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Indybay Feature
Next Steps in Fighting the Anti-Homeless Sweeps?
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com)
Saturday Dec 26th, 2020 5:11 PM
An outreach demonstration today on Pacific Avenue seeks to gather perspectives and supporters for a sane and fair solution to the Winter Shelter crisis. The crisis has been provoked and intensified by City Manager Bernal's Sweeps, the overboard powers granted him by Myers' City Council, the lack of any walk-in shelter, and the police destruction of homeless gear in violation of the Boise v. Martin "no tickets without shelter" decision.
THE SITUATION
In the words of a recent flyer:

"On December 28 at 7am, SCPD plans to go through with the second phase of sweeping San Lorenzo Park. Over 150 people have lived there for months now, partially because for a long time the police have told people who they evicted from other camps to move to San Lorenzo.

Now, in opposition to the state-wide stay-at-home order, against CDC guidelines, without consulting or even notifying public health officials and during a vacation for the city council, SCPD is evicting over 100 people from their homes at San Lorenzo park.

The police already evicted a third of the park after overcoming blockades that were made in an attempt to stop the sweep, but we are not giving up here.

As a group of community members including people who live at San Lorenzo and their supporters and comrades, we
are putting up a fight against this eviction during a pandemic. Please spread the word and join us on the 28th if you are able to defend this beautiful community space and to not go down without resistance.


THE PROBLEM DOCUMENTED
The abusive edicts of Martin Bernal and police chief Andrew Mills seizure of homeless survival gear on 12-21 are well-documented and well-known.

See "Santa Cruz Left: Eviction is Violence..." at https://dsasantacruz.org/articles/eviction-is-violence/?

""Clear 'em Out" Cruelty as Usual: Deportations Slated from San Lorenzo Park" at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2020/12/21/18839039.php

"Missing Documentation on San Lorenzo Camp Extermination to Remain Missing" at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2020/12/23/18839067.php

THE BLOCKADE STRATEGY
We'll be trying a bit of tabling, ducking the rain today, initially in front of the Bookstore Santa Cruz hopefully with some coffee to warm folks up. Hopefully in the days that follow, others will spread the word on line and in person outside groceries, gas stations, convenience stores, and the post office.

By all means, circulate petitions and appeal to the generally unresponsive local and state politicians by e-mail, phone, and in person. However months of impassioned and well-documented arguments to City Council and the Supervisors to shift funding from police to community solutions has been completely ignored. The community must act where the politicians and bureaucrats do not.

The direct action response to support campers is a non-violent blockade being planned for December 28th and perhaps again for January 6th. The main problem was shown on December 21st when three entrances were blockaded by 40-60 people. The police came, saw the blockade, and left. The blockaders went back to their houses and tents. Then police returned, tore down the blockades and drove away 1/3rd of the encampment.

Police set the suppposed agenda of when they'll attack. They get paid for their time and trouble (hence the need for police defunding). So showing up at their scheduled time of eviction doesn't really phase them. They just come back later when housed volunteers have left.

Supporting the blockades does raise public awareness, allow people to gain experience in dealing with armed thuggery, and creates new activist connections. It also gives heart to survival campers and is a form of active sanity in insane times.

WHAT'S NEXT? GOING FURTHER?
I don't have any answers. Perhaps taking over a vacant building and defending it would be a better way to go. At least a more permanent presence could be established. And people shelter themselves against the rain and the cold in the interim.
That, of course, involves willingness to risk more likely citation and/or arrest.

Another possibility is a broader coalitions with other groups strongly opposed to government policies--some of whom we don't agree with who are (such as the anti-shut down folks). What's needed are the numbers that returned the anti-homeless fences at the Town Clock and Post Office back to the perps at the police station.

But folks with NOMAD, Copwatch, YARR, Food Not Bombs, the SC Homeless Union, the DSA, and other groups are increasingly active. Even Brent Adams, though he can't resist denunciations of other activists, has posted strong videos denouncing Bernal's actions.

For the first time, a majority of the letters hitting the reactionary Sentinel highlight Bernal's decrees as pointless and counterproductive. The issue is finding a way to unite our power--or at least work parallel rather than at cross-purposes.

The threat of police action and the economic/health crisis prompt fear--which is contagious. But then, so can courage be--when folks begin to stand up to injustice.

In the meantime, show up as much as you can whether on line, in person, whether tabling or blockading. Not to do so is to lose a little piece of your heart, perhaps your mind.
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