Hundreds decrying police violence march in Anaheim

by Eddie Perez
Associated Press Jul. 30 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of protesters denounced recent fatal police shootings and issued a call for peace in the community even as police arrested at least nine people in separate marches Sunday.

Some 200 vocal protesters rallied in front of police headquarters, while a separate group of about 100 people marched silently along a two-mile stretch of a main thoroughfare, The Orange County Register reported (http://bit.ly/MNpcWX ).

Chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!,” the vocal group started marching toward Disneyland, but a police line stopped the group a half-mile away. The blockade, which temporarily closed several traffic intersections, caused the demonstrators to head away from the resort.

“What’s going on here in Orange County is symbolic of a problem with the system,” Eduardo Perez, a 21-year-old student, told the Register. “This wouldn’t happen to white people. This is racism, simple as that.”

The other group was dressed in white and remained silent as part of their call for peace. They walked five-people across, shoulder to shoulder, some carrying messages such as “We are Anaheim” and “Peace begins with us.” City Councilwoman Kris Murray and state Sen. Lou Correa, a Democrat who represents Anaheim, were among the marchers.

At least nine people were arrested, Police Sgt. Bob Dunn said. Most face minor charges including failure to disperse and blocking traffic, but one woman is accused of attacking a clerk at a mini market.

She was held on suspicion of assault and battery, Dunn said.

It was the ninth consecutive day of protests against police. The demonstrations occurred hours before an evening memorial service for Manuel Diaz, a 25-year-old man who was shot dead July 21.

Some marchers attempted to join the service but were turned away by organizers, who had hired their own security team, Dunn said. The evening vigil was peaceful, he said.

Police said Diaz, who had a criminal record, failed to heed orders and threw something as he fled police. He was unarmed.

The night after Diaz was killed, police shot to death Joel Acevedo, a suspected gang member they say fired at officers following a pursuit.

The shootings ignited four days of violent protests, culminating Tuesday night in hundreds of demonstrators surging through downtown. Police said some in the crowd smashed the windows of 20 businesses, set trash can fires, threw rocks and bottles at police and damaged City Hall and police headquarters. Two dozen people were arrested.

The Orange County district attorney’s office is investigating, and the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI agreed to review the shootings to determine if civil rights investigations are warranted.

A group of demonstrators rallied peacefully in front of Disneyland on Saturday.

‘Stop and frisk?’ Not in our city

by The Rev. Amos Brown, President, San Francisco NAACP
SF Chronicle Letters to the Editor 7-28-2012

In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, Mayor Ed Lee has doubled down on his idea of replicating New York City’s ineffective racial profiling program known as “stop and frisk.” The San Francisco NAACP stands with a vocal majority of the city in opposition to this idea.

The numbers show that stop and frisk is irredeemably biased. Year after year, more than 85 percent of New Yorkers stopped by police are black or Latino. Yet 9 out of 10 walk away with no charge, just a bitter feeling that they have been profiled by the color of their skin. San Francisco needs to build greater bonds between police and the community they serve, not greater distrust.

Police Chief Greg Suhr has expressed strong concerns about stopping people for any reason besides reasonable suspicion. We agree that racial profiling is always bad policing. When police focus on race or ethnicity, they inevitably ignore the more important behavioral cues that can help locate a suspect.

This misdirection results in a waste of valuable resources and police time. Mayor Lee has said he is trying to “get to the guns,” but he should be reminded that last year NYPD officers turned up just one gun for every 3,000 street stops.

Stop-and-frisk doesn’t work in New York City, and it has no place in San Francisco.

Take Back Santa Cruz co-founder launches council run: Pamela Comstock has backing of key trio

by J.M. BROWN
Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/28/2012

SANTA CRUZ - A founding member of the public safety advocacy group Take Back Santa Cruz has announced her bid for City Council, a move that instantly drew support from key leaders.

