HUFFsters, some of us anyway, will be dragging our weary butts to the Sub Rosa Cafe today to ponder on the outcome of Freedom Sleep #10, brood on the likely upcoming RV bans at City Council either next Tuesday or the one two weeks later, and seek solidarity perhaps with We Copwatch and Black Lives Matter to encourage some direct action in Santa Cruz. A sleep-in inside City Hall chambers itself has been suggested. We’ve got the coffee if you drink it.
Wednesday Sep 16th, 2015 3:21 AM
The 10th Freedom Sleepers Sleep Out at City Hall attracted nearly 20 sleepers–even after two massive raids by the police, colder/wetter weather, and At least 4, perhaps 5, agendas were posted describing city government commission meetings happening in the next 48 hours, but police refused to allow anyone on the supposedly legal passways through the park to view the agendas. One woman, Christina Barnes, was brutally arrested by two (out of five) First Alarm Security guards for “touching” a First Alarm security thug who was insisting she leave at a time when the park was open; Food Not Bombs Abbi Samuels was arrested for crossing the street with a coffee container for the protest. Activists continued to sleep on sidewalks adjoining City Hall and the library afterwards.
An unusually high number of First Alarm Security guards gathered near several of the more volatile homeless folks prompted anger, cries of harassment, and demands that the 4 (ultimately 5) uniformed patrolers move away. When that didn’t happen, cries “go home”, “get away”, and the like filled the air.
Sanctuary Village supporter Brent Adams set up a display table, but provoked controversy by insisting on speaking at length about his project and attacking the Freedom Sleeper approach, denouncing activists by name, and ultimately becoming the recipient of threats and pranks. Adams did go to some lengths to video the First Alarm brutality that subsequently passed unchecked by police. (There was no apparent investigation of the Security Guard’s subsequent assault on Christina Barnes–see below–and certainly no arrest of the assailant).
BRUTALITY HITS BARNES
Before security guards arrested Christina Barnes, a thin African-American woman, short-circuiting the usual practice of calling the police department to take action. A violent security guard, reportedly angered at Barnes’ ignoring him earlier in the evening when he demanded she leave from a public area, harshly handcuffed her, dragged her across the lawn and bricks, and ultimately shoved her into an thorn-ridden agave plant while she screamed in pain.
The Security Guard (who later refused to give his name) kept replying to her screams with “stop resisting arrest”–a familiar litany for police agencies covering up brutality. A crowd quickly gathered–with photos and video likely to come. Police then arrived–7 vehicles strong at one point to “interview” witnesses. Christina was taken to jail, then released some hours latter on a charge of “battery”. She later noted an older “False Alarm” heavy (as some call them) had invaded her personal space, and she had brushed his arm.
FIRST ALARM THUGS COVER UP BADGES AND DUMMY UP
Several First Alarm security guards, covered their name tags when approached and refused to show them to me or others demanding to know who they were. They also declined to name their superior officer. When followed with video cameras, one called the police and stated I had grabbed him, seeking to have me arrested. Police ignored this lie, but the First Alarmettes continued to decline to show their name tags, covering them up when the cameras arrived.
Police then turned to clearing those in the park. Since most if not all in the group had decided previously to move and set up their sleeping gear on the sidewalk, this operation simply involved a line of police standing menacingly in a line across City Hall, an area many had thought was the primeval First Amendment-protected zone. But not, apparently, in Santa Cruz at night.
NO CARS ALLOWED–BUT NO PEOPLE EITHER–AT LEAST, NO PROTESTERS!
Police then moved to cite Louise Drummond and Rabbi Phil Posner for “standing in a parking space”. Ironically, it was one of the many spaces where vehicles were prohibited from parking–apparently to deter activists from parking their vehicles there. At about this time the noisy bright 30′ high klieg lights went on–another anti-activist measure.
Officer Rodreguez then apprehended Abbi Samuels, crossing the street with a container of coffee and detained her to write her a citation. When he demanded her ID, she told him he knew who she was, as did the cluster of officers including Sergeant Forbus, standing a few feet away. Samuels was taken away in handcuffs and reportedly has refused to sign out at the jail and demanded to be taken to a magistrate for a probably cause hearing, which is supposed to be happening later this morning.
