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Indybay Feature

City escalates effort against camping-ban protestors, event attracts variety of supporters

by Zav Hershfield
Police arrest two, write 15 tickets at 8th community sleepout event, install floodlights. Community members discuss themselves, their history.
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"Where are we supposed to go? After we're run off somewhere, where do we go?" was the question asked by Lisa, a houseless person present in the city hall plaza at this week's recurring Santa Cruz camping ban protest. Santa Cruz's camping ban, present in the law since 1978, makes it illegal for someone to sleep outdoors in the city using any kind of sleeping gear. Blankets, tarps, sleeping bags, and tents are all included in this ban. The protestors here, now in their eighth week of the ongoing demonstration, say that the ban unfairly targets unhoused people and is used to make them unwelcome in Santa Cruz.

And they do feel unwelcome. "It's overwhelming," said Lisa, "there are no basic services for us. I stopped going to work because can't get a shower, don't have anywhere to store my things." It's the loss of basic services like showers and simple meals that started these protests. Earlier this year, budget cuts to the Homeless Services Center on River Street led the to the organization's choice to close down such services to people not living on site. The local chapter of Food Not Bombs - an international activist group that supplies free vegan food to protests and progressive causes - in partnership with the group Homeless United in Freedom and Friendship organized several breakfast servings at the corner of River and Highway 1 to draw public attention, but were unsuccessful in seeing the cuts reversed. Now folks like Lisa are crippled in their ability to work, store their belongings safely, and even keep themselves clean.

The city is certainly not making things easy for this current protest camp. There has been a regular police presence that arrives each night near midnight to ticket people sleeping in the plaza, generally for being in a park after hours or for blocking a sidewalk. This most recent campout saw a visit from fourteen officers of the Santa Cruz Police Department, who wrote out fifteen tickets and made two arrests of protestors who refused to sign their citations. The officers were more aggressive than they have so far been in these protests, yanking blankets and tarps off of sleepers and ticketing without warning. In addition, the city covered parking meters by the city hall plaza and set up three police-rented sets of floodlights that they trained on the protest site. The lights ran on smoky, roaring generators for the entire night. Local activist Steve Pleich recalled these same tactics used by the city during Peace Camp 2010, an earlier protest camp directed against the camping ban.

The protest draws a variety of people from the city. One sleeper, Fred, ticketed earlier in the night for playing amplified music from his own car "without a permit," shared his story wholeheartedly. Fred is a 3 year veteran of the US Army who served in Panama City as an intelligence officer during the Vietnam era and currently lives out of his car with his three dogs. Corwyn is a Saint Bernard, Moustache a terrier mix, and Lukie a Chihuahua mix. Fred credited the dogs with being his best friends and said they save his life every day. He's got an ingrained sense of humor and sarcasm that he said comes from his upbringing in New York, just outside of the Bronx. Fred made a little light of his ticket when told the name of the officer that wrote him up. "Winston," he laughed,"tastes good like a cigarette should!" recalling the advertising slogan. He's got a serious attitude towards the situation of houseless folks like himself though. Recounting his experiences being ticketed or shoved along from a sleep spot, he growled "I want to tell the judge, put on a homeless person's clothes and go to downtown Santa Cruz and you will be absolutely appalled. The police treat you with absolute disrespect."

Another sleeper present was Frank Lopez, who is registered with the housing facilities at the Homeless Services Center, but still came out in support of the protests. Frank has had a long history of involvement in social causes. He was a Brown Beret with the United Farmworkers through the 1960s and participated in protests against Safeway grocery stores, as well as a caravan drive through California to provide food, clothing, and medical supplies to undocumented farmworkers. Also present were a young couple, Adam and Rein, who were actually attracted to the site when they saw the enormous lights. They had no idea the protests had been going on, but stopped on a detour taken to avoid a one-way street. They expressed some concerns that the site was so out of the way, and would have liked to see more people present.