Pamela Comstock, 40, who along with husband Craig and other relatives formed Take Back Santa Cruz in 2009, will seek one of four open council seats in the Nov. 6 contest. The software executive who has organized safety marches and drug den cleanups has backing from a trio of neo-progressive council members whose 2010 victories helped to train the city’s focus on safety and the economy.

Vice Mayor Hilary Bryant and Councilmembers Lynn Robinson and David Terrazas have endorsed Comstock, a 30-year resident who serves on the city’s Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. Robinson said she believes Comstock can parlay activism into government service.

“She is a woman of action who can really step in and make a difference for our city,” said Robinson, who herself entered politics after co-founding Santa Cruz Neighbors. “The real beauty of (grassroots advocacy) is you start working with the community and instantly you collectively communicate the need to step up and work with government and those who can help you make a change.”

Take Back Santa Cruz co-founder and spokeswoman Analicia Cube said the group does not make political endorsements but that individual members strongly back Comstock’s run. Cube is a cousin of Comstock’s husband, and Cube’s husband, sister and brother-in-law are also founders of the group, which has more than 4,200 members on Facebook.

Although the group has been criticized by some as lacking compassion for the homeless and transient population, Comstock said she supports the city continuing to fund shelter and meals “But I also believe in personal responsibility,” she said, adding that she would support background checks for people who receive services and triple fines for crimes committed in city parks.

Comstock has eyed a council run for several years, feeling citizens focused on bringing more business to town and boosting public safety were largely unrepresented on the council until now. Before going to work for Antares Audio Technologies, a Scotts Valley company that makes the Auto-Tune software, Comstock owned the now-closed Lollipops, a children’s clothing and furniture store in Gateway Plaza.

“Our economic vitality relies on job creation,” she said. “The business community should be viewed as a valued partner and a key to the longterm success of the city.”

Comstock wants the city to streamline the business permitting process and create a local business advisory panel to provide guidance to the council rather than hire high-priced consultants. She also encourages town hall-style meetings where the public can interact with city leaders on a wide variety of topics rather than be restricted to two or three minutes of remarks during council meetings.

“People are our greatest resource and will go along way to help us solve whatever problems we’re facing,” she said.

As for a proposed seawater desalination plant to boost water supply, which will be a major council issue during the next four years, Comstock said she is glad voters will get to weigh in before the project is built.

“I don’t think anyone is excited about desal, but we have to look at our longterm infrastructure,” she said.

Comstock has also been endorsed by outgoing Councilman Ryan Coonerty. Other candidates are resident Craig Bush, carpenter Jake Fusari, Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, Transportation and Public Works Commissioner Richelle Noroyan, nonprofit director Cece Pinheiro, volunteer Steve Pleich and alternative transportation activist Micah Posner.

Deadly shootings reveal divisions of Anaheims

by AMY TAXIN
Associated Press Jul. 26, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — As police around City Hall tried to quell rock-hurling protesters angry over two deadly police shootings, the night sky exploded with splendid bursts of green and orange from Disneyland fireworks a few miles away. Pyrotechnic booms trailed popping sounds as officers in riot gear fired pepper balls and bean bags at protesters.

The contrasting scenes were reflective of the two Anaheims that were on display this week. One is a magical tourist destination, and the other is a place where shifting demographics have left a large segment of the population feeling like second-class citizens.

“This is not quite ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,’ and now the world knows it,” said Joese Hernandez, referencing Disneyland’s motto. “It’s great if you live in the hills, but if you live right around the corner from ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ you realize it’s a whole different ball game.”

The 27-year-old community organizer, who grew up in Anaheim, made the statement to the City Council as raucous protests raged outside Tuesday night.

Two fatal police shootings last weekend — one of an unarmed man police say was a known gang member— roiled the city and exposed its divisions. Demonstrators took to the streets four nights in a row.

Tuesday’s was the largest and most violent protest, with some of the nearly 600 demonstrators hurling rocks and bottles at police, who made two dozen arrests. About 20 businesses were damaged.

The city has asked federal authorities to investigate the shootings.

