities at the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center. Reportedly coming up on the September 8th agenda are new bans against RV parking anywhere in Santa Cruz from 2 AM to 6 AM.

And there has been no move to end the Sleeping Ban against the homeless or to designate legal areas where people may sleep without fear of busts or other forms of humiliation.

Meanwhile in Laguna Beach, the ACLU there has filed suit against the city for sleeping bans that criminalized disabled people--as Santa Cruz's ban does to folks outside here.

In recent complaints, routed through Councilmember Posner, city staff have grumbled that they have felt "unsafe", and kvetched about "pee" and "poo" while giving no specifics as to when and where such deposits were found. Nor have they decided to open the City Hall bathrooms at night.

Neither I nor any other activists at these sleepouts have found any evidence of piss or shit. Some, far more fastidious, make it a point to clean up the area afterwards. Nor have staff forwarded any specific complaints to us in a timely manner or any other way.

I believe it is unwise for Councilmember Micah Posner to allow himself to be used as a conduit for anonymous and hostile criticism of the Freedom Sleepers.

Nor should police be surprised when homeless people, rousted from sleep, do not express themselves courteously when confronting armed men with flashlights and demands that they "move on".

It still seems abusive and unconstitutional that the seat of government itself has been declared a "closed area" at night, even though that's the only place where the city's agendas are publicly posted. It could become an issue in a civil lawsuit if police physically arrest someone for doing nothing other than sitting or standing peacefully on the city hall grounds after 10 PM.

There will also be a set of proposed guidelines issued at the 6 PM General Assembly Tuesday, suggesting a "quiet for sleepers" and clean-up policy.

There will be a light snack provided around bedtime, and a light breakfast on Wednesday morning.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) will be meeting Wednesday morning at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe as usual to plot and palaver.

For more info on the sleepout, call me at 831-423-4833. Again, the opinions expressed here are mine, but may also represent those of others at the sleep-out.

Join us to restore sanity and decency to Santa Cruz. The right to sleep is the right to live.

Freedom Sleepers is develop a new website at
Added to the calendar on Sun, Aug 30, 2015 9:10PM

Comments (Hide Comments)
by Peter Gelblum
Just so readers know: There is no Laguna Beach ACLU. That suit was filed by the ACLU of Southern California. Similarly, the Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California has no power or ability to file a lawsuit; that must be done by the ACLU of Northern California, which is aware of the situation in Santa Cruz, but so far has chosen not to file a lawsuit.
by G

Just so readers know; there is a Santa Cruz chapter of the ACLU. It was 'captured' long ago, and used to promote local political candidates that were some of the most strident endorsers and enforcers of the various 'ugly laws' banning the existence of 'others'. The Santa Cruz ACLU remained silent, for decades (as did the UCSC campus, reliable supporters of the oppressive professorial candidates). One of the more divisive instances demonstrating this abuse was when Ryan Coonerty, running for City Council, was given a 'hammer of justice' award, just before the election. I am told half of the Santa Cruz ACLU was very against this shameless political endorsement, and very upset when it was done against their wishes (they were out of town during the ACLU vote, or something like that).

Coonerty, also a lecturer in the Legal Studies department at UC Santa Cruz and in the Political Science department at Cabrillo College, accepted his award while Bernard, a civil rights for the poor activist, held a sign stage left critical of his politics. The sign made three points: that Coonerty has cut public comment time for individuals during City Council meetings, banned activists critical of his policies from Book Shop Santa Cruz, and made it a crime to be in a public parking lot for longer than 15 minutes.

The Watsonville Brown Berets were recognized with the "True Patriots" award from the ACLU. The Berets displayed a banner in the corner of the room, painted that morning for Watsonville's first Pride Celebration, that translates from Spanish to English as, "Liberation for All of the Oppressed." Sandino and Carlie accepted the award and spoke on behalf of the Berets. In the Berets' acceptance speech, which came after the mayor's, Sandino spoke out against Ryan Coonerty's repressive policies and affirmed the Berets' solidarity with all oppressed peoples.

When the Watsonville Brown Berets accepted their award at the same ceremony, they bravely called out the hypocrisy of the local ACLU for awarding Ryan Coonerty. That, and their epic protest signs, is why I remain a huge fan of the Watsonville Brown Berets.

Now Ryan Coonerty, like his father before him, is a County Supervisor, apparently being groomed by the National (D) machine. Here is a subtle example, via Robert Reich...

“We have a sacred obligation to protect the public’s tax dollars and these banks can’t be trusted. Santa Cruz County should not be involved with those who rigged the world’s biggest financial markets,” says supervisor Ryan Coonerty.

Anyone familiar with the prosecution of the 'Santa Cruz 11' might notice the cognitive dissonance.

The Northern California ACLU has also remained silent, for decades. They refuse to wake.

It is the Southern California ACLU (probably driven by their National Lawyers Guild faction) that has gotten up off their laurels and effectively challenged oppression. They won Desertrain v. Los Angeles. They are challenging in Laguna Beach. They are the ones worthy of the reputation of defending civil liberties.

It is the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty ( that wrote so many influential papers, appeared at United Nations Human Rights Council hearings, and successfully lobbied the federal government. They are challenging in Bell v. Boise, which led to the DOJ filing a refreshing statement of interest.

Armed with lawyers, data, and money, the federal government is discouraging local communities from passing laws that treat the daily realities of being homeless as crimes.

The effort draws on three different forms of federal power. Government attorneys are urging a federal court to strike down one local law criminalizing outdoor sleeping, which would create precedent that could be used elsewhere. The official federal homelessness task force is using its platform to discourage communities from cracking down on tent encampments, an act without the same bite as a court filing but one which is likely to be influential in the advocacy world.

Money talks louder than legal briefs and expert advice, though, and significant movement on how federal dollars get awarded for homelessness outreach work appears to be on the horizon. Any community that makes homelessness illegal may soon find it harder to obtain Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding for building shelters and staffing outreach positions.

That the Santa Cruz ACLU has finally begun to wake up is encouraging, even though their efforts to date are so very feeble. Until that changes, I see no reason to change my opinion; the Santa Cruz ACLU and Northern California ACLU seem like they are more interested in using the ACLU legacy/brand to extract donations, chew on cheese, and promote oppressive candidates/legislation. The Santa Cruz ACLU and Northern California ACLU are a lost hope.

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