PRESS CONFERENCE AND PROBLEM-SOLVING
Freedom Sleepers then held a second meeting and decided to hold a public press conference next Tuesday at 3 PM when there will simultaneously be a City Council meeting. Folks then returned to their tents and sleeping bags–now arrayed all along the sidewalk, and tried to sleep. The intensity of events did sufficiently upset and arouse an ongoing stream of shouts, speeches, and exclamations. One activist reported that police earlier threatened to arrest one man doing percussion by striking two rods together with “unreasonable noise” because the noise was “bothersome” to the group across the street (which had not complained).
Several folks stopped by with food, donations, and warm expressions of support. Some suggested moving the protest to discourage the disruptively loud; others were still determined to return to City Hall for Freedom SleepOut #11 next Tuesday on September 22nd.
NOTE BY NORSE: For more photos and commentary, go to https://www.indybay.org/
Join the Freedom Sleepers Tuesday Night in front of Santa Cruz City Hall to challenge the City’s brutal policies criminalizing homeless sleep in a city with no emergency shelter space.
Santa Cruz Police Make More Arrests at City Hall Sleepout #9
Saturday Sep 12th, 2015 8:42 PM
On September 8, community members protesting laws that criminalize homelessness held their ninth in a series of group sleepouts at Santa Cruz City Hall, which is closed to the public at night. At least three people were issued citations, and two others were reportedly arrested for participating in the latest protest. Despite that, a large group stayed through the night and slept at City Hall. They call themselves “Freedom Sleepers” and have planned their next sleepout for September 15. [Top photo: A person inside a small tent in the courtyard of Santa Cruz City Hall is issued a citation. Scroll down for more photos from the September 8 sleepout.]
One individual taken to jail on the evening of September 8/9 had been holding a protest sign and speaking loudly about the injustice of the police raids as people were being cited in the courtyard. She was arrested when she began to walk away from two police officers who were attempting to communicate with her. She had been standing on a flat, open section of the brick walkway that serves as the main entrance to the City Hall property. The area is only feet from the public sidewalk, but is considered by police to be part of the “no trespassing” zone.
To discourage individuals from sleeping at City Hall, portable stadium lighting units have been employed by police during the last two protests, and “no parking” hoods were placed over parking meters on Center and Church Streets to distance protesters from their cars.
The lighting units are placed in front of the courtyard where protesters have been setting up sleeping locations, and have been guarded all night by a team of First Alarm security guards who also watch over the protest.
Additionally, a no trespassing zone was established and maintained around council chambers while the September 8 city council meeting was in session. Food Not Bombs had previously been using the area to cook and share food.
During the police raids, protesters generally leave the courtyard area of City Hall and sleep on the sidewalk. The group decided early on at a general assembly that this would be the tactic used whenever the police arrived. This was a strategic decision, since the sidewalk around City Hall is exempt from the sit/lie ordinance, and sleeping there narrows the laws applicable to the protest. Many of the protesters want to be cited specifically for sleeping, while others have stated they are also concerned with issues more broadly related to the right to sleep or protest 24 hours a day at Santa Cruz City Hall, the center of local civic life.
For more information about the sleepouts, see:
|Free Radio to Cover 10th Homeless SleepOut at City Hall
|Tuesday September 15
|5:00 PM – 5:00 AM
|City Hall Courtyard and then the Sidewalk at 809 Center St. next to City Hall. Parking available off of Church St. between Center and Chestnut, along the library side of Center, or the Civic Center Side of Church. Assuming police again put up obstructive barriors
|Phil Posner (posting by Norse)
|chatrabbi [at] aol.com
|BACK AGAIN FOR ROUND TEN
In a continuing challenge to the community to support new priorities in policing and restoration of rights for the poor, Freedom Sleepers will be back against with another Community Campout.
PUNISHMENT TO DRIVE AWAY THE PROTESTERS
Lucero Luna, a vocal Spanish-speaking worker, was roughly grabbed last week without warning or charge by three police officers whose “compliance holds” left bruises on her body when she was released with an ‘interfering with an officer” type charge three hours later. Lucero’s response–she’ll be back Tuesday night.
WHY ARE WE THERE?