Both victims were Hispanic, as were most of the demonstrators. The city, about 90 percent white in 1970, now has a population that is 53 percent Hispanic.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city, alleging that Anaheim’s at-large elections have weakened Latinos’ voting power. The suit claims only three councilmembers in the city’s history have been Hispanic. Most of the City Council currently hails from the city’s upscale neighborhoods to the east.

“So much attention has been paid to building up the resort district and somehow those resources would trickle down to the rest of the city and we’re just not seeing it,” said Jose Moreno, president of Los Amigos of Orange County and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “A lot of us are saying enough is enough and this police shooting is really just emblematic of something more systemic in the politics of the city.”

While it’s known worldwide as the home of Disneyland, the reality is Anaheim is much more than a theme park. It’s a big city — the population is 336,000, about the same as Tampa, Fla., and Honolulu — and it has big-city problems. There is great wealth for some, but a large segment of the population lives in or at the edge of poverty.

Those differences can be seen in the tony, hilltop homes in the east to the rundown areas like Anna Street, where some residents shrug off the presence of gangs so long as they’re left alone. It’s a far cry from the place filled with orange groves that Walt Disney chose for his theme park in the 1950s because it had so much open space.

Since then, the city has been a magnet for tourists flocking to see Mickey Mouse or attend an event at the massive convention center touted as the largest on the West Coast. There is professional baseball with the Angels and pro hockey with the Ducks, whose original name Mighty Ducks name came from — what else? — a Disney film.

More than 17 million people visited Anaheim last year and spent nearly $4.6 billion. Few ever see much of the city, however. Visitors to the neatly manicured theme park or Angel Stadium can reach their destinations by zipping off the freeway and into a parking lot without passing through the city’s residential neighborhoods.

Tourism officials have been in close contact with the city since the unrest. On Wednesday, the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau was quick to reassure visitors the city is safe and pointed out the recent police incidents didn’t take place in the area where Disneyland and the convention center are located.

Gene Jeffers, executive director of the Themed Entertainment Association, said some area residents might put off visiting the resort in the next few days but he doesn’t see any real effect on tourism — especially not on those who hail from out of town.

“There’s a pretty big buffer zone around the park,” said Jeffers, whose organization represents theme park designers and developers.

Mayor Tom Tait warned the city would take swift action to stop any additional violence. He also noted the violence occurred far from tourist hubs.

Local activists have complained that officials spend too much time worrying about image for tourists and on big-time developers, but not enough on housing and services for its people.

Critics have blasted city officials for extending a tax break to a Disneyland-area hotel developer and want to change elections in Anaheim to make officials more accountable to local districts.

They have also demanded an independent investigation into recent police shootings — which officials had agreed to seek even before the weekend’s events pushed the total number of fatal police shootings to six this year.

On Saturday, a police officer fatally shot Manuel Diaz outside an Anna Street apartment complex. Officers say Diaz, who had a criminal record, failed to heed orders and threw something as he fled police. The city’s police union said Diaz reached for his waistband, which led the officer to believe he was drawing a gun.

Diaz’s family, which is suing for $50 million in damages, says he was shot in the leg and the back of the head. During a protest the night of the shooting, a police dog escaped and bit a bystander.

On Sunday night, police shot to death Joel Acevedo, a suspected gang member they say fired at officers after a pursuit.

Veronica Rodarte, a 25-year-old social services program coordinator, said she is well aware of the problems with gang violence and police in the city where she’s lived her entire life. But she doesn’t like how residents’ outrage, even if justified, has turned violent.

“We are very upset with the portrayals our city is getting and the violence that is erupting in our city,” she said. “Throwing rocks and rioting and setting trash bins on fire is not going to help us move forward.”

San Leandro sued in Oakland man’s death

by Henry K. Lee
S.F. Chronicle Thursday, July 26, 2012

The mother of a man who was high on methamphetamine when he died after struggling with San Leandro police has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.