Perhaps all these people will be at the next sleepout, on Tuesday, September 8. The organizers are welcoming food, clothing, sleeping gear, and monetary donations, and encouraging folks to come out and learn more about the challenges facing unhoused people in Santa Cruz.
§the protest site, at sundown
by Zav Hershfield
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§police set up floodlight
by Zav Hershfield
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§Fred w his dog Corwyn
by Zav Hershfield
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§police ticket citizen journalist
by Zav Hershfield
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§cop stands over protesting sleeper
by Zav Hershfield
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§Max displays his citation
by Zav Hershfield
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Repeatedly, explicitly, for years.

"Where?"

"No where in California." (I'd have to check the trial transcript(s) to get the exact quote(s), but that is very close to verbatim)

Judge Gallagher made that very clear. The Santa Cruz Appellate upheld that opinion, as did the California 6th Circuit Appellate. Repeatedly. This was all well known, well before the latest protest began, didn't they tell y'all?!

Unless there are serious people planning a serious challenge via a higher court (the Federal 9th Circuit Appellate might disagree, given the oral arguments in Desertrain v. Los Angeles and the recent statement of interest from the DoJ), the judicial branch has been shown to be a dead end.

California bill SB-608 has been stalled in committee (http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billStatusClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB608) because it was DOA. The legislative branch, including the Federal Congress, appears to be a dead end.

Santa Cruz City Council is a dead end. It seems likely that the California AG and Governor are also a dead end.

Are we exhausted yet?
by Robert Norse
Moving and educational narrative account with photos that bring the people and situation more sharply into focus. Nice work, Zav.

Though I missed some of the police action, after being arrested and jailed in the initial raid as I stood on the sidewalk, I was told that police came four times, giving out additional tickets.

Keith McHenry, who maintained a hot pot of coffee with his portable stove, got two citations, one as he unloaded equipment from his truck in the newly-declared "no parking corridor" around the City Hall Courtyard. The second he got while sleeping in one of the "no cars" spaces along with another activist.

Police refused to acknowledge the right of the public (including Freedom Sleepers) to have the legally required 24-hour access to City Council and associated committees and commissions under the Brown Act. The man I was arrested with--Kevin--was actually sitting next to the agendas.

Max Green, pictured above, goes to court tomorrow morning (8:30 AM, Dept. 1). Promised some legal help from a local public defender that has not materialized, Max will ask Judge Burdick for a second continuance to find a lawyer. Freedom Sleepers is still looking for an attorney as well. He was ticketed as he stood next to the agendas. Three of the agendas (City Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, Planning Commission, and Zoning Administrator) were for meetings to be held in the next two days. [Gov. Code § 54954.2(a)(1) requires 24-hour access for a 72-hour period.

A recent up date of the Public Meetings Act [http://www.cacities.org/Resources-Documents/Member-Engagement/Professional-Departments/City-Attorneys/Publications/OP-IV-Supplement_Final_2013-09-16.aspx ] suggests that the state Attorney General's office supports this position [78 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 327 (1995)].

This would indicate that not only I was falsely arrested and taken to jail, but so was Max Green and anyone else who got a citation for MC 13.04.011 (being in a "closed area")--since it was improper to close the area where the agendas were posted. Since virtually every citation given since the first protest on July 4 was for MC 13.04.011, police and the city attorney have a lot of explaining to do.

Police and rangers, while generous with Sleeping Ban citations elsewhere in the city (as well as "stay-away" orders), have been driving protesters to the sidewalk with "closed area" citations. Perhaps cops are shy to showcase how abusive they are to those without shelter. Harassing, citing, and jailing homeless people for sleeping when all emergency shelter has been abandoned as a matter of policy--at least until the winter? Not good PR or sound financial policy considering the Department of Justice's recent support of the homeless in Boise, Idaho. Bearcats, yes; basic human rights, no.

by Robert Norse
I was arrested after a Sgt. Rodreguez approached me on the sidewalk--the narrow "legal" area--and told me he'd seen me "in the park after closing hours". He ignored my pointing out that the entire City Hall Courtyard was required by law to be open because of the agenda posting issue (as well as the fact that it's the seat of government, the most important of all public forums).