City hall is a place for the unhoused and the housed to meet and petition the government to recognize that the right to sleep is as elementary, as attorney Ed Frey once put it, as the right to breathe.
NO SHELTER, NO MERCY
Meanwhile homeless folks report getting ticketed multiple times at night, even at places where they had previoulsy been left alone–such as the Red Church at Lincoln and Cedar.
LIVE ON THE AIR
FRSC streams at freakradio.org . You can call in at 831-427-3772 or 831-469-3119. The FRSC collective is still offering a $500 reward for anyone who can find them a studio space for a year. Last radio broadcast will be September 21 if no one steps up.
Last week’s sleep out is described at http://www.indybay.org/
For more info: follow the links at http://www.indybay.org/
Friday Sep 11th, 2015 7:39 AM
Free Radio Santa Cruz will begin dismantling its studio on Sunday September 13th, with our final broadcast on September 20th. UNLESS get community help. We need to secure a 10′ X 10′ rental space in someone’s garage, backyard, basement, or house to set up a studio. We’ll pay. And there’s a $500 reward if your help is successful. Please contact me at rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com; or go to freakradio.org with any information. We don’t want to end of our 20 year run.
Our programs include English and Spanish language shows.
An archive of some of the older programming we offered can be found at http://www.freakradio.org/
If you believe in Free Speech, helping us relocate is a concrete and real way of furthering this cause.
Without a location, I am concerned that Free Radio Santa Cruz will not be able to sustain a regular schedule, though individual broadcasters may be able to find a way to podcast on the net.
I myself am uncertain of the future of my Bathrobespierre’s Broadsides show (archived at http://radiolibre.org/brb/ ) if we have no studio space.
The 9th Freedom Sleepers protest event at City Hall September 8-9, challenged City Council and confronted continued repression from Santa Cruz police. Police made 2 arrests, reportedly gave 14 citations, and “successfully” drove protesters from the grass and bricks of the City Hall Courtyard (the seat of government in Santa Cruz) to the adjoining sidewalk. There they laid out sleeping bags or slept in adjacent cars, next to tables sporting “Sleep is Not a Crime”-style signs and Food Not Bombs numnums.
REACTIONARY COUNCIL SETS ITS SIGHTS ON HOMELESS IN RV’S
At it’s Tuesday afternoon meeting September 8th, City Council moved forward directing staff to write up new laws severely restricting RV parking. These would either eliminate or severely shrink RV parking space or establish “permit parking” zones such as are currently used to drive away homeless-owned vehicles at night. The excuses used were “illegal dumping”, “blocking the view”, “safety of our children”, “illegal activities”, “burden on the taxpayer”, and “obstructing traffic”.
The underlying motivations, echoed by a group of younger women sporting “Take Back Westcliff” placards, seemed to be an upper-middle class aesthetic, NIMBY paranoia, a mobilized anti-homeless agenda, and a generalized xenophobia (suspicion of strangers).
There was zero concern about finding alternative spots for folks whose only home is their vehicle before laying down the “get out of our neighborhood” laws they favored. Nor did the Council want to pause in establishing the new “no homeless vehicle” zones though they give lip service to a weakened proposal for Councilmember Posner to investigate possible areas for RV parking. The elimination of existing space was to proceed independently however. Posner voted along with the rest of the Council for this new attack on the homeless.
The two anti-RV laws likely to return were presented by Scott Collins with City Manager Martin Bernal’s approval. They originated with the Transportation and Public Works Commission, the same body that declined to hold public hearings to stop “no parking without a permit on near the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center on Coral St.
The two anti-RV laws from last year. eliminated all “oversized parking spaces” city-wide and banned RV parking city-wide from 2 to 6 AM without a permit as well as setting up forbidden to park zones 50′ from intersections. Venomous property owners were demanding more extensive homeless removal–which may be in the cards in the months ahead.
No specific stats were presented regarding particular “crimes” committed by the RV dwellers and the expense of enforcing the proposed ordinances/ Councilmember Richelle Nironyan was previously chair of the Transportation and Public Works Commission when the NIMBY assault on RV’s came up there. Her Commission apparently sought and got no input from the RV dwellers, homeless service providers, or groups other than the cops and Take-Back-Santa-Cruz organized residents. Nor has Scott Collins and Martin Bernal in their report to City Council.