Darnell Hutchinson, 32, of Oakland had been acting paranoid and scaring customers at the Nation’s Giant Hamburgers restaurant at 1335 Washington Ave. on Oct. 9.

Employees called police after Hutchinson refused to leave. Officers tried to take him into protective custody, but he became “physically combative,” San Leandro police Lt. Jeff Tudor has said.

An officer shot Hutchinson with his stun gun, but it had little or no effect, police said. Four officers finally managed to handcuff him, police said.

Hutchinson immediately began showing signs of distress. He died at a hospital.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Hutchinson’s mother, Katherine Hutchinson, said officers engaged in an “unlawful assault. The officers held Mr. Hutchinson down by digging their knees and feet into his body and leveraging their bodies against his and the pavement.” The suit, filed by Oakland attorney John Burris, seeks unspecified damages.

Hutchinson died of acute methamphetamine intoxication, authorities said.

An internal investigation determined that the officers had acted appropriately, Tudor said.

Anaheim Cracks Down as Police Shootings Set Off Protests

by Jennifer Medina
NY Times, July 25, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Violent protests have stretched on through the week here after unrelated police shootings over the weekend left two men dead, including one who was apparently unarmed.

Even before the shootings, there were tensions between residents and the police. On Tuesday, the crowds that gathered near City Hall grew to nearly 1,000 people, and were dispersed by officers in riot gear.

As the City Council prepared to hear from angry residents on Tuesday, the fourth night of protest, the crowd swelled to nearly 1,000, and there were two dozen arrests, officials said Wednesday.

On Wednesday night, with an increased police presence, there were no immediate reports of arrests, and there were few protesters.

The protests have shaken up this Orange County city, most famous as the home of Disneyland. Tensions between the police and residents, which have simmered for years, broke out shortly after Manuel Diaz, 25, was shot and killed by the police on Saturday.

On Tuesday, as hundreds of people packed City Hall for a City Council meeting, a crowd outside grew in size and became violent, throwing rocks and bottles at police cars. One man reportedly had a handgun and was later arrested.

A short while later, the demonstrators moved through downtown, taking over an intersection, setting fires and damaging 20 businesses, officials said. Looters broke several storefront windows, and in at least one incident a fight broke out when an older resident tried to stop a young woman stealing from a store window.

The police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly around 9 p.m., and some 300 officers in riot gear used batons, pepper balls and beanbag bullets to disperse the crowd.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Tom Tait, who has asked for state and federal investigations into the shootings, said he was pleased with the police response.

“The first step is to get to the truth,” Mr. Tait said. “That takes some time and patience, and that’s what I’m asking for.”

“Violence and vandalism have no place in the conversation,” he added.

Chief John Welter of the Anaheim Police Department said it would review videos posted on the Internet to find “lawbreakers in the crowd.”

“We will not allow riotous, dangerous violations of the law by anyone,” Mr. Welter said. “We will protect innocent people from being injured and property from being damaged.”

Officials said they had contingency plans in place for the rest of the week in case of more violent protests, but they would not elaborate.

Six people, including one police officer said to have been hit with a rock, were reported injured, although none seriously. The charges against those arrested included assault with a deadly weapon, battery and resisting arrest.

The police said they believed roughly two-thirds of the protesters were from outside Anaheim. But the majority of those arrested were city residents, they said.

Mr. Tait said he would meet with federal officials, who have agreed to review Saturday’s shooting to see whether a civil rights inquiry is needed. The district attorney and state attorney general are also investigating the shootings.

The family of Mr. Diaz, the first of the two men killed by the police, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, asserting that he was unarmed when he was shot, fell to his knees and then was shot again, in the back of the head.

“In a poor brown neighborhood, the kids, especially the boys, know to avoid the police, because it never ends well,” said Dana Douglas, a lawyer for the Diaz family.

Genevieve Huizar, Mr. Diaz’s mother, broke down after a news conference. She spoke of her son’s devoted care for his 14 nieces and nephews and his dreams of making his own family. When he told her he wanted to join the military, she strongly objected, she said.