In his eagerness to ticket me, as I stood in the legal area on the sidewalk, Rodreguez ignored others still actually in the park, suggested he was especially interested in giving me a ticket (which would be my second). Somewhat disgusted at being targeted, I suggested he had no probable cause to cite any of us and asked to be taken to a magistrate for a hearing.

If you request this during the day when the courts are open, police are supposedly required to take you to a court in a timely manner prior to jail booking or requiring you to sign a ticket. However it was around midnight, so he took me to jail, where I got various stories that I'd be held for anywhere from 3 to 72 hours before being taken to court. Not wishing to miss my weekly meeting of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom), I subsequently gritted my teeth and signed a promise to appear in court for an October arraignment.

Police also continued to ignore the clear wording of MC 13.04.011c which states "No one shall enter or remain in any park, building, facility, grounds or park road (EXCEPT A SPECIFICALLY DESIGNATED AND CLEARLY MARKED PUBLIC ACCESS WAY THROUGH A PARK), during those hours that the place or facility is closed to the general public." [EMPHASIS mine]

And, of course, most importantly, Police Chief Vogel, City Manager Martin Bernal, and Mayor Don Lane have offered no legal place for those outside to sleep between 11 PM and 8:30 AM at night. Hence such anti-homeless closures and bans are "cruel and unusual punishment". We've heard nothing of our local ACLU--fast asleep as ever--hiking up their briefs and filing some lawsuits. Freedom Sleepers, however, intends to be back next Tuesday. Hope you'll join us.

I'll be playing some audio from the 8th SleepOut last Tuesday on Free Radio at 101.3 FM (streams at http://www.freakradio.org) between 6 and 8 PM tomorrow night. It'll be archived at http://radiolibre.org/brb/brb150903.mp3 .
So what about all the other protests—like the Boston Tea Party. The people who protested and got assaulted, arrested that brought you a free and independent America, the 40 hour week, the eight hour day, overtime pay, paid sick days, paid vacation days, the women’s right to vote, desegregation, civil rights for minority, justice against racism, etc. If you enjoy any of these benefits that were achieved by protests but still think the right to protest isn’t important or a right —than you are a hypocrite!

Gotta Love those FALSE "Obstructing the Sidewalk" Tickets that SCPD gives out. They need to be held accountable for them. It only proves SCPD good officers will taint themselves by easily lying as ordered by superiors, break laws themselves on duty and violate people’s civil rights—and we are supposed to trust and respect them!

Get POLITICS out of SCPD!
by G
Unions, historical fixtures at protests, facilitated actions supporting the goal made explicit in the Declaration Of Independence. Now unions are being attacked on multiple fronts, with a notable exception. Now, when they aren't busy intimidating those gathered to seek redress, the Santa Cruz police staff/union meddle in local politics.

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/21/18763128.php

When questions of illegal activity are raised, the police staff/union gets a slap on the wrist.

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/general-news/20141023/after-anarchist-remarks-police-union-leaders-role-limited

Look to the murders and coverups in Ferguson (facilitated by their police union) to see what happens when that corruption is allowed to fester.
How many people who've gotten citations are being helped directly by the Homeless Persons Legal Assistance Project? After all, the person (and there is only one) who "heads" that project is one of the hosts of the Freedom Sleepers.

...Which leads me to suggest a name change. Since all of the new talking points are about being allowed freedom of access to the Agenda Board that is on the grounds of City Hall, which is closed at 10pm, rather than engaging in straight civil disobedience and facing down the illegality of sleep. Now we have them sitting next to the Agenda Board and getting arrested.

Mostly, i'm just confused at all of this. We, back at the lab are still working on our proven solutions. We'll be letting you know soon about our plans.
by Brent hasn't been at city hall
Hi Brent.

Four of the Freedom Sleepers believe they have the right to be at city hall because the brown act says the government needs to allow access to civic meeting agendas. All four of those Freedom Sleepers have also been sleeping during the protests. People are there for many reasons. Please don't try to over simplify something you haven't been there to see.

It would be nice to see you there sleeping, Brent.

