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Indybay Feature
More Punch and Less Puff Needed in Countering Police Chief's Proposals
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com)
Saturday Feb 15th, 2020 6:13 PM
While the Pleich/Posner "Review and Findings" has some positive elements, it seems a political document that caters to false fears and a false narrative.
The Mills 7-point program in its rather nebulous form can be read at
https://www.indybay.org/uploads/2020/02/01/brw0c96e62b6922_000102.pdf .

Other relevant document are at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2020/02/01/18830292.php

The Pleich/Posners proposals [P/P] posted at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2020/02/13/18830650.php ("Community Members Access Chief's Quality of Life Proposals") are a disappointment.

WE NEED HONESTY NOT SOFTBALL SKIRTING
While the Pleich/Posner "Review and Findings" has some positive elements, it seems a political document that caters to false fears and a false narrative.

Specifically:
(1) Daytime and Multi-Day Camping. Banning tents when there is no shelter available ignores impacts of weather, age, illness, and lack of privacy. It is doubtful the Martin v. Boise decision allows harsher persecution of homeless during the day. The P/P proposal also uses equivocal language ("we understand", "may be viewed", "there are concerns"). In so doing, it concedes too much to politicians and staff would defer to the "homeless are skunks, punks, drunks"--or the more fashionable "blame the homeless" re-imaging of homeless as "mentally ill, drug addicts, or 'service resistant''. Blaming those outside for conditions created by wealth inequity, job displacement, and massive gentrification is a way of diverting our attention--as Mills’ proposals do.

(2) Syringes: Possession does not equal improper disposal--supposedly Mills’ objective. It actually sounds like another pretext for jacking up and banning homeless folks with addictions from parks and beaches. Are Mills, Pleich, and the Posners calling for the obvious: more Sharps containers? Not too loudly.

(3) "Park" boundary expansion downtown. "We do not agree" doesn't sound like the kind of fighting language that would reverse the police-state Stay Away ordinance language created by Council seven years ago and expanded several years ago. Police and rangers are regularly using this language against victims innocent of any real crimes that authorities wish to "move along" or leave town.

(4) Criminalizing Bike Repair Criminalizing conduct on public property that is not illegal on private property is simply a way of designating all homeless folks assembling or disassembling bikes as criminals. Another "tool" for Mills to pigeonhole, record, surveille, and harass homeless folks as a "preventive" measure. Civil libertarians like Pleich and the Posners should know better, but may want to be framing proposals in a form that satisfies reactionaries and those moved by false narratives. Not a good approach. Criminalizing legitimate bike repairs and possession punishes those repairing bikes in public (since homeless folks have no place else to go).

(5) Limiting West Cliff Parking Hours Mills would turn legal into criminal behavior in another attack on those whose only homes are their vehicle in the absence of any crime or problem stats. The P/P proposal ducks the issue, apparently afraid of using the "h" word, even though homeless are the target. Using environmentally flowery language doesn't squarely address the issue as it needs to be addressed.

(6) More Police Power to Increase Legal Pressure on Homeless "Criminals" The P/P response does properly distinguish between voluntary and involuntary servitude. As well as the absence of real available services. However this extension of criminalization has been a favorite of city and county authorities for almost a decade, masquerading as a "helpful" way of getting homeless people past a mass of useless tickets. The real problem are the tickets and the laws that create them. Pleich in the past has championed "homeless courts" which are a sunny way of eliminating homeless rights and ignoring the underlying situation. See https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/07/12/18758530.php

(7) Shopping Cart Abatement The pristine "homeless free" language of the P/P objections ignores the unspoken message here: deprive the homeless of mobility and require businesses to join in the pogram.


OTHER CONCERNS
First, the P/P are not a consensus of Conscience and Action. The C & A has held no meetings to discuss and vote on these considerations. They are rather the opinions of three people who met privately.

The P/P statement was not presented to nor discussed with HUFF, the Santa Cruz Homeless Union, or Food Not Bombs. Posner, father and son, and Steve Pleich, who holds a position on Chief Mills' Advisory Board. Phil Posner, a former co-chair of C &;A when it was still meeting, cancelled the regular public meetings, noting he preferred to work in closer consultation with City Council members and others in the City power structure.

NO STATS, MORE TOOLS
Chief Mills' presentations, as with many police-initiated anti-homeless repressive measures, contain few or no vital stats which indicate that existing laws are insufficient to deal with real threats to community health and safety.