The proposal originated in a concern about the disposal of RV wastes, but there, as well, we heard no specifics about the number of citations, the extent of the problem, or the costs of the clean-up. The waste concern seemed to be a cover for a broader perception that RV’s were “traveling drug dens” as “Skindog” Ken Collins proposed.
CUTTING BACK TIME AND MOVING AWAY PROTEST
Mayor Lane, instead of allowing Oral Communications at its scheduled 5 PM time, allowed 2 1/2 hours of mostly bigoted bumbashing by TBSC zealots—forcing those who had come to speak on other issues to wait until after 7 PM for their chance (and then cutting back their time to 2 minutes each).
Special red ropes were set up creating “forbidden zones” all along the side of the City Council next to the windows to prohibit the usual placement of literature tables there. This restriction of public and political space was done without any kind of public input–behind closed doors (like the closing off of the City Council grounds 5 years ago–for which activists are now being ticketed each Tuesday night). Additional signs warned people against loitering near the City Council outside using the same MC 13.04.011 for which Freedom Sleepers are facing $198 each for the several dozen citations they’ve gotten.
CITY MANAGER REJECTS COMPROMISE
City Manager Martin Bernal previously met with Rabbi Phil Posner and other Freedom Sleepers. Protesters had experienced a massive escalation of protest the previous Tuesday (See http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/09/07/18777265.php ). Freedom Sleepers proposed a compromise to step back from their Tuesday night protests at City Hall, if Bernal agreed to direct police to make camping-related citations the lowest enforcement priority city-wide–given the increased crisis created by the elimination of shelter and waiting list as well as emergency services at the Coral St. complex. We further asked that police phone to determine if a shelter bed was actually available before waking up a sleeping homeless person who is not creating any other problem. We asked this be done for a period of two weeks as show of good faith. Bernal rejected the proposal
Bernal would not agree to take down the high-intensity klieg lights, the signs banning parking around City Hall, and the increased “ticket-before-talking” process used by police on September 1st. Nor would he recommend that the City Hall grounds be reopened at night to the public–as they have been for decades before he, the police chief, and the Mayor closed them down in a closed door meeting 2010 to drive away another protest against the city’s anti-homeless Sleeping Ban law.
Police have been denying activists the right to access city government agendas during the night, as the state Public Meetings Act requires. Police have also violated the “okay to be on the walkways through the area” provision of the “closed area” law being used to ticket and remove demonstrators from the City Hall complex at night. As of Wednesday night, Bernal had not advised the Freedom Sleepers of his “research”. He said he’d “look into” whether the community was being denied the right to view posted agendas posted in the “closed areas”.
GUESTS FROM OUT OF TOWN, MUSICIANS, AND LONGTIMERS POPULATE THE PROTEST
Bob Arenson, the Santa Cruz Police Auditor, and Robert Aguirre, San Jose activist from H.O.M.E.L.E.S.S. checked out the protest as nervous observer and dedicated participant respectively. Visionsong Valerie, an organizer from the ancient SAFE organization (Society for Artistic Freedom and Expression) played “Mama, Don’t Allow No Sleepin’ Around Here” as the hot day cooled into night. Food Not Bombs old-timer Keith McHenry cooked hour after hour, supplying coffee and other vegan munchies. Abbi Samuels meandered about in her blue bathrobe checking on the welfare of those bedding down for the night.
QUICK MOVE TO THE SIDEWALK, BUSTED FOR BELLY-DANCING?
Sometime after midnight Lamp-in-the-Night Lucero Luna raised the alarm, wakening sleepers to the arrival of 14 cops. Those who wanted not to be ticketed moved to the sidewalk. But, as the week before, police had stepped up pressure and were ticketing even those who had surrendered their right to be in the City Hall Courtyard at night as they stood on the sidewalk.
Lucero Luna had been tabling all weekend downtown in front of Marini’s for the Freedom Sleepers and loudly announcing the upcoming protest to everyone within earshot on Pacific with an occasional bellydancing visual accompaniment.
When police came for their midnight rousts, she darted in and out with her signs denouncing the SleepCrime Patrols. Two female officers arrested her, initially refusing her request to be told what she was being arrested for. She was taken to jail.