If you don't have the mind to do that, maybe you could bring over your Clown Army to help face off the police when they arrive at the next camp out?
by Brent Adams
I've visited and have videotaped the campout, early on.
I don't support this tactic. In fact, I believe it alienates most of Santa Cruz around the issue of the sleeping ban. I agree that the ban must be removed, but I also agree with the greater community, that we need a safe, clean space for people to sleep and keep some stuff as they heal the circumstances that were responsible for a person's homelessness. I'm working hard on the local Sanctuary Camp/Village program.

When we talk of messaging, I can tell you that the issue of access to the agenda board is muddying the issue.
I wonder why this is being shoe-horned into the sleep-rights issue other than organizers are desperate to NOT get citations, despite this being a civil-disobedience tactic. There are other confusing elements to the messaging but we can discuss that at another time. xo
by Brent hasn't been at city hall
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"There are other confusing elements to the messaging but we can discuss that at another time."

You supported the tactic in the past. If you don't support the tactic now and you aren't going to the camp outs, then why are you pretending to be an expert on this? I have been to the camp outs and I haven't seen you there.

When was the last time we heard anything from sanctuary camp? Six months ago? Longer? Do you still have meetings?

And messaging? You know you are generating a ton of negative publicity/messaging for yourself and sanctuary camp by continuously attacking homeless activists and food not bombs activists, don't you?

An important question must also be asked. Are you opposed to this grassroots protest because you may lose funding or possible income if this tactic works? Are you one of those people who stands to profit from homelessness? Will homeless people on the run from the police have only one place to run, which is to your sanctuary camp? Don't you profit off of the criminalization of homelessness?

And another thing. How much money did you make from the gala dinner benefit for your community campout and what did you spend it on?

See this: http://occupysantacruz.org/2014/03/21/gala-dinner-benefit-for-santa-cruz-sanctuary-camp/

Gala Dinner Benefit for Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp

We would love to have you attend our Gala Dinner, a fundraiser for Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp to support our Community Campout with the Homeless. We would also appreciate it if you would help spread the word and invite your circle of friends and contacts. This is going to be a fun and inspiring event.

The event is on March 30th.

Enjoy a candlelit dinner catered by India Joze with exquisite dinner music by Wireless Lovebird.

It will begin with guided tours of a 2.5 acre jungle garden created by former Arboretum docent, Gail Page.

There will be a donation bar and music in the garden.

A Multi-course dinner will be served on 3 long candlelit tables.
2:30pm Garden tours, hor d’oeuvres, music
4pm Bar open, music performance
5:00pm Multi-course dinner, music performance
8:00 Star-light bar, music

Dinner is $40 advanced tickets, and $45 at the door.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sanctuary-camp-fundraising-gala-dinner-tickets-10920815453

In mid-spring, we are planning for “Community Campout with the Homeless/Super Massive Slumber Party,” an event bringing the entire community together for a campout under stars in solidarity with the homeless. It will feature live music, a film, dinner and breakfast. A fun time will be had by all.

About Santa Cruz Sanctuary Camp:

We assert that a citizen organized, community supported, safe-sleep-sanctuary can reduce the problems associated with homelessness in the community at large and also help those who are living outside.

There are many ways folks come to live outside in our community but the avenues back to living in a shelter or home are pitifully few, and, sadly, the problems of homelessness exacerbate the conditions of homelessness. We propose a Sanctuary camp that features a strong set of rules consistently enforced.

Sanctuary camps have shown positive results in many cities on the west coast.

Find out more by watching our video presentations
Good work on getting food and tents and sleeping. It is inspiring and I'm not being sarcastic.

But where is the message? What is the message? IF anyone (as in people who are not 50+ year old activists) wanted to know what was going on and why this is an issue they should care about they go where?

HUFF webpage? LOL I can barely read that and I'm not hostile to HUFF.

the freedomsleepers.org page? it's better than HUFF but still a muddled mess. (no offense ).

there are a billion small FB groups that a population of the same 100 people who are already sympathetic to the cause are on--but just posting slogans or memes on there isn't getting the message out to the rest of the community.