“I didn’t want him to go over there and die,” she said, choking back tears. “Maybe I should have let him and everything would be different. Only God knows.”

Both the mayor and police chief have declined to offer any public explanation of the shooting, but Kerry Condon, the president of the Anaheim Police Association, has said that Mr. Diaz appeared to be carrying a “concealed object in his front waistband with both hands,” and that he ran off, pulled the object out of his waistband and turned to the officers.

“Feeling that Diaz was drawing a weapon, the officer opened fire on Diaz to stop the threat,” Mr. Condon said. No gun has been recovered from the site.

The other man killed by the police, Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21, was shot after officers tried to stop his car on Sunday. The police say that he tried to flee on foot and that he then opened fire on them. The police said that both Mr. Acevedo and Mr. Diaz were gang members with criminal records.

There have been six shootings by Anaheim police officers so far this year, all but one fatal.

Occupy Oakland: focusing or fading away?

Matthai Kuruvila and Demian Bulwa
S.F. Chronicle, Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Occupy activists have assailed a federal government they say colludes with the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. But on Monday when the president came to raise money in downtown Oakland – home of the nation’s most militant Occupy movement – the protesters did little to respond.

President Obama, who attended a big fundraiser at the Fox Theater, was met primarily by a group of medical marijuana advocates. Some Occupy protesters joined them and later marched, but their actions were a stark contrast to events in the past that drew thousands.

Whether it’s a sign of a movement that’s lost steam – or is merely evolving – is still unclear.

“We don’t know where it goes, but we’re in the early stages,” said Matt Smaldone, 38, a West Oakland resident who has been involved in Occupy Oakland since the beginning. “I don’t think we’re at a risk of things stopping, because the economy is not improving.”

More than nine months after setting up an elaborate tent city outside City Hall, leading to infamous clashes with the police, Occupy Oakland is again trying to reinvent itself without the unifying force of the encampment and in the face of critics who question their aggressive tactics.

Thinking smaller

Large-scale actions – like shutdowns of the Port of Oakland in November and December – don’t appear to be the future. Instead, the movement has fragmented into smaller groups focused on issues like school closures, foreclosure prevention and a fatal police shooting in May.

That means doing things that often involve neighborhood organizing, which happens far from downtown. For some, that’s a sign of progress.

“It’s a good thing people are focused less on spectacles and doing more community organizing work,” said Steven Angell, 23, an Occupy Oakland activist since January. “Those are much more important, particularly for Oakland.”

But some critics of Occupy Oakland said the group had lost much of the support it had last year, in part because some members put so much energy into confronting police.

‘Mayhem’ criticized

“They would get support if they would fight for a cause, not just cause mayhem,” said Nancy Sidebotham, 67, who helped organize Stand for Oakland, a group of citizens and merchants that spoke out against Occupy Oakland. “They need to go after the banks or the economy. Pick something and go after it. Don’t try to go all over the map because you can’t get it together.”

Members acknowledge that their numbers have shrunk, and not just at public actions. General assemblies, held twice a week, have drawn fewer and fewer people, prompting moves to reduce from 100 the size of the quorum needed for a vote. In Occupy Oakland’s heyday, some meetings attracted more than 1,000 people.

Wendy Kenin, a 40-year-old Berkeley resident who is on Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, said a core group at the assemblies is “holding the space for the continuation of the movement. It might not look like the massive uprising of last year, but it’s still active. There are going to be ebbs and flows.”

Several people, though, said that frustration and burnout had chipped away at the movement and that divides had opened due to violence and infighting – sometimes, ironically, over how to spend donated money.

Some people who participated in Occupy Oakland felt it was important to rally against the police, particularly after they arrested protesters. But others saw a useless series of skirmishes that could have been largely avoided, and that distracted from the core message of economic inequality.

On Monday, Spencer Mills – who helped pioneer live, online broadcasts of Occupy Oakland events – criticized protesters for past tactics like throwing rocks at police.