The proposed reclothed Camping Ban is an SCPD tool to "work around" the Martin v. Boise decision [http://content.delivra.com/etapcontent/NationalLawCenteronHomeles/Martin%20vs.%20Boise%202018.pdf ]

If actually taken to court to enjoin Mills' current unconstitutional police practices, it would find they continue to encourage officers to harass homeless people with false claims of adequate shelter, seize survival gear, and subject them to cruel and usual (!) punishment.

IGNORING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Moreover, the entire focus of Posner/Pleich as well as that of the CACH (City Council's Advisory Committee on Homelessness) ignores the real, severe, and regular daily police abuses happening. These involve a substitution of other ordinance violations for the former MC 6.36 (the Camping Ordinance) including the Downtown (no sitting) Ordinances, illegal lodging, closed area, being in a park after dark, blocking the sidewalk, public nuisance, and "no smoking" zones.

The effect of police policy is to target those outside without shelter at the whim of the police officer or complaining community member. It threatens the health and safety of poor, disabled, sick, and elderly homeless folks in a policy that panders to aesthetic, property, and commercial concerns of wealthier residents, businesses, and corporations. The general intent seems to be to create a more hostile atmosphere for homeless people without providing any positive resources

THE BROADER PICTURE
Mills’ 7-point plan is being presented at a time when reactionary elements of the real estate industry and city council staff are moving to oust pro-rent control activists Krohn and Glover. A reactionary old guard under Mayor Watkins and spearheaded by the powerful City Manager Martin Bernal has improperly used agenda exclusion tactics to stop real movement creating homeless survival camp shelters and parking zones. When Krohn and Glover have properly criticized these behaviors, they've been attacked as "uncivil" and subjected to phony claims of sexism and rudeness.

Meanwhile long-time tenants are steadily driven out of town and reported homeless deaths have doubled in the last year.

PREMATURE SURRENDER: CALL FOR AN INJUNCTION!
Although both Posner and Pleich are former Freedom Sleepers and long-time opponents of the old Sleeping Ban sections of the
camping ordinance, they seem to be placing unwise stock in "closer relations" with reactionary forces like the SCPD, the courts, and the right-wing City Council majority now headed by Mayor Justin Cummings.

Why aren't they supporting SC Union initiatives like Camp Phoenix, the Desiree Quintero demands of the union (cite stories), and quicker action to move on Boise v. Martin violations--happening daily.

This criticism also applies to the local ACLU, which seems to be endlessly investigating and preparing for legal action via the northern California chapter which never happens.

And, not to leave out closer allies, it also applies to the SC Homeless Union, where there's lots of talk about injunctions, but apparently no action. Similarly with HUFF, though HUFF lacks the out-of-town connections of the Union.

DATA ALREADY AVAILABLE
The data showing disproportionate impact of existing legislation on those outside. The City Attorney, after repeated delay, has presented this evidence to the public and City Council many months ago in reluctant response to the Glover resolution of last February.

RETURNING THE FOCUS TO THE REAL ISSUES
Pleich has repeatedly dismissed dangerous federal and state statements moving their positions closer to forced removal of homeless people from public places under the pretext that shelter exists, perhaps in the expectation that the Supreme Court will eventually overturn the Martin v. Boise precedent--as is likely.

The P/P article ignores current police threats to those sheltering themselves in tents, the SCPD's ongoing seizures of survival gear, and other abusive violations under the pretext of "room at the current shelter system" when no such room currently exists.

We are limiting ourselves to discussing Mills’ latest diversion--his 7-point plan. There he repeats a strategy previously used in Eureka to disperse homeless encampments without shelter alternatives. Instead we need to demand action on the obvious--allowing homeless people to shelter themselves and remain in place with as much support as the community can muster.

HOUSING EXISTS; WHERE'S THE WILL TO TAKE IT?
There's plenty of vacant housing which could be secured by eminent domain, and ample open space for emergency homeless-run campgrounds. If government has become a tool of reactionary financial interests, the broader community must act to support housing takeovers and survival encampments.

Pleich and Posner make no mention of the City's abusive shelter misinformation and funding misdirection--perhaps fearing accusations of "sexism" or "incivility"? They fail to publicly hold City Manager Bernal (Mills' boss) accountable for his past confabulations and abuses. Where is the demand that the City act on Gov. Newsom's "make camping space available" directive?

It's tempting to limit ourselves to the proposals and narrative as presented by those who would contain, control, and hide away unhoused people. But that's self-defeating. Unless we expose and confront the low-intensity war against the poor happening in our community, we cannot win. That means plain language and holding the perps in power accountable.
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