So I have to ask the organizers of the freedom sleepers...who is your audience? City council only? Locals? The media? do you have a coherent strategy for the message? Do you have ANY strategy for the message?

And no--I'm not saying what Brent is saying---worry about offending TBSC. What I'm saying is why is it that you seem to be relying on the Sentinel and GTimes to get your message out? That and a few FB groups with the same population of 100 people in them. The GoodTimes article is a wealth of BS from the city that needs to be debunked--is anyone going to do that ?

I want to see the protest succeed on some level (a goalpost even) but I'm not getting the feeling of where your horizon is other than just protesting.

I would highly suggest that the main organizers take a step back from the protest to look at messaging. (and again messaging as in delivering a strong coherent stance or manifesto and not that you need to deliver doublespeak pablum that keeps the DTA happy).
Maybe the freedom sleepers should work on the message at GAs that happen at other times than camp setup,. Perhaps as before, at the Sunday Post Office FNB gathering? It might also garner new participants considering the msm media method seems to be somewhat unavailable at the moment (sans one honorable mention in the local entertainment weekly)
by Robert Norse
My understanding of the "message" of the Freedom Sleepers is what passersby see when they note the signs (brightly lit up now by police klieg lights): Sleeping is Not A Crime.

Rather it is a necessary function that cannot constitutionally or morally be criminalized out of fear, greed, cowardice, or convenience. The group most directly doing so is the City Council and City Staff. Hence the protest at City Hall.

That's my understanding at least. I have differences with the choice of location and tactic. But I think the purpose is pretty clear.

The HUFF, FNB, Freedom Sleepers, websites could always use improvement, for sure.

Come on down on Tuesday and see what You think. Or e-mail/phone City Council supporting an end to criminalizing sleep and an end to the attack on peaceful protest. This is whether you favor this tactic or not. Surely we all favor the right to sleep and the right to protest.

Whatever our differences, the biggest guns should be aimed at the laws that harass the homeless nightly. Right?
by me on you, they do
Some activists will focus on trying to change the laws (poor results there), others will focus on trying to ease the burdens of homelessness on people within existing law.... are we able to make the jump to fostering self-help amongst all people?

Whatever, I don't know.

Some just keep attacking others for their personal failures. I believe everyone is failing collectively--we as a society are not protecting everyone from "the elements."

The Smart Solutions tactic is to tout the restoration of some services at HSC but lament to loss of "walk-in" services (while attempting to fundraise for themselves). They gave a link to the "Santa Cruz Free Guide" in a recent email I got from them, so, kudos to the people or person who prepared that. You got it into the mainstream response. Has anything actually gotten better lately, either spiritually or materially? I don't know. (Or do you measure your success by saying it could have been much worse but it isn't?)

Whatever. Love to all. (Now I attack myself: I'm going to sleep!)
by G
The issue is not fostering self-help (aside from 'white saviorism').

The issue is persecution. The issue is criminalization of a physiological need (even judge Gallagher recognized that as "beyond debate").

If a form of government declares napping to be a crime, such governance forfeits consensual legitimacy, and must be altered or abolished.
by divert me not
brent makes a good point. this focus on challenging the curfew rather than the lack of a legal place to sleep confuses the public. it also seems to be more about the need of activists to protest at city hall after 10, rather than the need of the homeless to exist without nightly pig harassment.
by fuck the pigs
the rumor is that the freedom sleepers are switching their sidewalk tactic from a defensive fallback into the main line of attack. since it is legal to lie down on the sidewalk there, and there is no curfew on sidewalks, the only tactic left to the pigs is to ticket people for sleeping. a difficult case for the city to win when there is no legal shelter available. people may even be able to sue the pigs at that point, since the pigs can be construed to be on notice there is no legal place to sleep with the shelter closed, and therefore their oinkish behavior amounts to actionable harassment under state and federal law.
Protesting at City Hall by definition is a protest about the lack of a legal safe place to sleep at night since the area is a city park and is a valid place for homeless people to sleep. There is a lot of open, usable space at City Hall. It is an injustice the space is closed at 10pm every night.
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