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Indybay Feature

Chico Shines a Light, But Activists Here Must Do the Heavy Lifting

by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Down Chico way, a Senior Sacramento Judge of the Eastern Division of the Federal District Court has stopped encampment sweeps dead in their tracks city-wide with a TRO in the Commanche Creek Greenway case. This was justified not by the fading COVID-19 shelter-in-place concerns, but rather by lack of shelter or campground alternatives for those being rousted.
In a sweeping Temporary Restraining Order, Federal Judge Morrison C. England has blocked Chico cops and bureaucrats from
***Moving on the Comanche Creek Green Way encampment
***Blocking all such sweeps City-wide in Chico
***Freezing anti-homeless Municipal Codes in the City
***Banning enforcement of the state’s anti-panhandling law (647c)
***Protecting all property of the City’s homeless, even that valued at $100 or less.

The text of the Court order can be read at

Some of the story is told at

…be roused from its deep sleep whether we’re talking S.C. Union of the Homeless or the local ACLU?

While the SC Homeless Union has been gathering Declarations of damage in the local encampment destructions ever since Ross Camp was rousted back in April 2019, it has failed to move on a City-wide Injunction protecting the homeless.

In its most recent successful Injunction protecting the San Lorenzo homeless, Union attorney Anthony Prince has simply signed on to City Attorney Condotii’s “move ‘em to the Benchlands” order with few proposed modifications. He recently grew enraged with my questions at a Union meeting and refused to answer them.

The local ACLU has been even worse, pleading impotence unless it can “get permission” from the regional ACLU up North. When asked why lawyers and activists on the local Board couldn’t take matters into their own hands, Former ACLU Board member Steve Pleich stormed out of a homeless activist meeting refusing to discuss the matter. Pleich reportedly seeks a position on the restrictive Association of Faith Communities Safe Parking program (but has also declined to respond to written criticisms and concerns about their program).

Hopefully, the Chico TRO will lead to a Preliminary Injunction that will embolden the terminally timid attorneys here to move, if only to collect some money, to protect the constantly crushed civil rights of those outside.

Meanwhile the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Mayor are playing peek-a-boo politics with the Martin v. Boise decision. Dustyheart Donna Meyers’ City Council tightens the noose around the homeless citywide with its ludicrous TOLO law up for further fascist formfitting on Tuesday April 13.

That law bans homeless survival camping in parks, greenbelts, neighborhoods, downtown, at the beach…hell, everywhere but on narrow sidewalks where they’ll be subject to “blocking the sidewalk” citations. Bellowing bigots from Seabright and the West Side are demanding their sidewalks be swept clean of “the homeless menace.”

Meyers' Council majority has signed on to Chief Mills’ clever but callous 7-point program. One device seems to be not providing specific safe zones in the TOLO law while retaining and augmenting the massive enforcement apparatus of the old unconstitutional Camping Ban.

This intentional cloudiness about safe zones was perhaps meant to reassure “drive the homeless out of sight, out of town” NIMBY activists in the neighborhoods but ironically has had the opposite effect. Or was the ambiguity intended as a device to stoke their fears in order to mobilize them into potential future vigilante action imperiling the homeless still further, but solidifying the racist anti-homeless electoral strategy with an eye on the 2022 elections?

The Mills-Meyers-Bernal TOLO law would have been laughed out of Judge Keulen's court. Keulen, the federal judge who previously granted the San Lorenzo Park residents a 3-month reprieve, demanded specific shelter alternatives for those being rousted (though unfortunately didn't clarify for how long).

The TOLO law can only survive in the reactionary echo chamber of City Council if activists do nothing other than complain among themselves and shoehorn themselves into Mayor Meyers 1 minute gag rule. Or if we wait for attorneys to come out of hiding. Meanwhile, do we hope for Mills' cops, Deborah Elston's RV rousters, and Elliot's Parks and Rec wrecking crew to see the light or act fairly?

Meanwhile, City Manager Bernal has apparently authorized activation of City Attorney Tony Condotti’s “Move ‘Em Along” order bullying Benchland residents to move by 9 AM today (4-12) . Bernal's bumbusters reportedly posted illegal notices for Benchlander residents to vacate the park entirely (violating Judge Keulen’s court order).

When SC Homeless Union attorney Prince caught wind of this, he reportedly passed on the word to Food Not Bombs activist Keith McHenry,who then put up some “Don’t Be Fooled” signs clarifying that Benchlands residents only had to move to the Upper Park area. Then, McHenry reports, the City altered its signs to more accurately reflect the Judge’s order.

However the City's Clear the Park Plan is in motion. The entire “musical chairs” move-‘em-to -the-122-Benchlands sites may be very temporary if Keulen dissolves the protective Injunction at the April 27th hearing. This will force all Park residents…to the imaginary accommodations that overpaid well-spoken city liars like Lee Butler and Susie O’Hara have told tales of.

Will the Chico TRO however, if upheld as a Preliminary Injunction, stiffen the spines of ACLUsters and Union activists alike to demand a broader Injunction here that protects all the homeless and relies on the obvious lack of shelter space?

COVID-expanded shelter space is reportedly contracting significantly with the cutting off of out-of-county funding with River St., Laurel St., the Armory, and other such places being shut down.

In Chico, Sausalito, and here, it took direct ground resistance from the Conscience Community to delay police persecution long enough to get Court action. That is likely to be the continuing case here. Unfortunately groups like Stop the Sweeps, NOMAD, and others are less visible if not missing entirely. But resistance has often come unexpectedly in waves.
The roar of the righteous may yet be heard again.
Add Your Comments
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
Robert Norse
Mon, Apr 12, 2021 9:34PM
Natalie Hanson (posted by Norse)
Mon, Apr 12, 2021 8:11AM
Judge Morrison C. England (posted by Norse)
Mon, Apr 12, 2021 8:04AM
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