Though it was clear most of the sleepers had expeditiously moved to the sidewalk or were strugglng to do when police reached them, many (14 was one person’s count) were cited anyway. This continued the escalation of the week before–punishing the protesters for returning to protest.
I left early to be able to return for the HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom meeting) which happens every Wednesday at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa as well as the court appearance of Phil and Louise. Charged with MC 13.04.011 violation (being on city hall grounds after dark), they patiently waited an hour with 6 supporters and got their cases continued for several months.
Though I’d been jailed a week before for asking to be taken to a magistrate before signing a similar citation, the Superior Court clerk had no record of my case. Nor had any charges been filed against Israel Dawson, who was jailed weeks before the night when police targeted reporters and photographers there.
What’s next at SleepOut #10 on September 15th? Another nip at the anti-homeless laws in Santa Cruz.
Robert has been active in San Jose as part of his organization H.O.M.E.L.E.S.S. working to protect and organize homeless folks in The Junge over there.
For comments and video with the story below go to http://www.motherjones.com/
Another story by Robewrrt Aguirre at a better website is at http://www.siliconvalleydebug.
Robert also expressed some optimism about a Santa Clara County Task Force described at http://www.siliconvalleydebug.
Here’s What It’s Like to Be a Homeless Techie in Silicon Valley
Every day at America’s largest homeless camp, “a Yahoo bus goes by.”
—By Josh Harkinson
In October I visited what’s believed to be the nation’s largest homeless encampment, a tent city along a stretch of creek smack in the middle of Silicon Valley. A local preacher there introduced me to Robert Aguirre, a 60-year-old electrical engineer who had an incredible story to tell about going from being the owner of a successful tech firm to being homeless. Although I couldn’t independently verify everything he told me, I determined that many details were definitely true. Here’s his story in his own words, edited for length and clarity:
For many years, I had my own engineering consultancy in Silicon Valley. I helped get a lot of products approved under FCC and UL standards for companies such as 3Com, Dell, Microsoft, and Cisco—until all the manufacturers decided to move out of the country. I was offered a position in China. I’ve been there, and quite frankly I don’t want to live there. That’s why a lot of people are out of jobs. The jobs that do remain are very technical and usually they hire people right out of school or while they’re still in school. Old farts like me don’t have a chance of competing. I lost my business and the house I owned. When the economy took a dump it took me with it.
My wife is a medical clerk who makes about $3,000 a month. She’s handicapped and couldn’t take it going up and down the stairs in the apartment we were renting in San Jose, so we ended up finding another place. We gave our notice, and then as the day approached for us to move into our new place, that landlord told us he’d decided to rent out to relatives and we couldn’t move in. So then we went back to the first landlord and she said, “Sorry, I already rented it out.” So we had to put everything into storage and we started living in the car, trying to find apartments.
We’d been paying $1,750 a month, which is about as cheap as rent comes here unless you want to live in a roach motel. We were looking for places in that same price range, but all the rents had gone up and the cheapest ones we could find were around $1,900. The other problem was when you go and apply at a lot of different places it creates a hit on your credit, and eventually you don’t qualify because your credit score gets so low. They told us it would take about a year to recover from that. We’re really not making enough money to afford conventional housing, yet we make too much money for subsidized homes. So we’re kind of floating between the oil and water somewhere in there.
After sleeping in the car for about two months, my wife’s legs and feet were swelling up. The doctor said she had edema as a result of not being able to have her feet elevated. That’s a very common malady for people who sleep in their car, who don’t get a chance to really stretch out. So her doctor recommended we get a tent. All the campgrounds were too far out of the city, so we decided to move into the Jungle.
The Jungle is a forested stretch of Coyote Creek where about 300 people live in tents and shanties. They use the creek as a latrine or to bathe in; they just don’t drink from it. I’ve heard that the Jungle is the largest encampment of homeless individuals in the United States. The city doesn’t refer to it as the Jungle, which kind of connotes wild animals or wild behavior. It’s actually really close to lots of tech campuses. Every day, a Yahoo bus goes by.
I’ve been in San Jose for about 40 years. The majority of people in the Jungle are from San Jose. They were born here, they were raised here, they saw what this land was like before it became this. And they talk about it. They say, “Oh man, you should have seen what it was like.”