“Please, come off that high horse & tell me what you have accomplished with violence & property destruction in Oakland,” he wrote on Twitter. “Actually, it has accomplished things. #OPD can better justify its budget,@JeanQuan gets the high moral ground & (Occupy Oakland) drifts in obscurity.”

Blaming the establishment

Many Occupy activists said tension is inevitable in a big social movement. They said the internal discord has been heightened by outside forces, particularly police and the press.

“The establishment did such a great job demonizing the Occupy movement that a lot of people who are unhappy with the economy are too afraid to show up,” said David Meany, 32, of Pleasant Hill, a self-described pacifist who has been coming to Occupy Oakland since nearly the beginning.

Rachel Dorney, 24, of Oakland, who moved into the original City Hall encampment, said she had been less involved in recent months, in part because of internal strife. But she, too, believed Occupy would not fade away.

“I don’t think it’s dead,” she said. “I hope it’s not. Whatever happens, we can’t go back to how it was (in America). Things have definitely changed. It’s an idea, and I think a lot of times people forget that. Whatever happens, we haven’t failed.”

Pajaro Rescue Mission celebrates 50th anniversary with expansion

By Donna Jones
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 07/23/2012

PAJARO — George Muro hit bottom three years ago.

His marriage had fallen apart. He had lost the custodial job he had held for 12 years at a school district in Tracy. He was drinking and using drugs.

That’s when his daughter told him only one thing could save him: God.

Muro, 47, heeded that advice and reclaimed his life at the Pajaro Rescue Mission, which provides food and shelter to the homeless and, for those who want to seize it, the chance to change their lives. Sitting in the mission’s dining room Monday, Muro clutched a Bible and quoted scripture from memory. During his nearly three years at the mission, he’s found sobriety, reconnected with his family and rediscovered his faith.

He’s also close to obtaining the equivalent of a high school diploma, a huge accomplishment for a man who arrived at the mission with the math skills of a second-grader and in such an addled condition that he could barely string a sentence together, let alone read a book.

“If it wasn’t for this place, there’s no telling where I’d be,” said Muro.

The mission, which serves men and is managed by the faith-based nonprofit, Teen Challenge Monterey Bay, will mark its 50th anniversary at a community celebration Aug. 25. But as leaders prepare for the party, they’re also working to expand the shelter’s capacity by almost 50 percent to fill an anticipated gap in homeless services when the Salvation Army closes its Watsonville shelters Aug. 15.

The Salvation Army announced in June it could no longer afford to operate two shelters for men and one for women and children near its Union Street headquarters. The shelters serve about 60 people, including about 40 men.

Chuck Allen, the former board president for the Pajaro Valley Salvation Army, said he hopes to go to the organization’s regional board with a proposal to hand over management of the men’s shelters to the mission by the end of the month. He also helps to raise $100,000 in the community to support the effort.

But Mike Borden, Teen Challenge’s executive director, said Pajaro Rescue Mission will find a way to provide for the men regardless. It’s an opportunity to impact 40 more lives, he said.

“We will take that up,” Borden said. “We don’t turn anyone away.”

On a tour of the mission Monday, Teen Challenge leaders laid out a plan to increase the number of cots set up nightly in the mission chapel. They’ll put more cots in the dining room, if necessary, Borden said.

They also are seeking donation of two vans so they can transport men to the mission from the Salvation Army, which will continue to serve meals.

They’ll also open the Teen Challenge recovery program to men seeking sobriety. The program, which provides beds in dorms upstairs in the two-story mission, requires clients without a high school diploma to go back to school, and it provides training for jobs in construction, culinary arts and landscaping.

“We’re able to offer something more than a bed,” Borden said. “We’re offering a chance to open the door and change their lives.”

Good Samaritan talks man down from Morrissey bridge, police say

Cathy Kelly – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted:   07/22/2012

SANTA CRUZ – Police got a call about 6:30 a.m. that a man was on the Morrissey Boulevard bridge over Highway 1, apparently planning to kill himself, Santa Cruz police said.

