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SC Freedom Sleepers Send Letter to Berkeley City Council Opposing Anti-Homeless Measure
by via Freedom Sleepers
Tuesday Nov 17th, 2015 6:44 PM
Today the Freedom Sleepers, a group of unhoused and housed activists in Santa Cruz protesting local laws that criminalize sleep by holding community sleepouts at Santa Cruz City Hall, have sent a letter to City of Berkeley Mayor Bates, and Councilmembers L Maio, D Moore, J Arreguin, S Wengraf, L Capitelli and L Droste, opposing an anti-homeless measure on the November 17 Berkeley City Council agenda.
November 17, 2015

A Letter to City of Berkeley

Mayor and Council Members:

Freedom Sleepers is a grassroots gathering launched on Independence Day in the City of Santa Cruz. We are homeless people with our allies who spend each Tuesday night on the grounds outside of City Hall, 809 Church St, Santa Cruz.

We wish to help change people's awareness about laws that selectively criminalize ordinary human behaviors, in hopes of helping protect people while eradicating homelessness. One such law is a Santa Cruz sleeping/blanket/camping ban, muni code 6.36. More behavior laws are aggregating here, as there in Berkeley, increasing such criminalization; leading to more devastation for those people targeted, and leaving displaced folks more deeply harmed.

"I've been getting a full night's sleep lately. But only one day a week, on Tuesdays." said Derrick, at Freedom Sleepers #18. Derrick already has sleeping ban tickets from police officers waking him when he has had to sleep elsewhere in the City of Santa Cruz because he is homeless and there are no alternate (legal) spaces for him anywhere in the City. Every new sleeping ticket makes paying for the last ones even harder for him. He said Tuesdays he sleeps well. Can YOU live on one night's sleep a week? Could YOU keep up with the punishments you help create especially for poor and struggling people, and still survive?

WE OBJECT TO Berkeley's 11-17 council agenda item requiring every homeless pedestrian to compact their personal belongings into a two-foot pack. We are especially concerned about how this latest compacting law will impact disabled foot-homeless folks.

Poor and lower income people of Berkeley are becoming more criminalized and cut off from their Constitutional legacy directly as a result of this pattern of governmental discrimination and selective enforcement. Whether it is unwitting distraction or bigoted ignorance or real estate bribes behind such dysfunctional lawmaking is beside the point, because it has become an emergency on many levels. Remember the folks in Berkeley who happen to be homeless -- as well as those traveling through -- are also human beings.

We implore you to recall (or to discover) in 1969 the US Supreme Court had already determined the Nation's vagrancy laws must be eliminated, and ordered California to delete all such laws. Cities and other agencies are bound by the same Supreme Court order as the state legislature, today. The Constitution's 8th Amendment still includes protection from excessive bail and excludes cruel and unusual punishment, for starters.

Despite your past regulations' harms from targeting homeless people, it is still possible for Berkeley to adopt a different priority: to choose instead to value the human lives of all your people more highly than any other considerations.

Finally, if you cannot grasp the depth of your responsibility for memorializing such mean-spirited and class-based bigotry, consider the heavy cost of further misusing public resources which helps pit one class of citizens against another. Please -- instead of demanding even greater sacrifice from targeted homeless folks -- start providing opportunities for your people to work on public solutions that don't require Berkeley government to further criminalize your homeless community members; and that do not further constrain their state or federal Constitutional rights.

On behalf of
Freedom Sleepers
Santa Cruz

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