When officers arrived, they found that a passerby had seen the man on the railing and stopped and was able to talk him out of jumping, police said. The man had planned to leap off the bridge into the path of a large truck, officers said.

The 47-year-old man, described as a transient, was taken to Dominican Hospital, police said.

Six Months in jail for SLEEPING? Is this America?

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

July 20, 2012

Original Post

URGENT!  Attorney Ed Frey and his client, Gary Johnson, both convicted under PC 647 (e),  the anti-homeless statewide anti-lodging statute for sleeping at a protest against Sleeping Bans, face a certain six months in jail apiece as Frey exhausts his appeal process. Legal, moral, and political support is badly needed. Frey and Johnson could be jailed as soon as Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 when they go before Judge John Gallagher at 8:30AM in Dept. 2


A homeless man sleeps on the benches outside of the Santa Cruz
Main Library as part of Peace Camp 2010 when protesters had
been driven away from City Hall across the street. These benches
have since been removed by public officials.  Photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson
July 20, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — When Ed Frey envisioned Peace Camp 2010, he was sure of his cause. Sleeping itself is a criminal act within the City of Santa Cruz. It is illegal under MC 6.36.010 section a, to sleep anywhere out of doors or in a vehicle between 11PM and 8:30AM, with few exceptions. And while the City of Santa Cruz does pay for a sizable percentage of services offered to homeless people (some Cities provide nothing), the number of persons enumerated by each census far outnumber the number of spaces of legal shelter available.

But for reasons largely unexplained (thought to be a squabble between City police and County sheriffs) neither Ed, nor protesters Gary Johnson, Eliot Anderson, teepee visionary Robert “Blind Bear” Facer,  “Anonymous” Commander X, Collette Connolly, the former Chair of the Commission for Prevention of Violence Against Women, Linda Lemaster, radio host Robert Norse, and Art Bishoff were charged with the City’s Sleeping Ban. Instead, County Counsel Dana McRae  advised sheriff’s to charge misdemeanor PC 647 (e), as a disturbing the peace charge.

Linda Lemaster in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse 2010
Photo by Becky Johnson

A jury trial was held for five defendants including Ed Frey who served as both the defense attorney for his fellow defendants and as his own defense. All, except Anderson were convicted. In Anderson’s case, the jury hung 11 – 1 for conviction. One juror didn’t think Anderson should be compelled to gas his dog in order to sleep in a shelter for one night. The remaining jurors did.

At a sentencing hearing for Gary Johnson and Ed Frey, Judge John Gallagher sentenced both men to 6 months in jail following their refusal to accept 400 hour of community service. In addition, when Johnson asked Gallagher how he could “obey all laws” since illegal lodging is illegal 24/7 and he was homeless, the Judge told him he “could sleep in jail” and ordered him jailed immediately.

When Frey asked for bail in order to file an appeal, Gallagher set bail at $50,000 apiece. Both men went to jail for several weeks. Frey was able to modify the bail to $110 each ( the bail schedule for PC 647 (e) charges) , both men were able to bail out.

Just as Johnson had warned, he was again cited four times for illegal “lodging” and jailed for another 85 days. Now both men, having exhausted their immediate appeal route due to lack of legal resources and inadequate funding, face being returned to jail to serve the remainder of their 6 month sentences.

Neither is accused of having trespassed, littered, or bothered anyone at all. Only sheriffs were disturbed to see protesters against the Sleeping Ban sleeping in direct defiance of the ban as part of a 1st amendment protected protest, and at a traditional public forum. And what was the behavior they testified to as requiring immediate arrest for disturbing the peace? Sleeping at 4:30AM. In fact, sheriff’s testified they had to awaken the sleeping protesters! And six months in jail for sleeping has got to be excessive punishment.

And if an attorney and activist can be jailed for sleeping, how are homeless people treated who have limited legal shelter options?  Thanks to Ed and Gary, we now have a clue.

Those with legal resources, financial or political support, should contact ED FREY here.