People are down in the Jungle for all sorts of different reasons—domestic violence, mental health problems, drug problems, or just being broke. I’d easily say 75 percent of people in the Jungle wouldn’t be there if they could afford housing. The community here is organized into three or four different supergroups who have compounds that operate kind of like medieval castles. It’s the same idea as gangs in any other neighborhood; as long as you don’t choose sides or try to get yourself involved you’re pretty safe. But a few weeks ago, there was a woman here who was badmouthing people. She’d also just received a very large sum of money from her mother. Some people decided they needed it more than she did and ended up slitting her throat and severing her jugular. When she continued fighting, someone else came up behind her and hit her in the head with an axe. The police didn’t want to go down there without backup, so one of the residents carried her out. I heard that she died in the hospital.
Our tent, which we pitched up top near the road, is much larger than those of other people around here. We have iPhones and a wireless hotspot. I even had solar panels at one point before they got stolen. We’re in a different category from most of the other people here, though we’re far from the only ones who are gainfully employed and trying to do things for themselves but just can’t afford a place.
Over time I’ve acquired five trash cans, and every night and morning I go out and pick up trash. I go to all the city hall meetings, the housing meetings, the county supervisors meetings to advocate for homeless people. We are trying to get this place cleaned up and to get people taken out of here as safely and quickly as possible and trying not to abandon anyone.
In September, the authorities announced plans to shut down the Jungle by December while giving everyone a place to live. My wife and I received housing voucher about four months ago, but so far it hasn’t been a vehicle for us getting housing any quicker. The problem is that a lot of landlords don’t want to deal with vouchers. They’d rather not divulge how much money they’re making on their apartments. The other thing is that there’s a certain stigma associated with homeless people. If they ask for your previous address you have nothing to tell them. “Oh, well, I live in the Jungle.” That’s unacceptable.
I’m among the lucky ones, though. There’s only 200 housing vouchers; as quickly as they house people, others come in to fill the void. So we’re trying to look at something that can house the 4,000 or 5,000 people who are homeless in Santa Clara County. I think the tech companies have an obligation to help out; they’re the ones who’ve outsourced middle-class jobs and driven rents and property values far beyond many people’s reach. Society is judged by how we treat those that are unable to care for themselves—the elderly, the young, and the mentally disabled. That’s the real measure of who we are.
> From: email@example.com
> Date: Tue, 8 Sep 2015 13:37
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
> September 8, 2015
> The Santa Cruz Freedom Sleepers.
> Email Rabi Phil Posner at Chatrabbi@aol.com
> FREEDOM SLEEPERS PLAN TO SLEEP OUT AT CITY HALL ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8,
> City Manager Martín Bernal rejects Freedom Sleeper’s compromise and
> plans to continue ticketing homeless
> Emergency services for homeless people in Santa Cruz have been
> eliminated at the Homeless Services Center. Police continue to issue
> sleeping tickets.
> PRESS CONFERENCE AT 6:00 PM OUTSIDE SANTA CRUZ CITY HALL
> Local activists in Santa Cruz, California announce a protest that will
> take place this coming Tuesday, September 8, starting at 5pm in front of
> Santa Cruz City Hall. Santa Cruz has a law in place which bans camping
> within the city limits, but is used most often to harass and displace
> houseless people of the community who have nowhere to sleep but outdoors.
> The Freedom Sleepers call on the community to join them in defending the
> rights of the homeless by sleeping out at Santa Cruz City Hall the night
> of the City Council meeting. City officials are seeking to drive the
> weekly sleep-outs away from City Hall. The sleepers will announce that
> they will move the sleep out away from City Hall if the city manager
> agrees to make the ticketing and arrest of the homeless for camping and
> sleeping related infractions the police departments lowest priority.
> City Manager Martín Bernal rejected the Freedom Sleeper’s compromise and
> plans to continue ticketing homeless
> On Tuesday, September 1, 2015 The Santa Cruz Police wrote 15 citations
> for being in “the park” at City Hall, arrested two Freedom Sleepers for
> being in the park after hours and issued one 24 hour stay away order.
> Police also erected spot lights around the east side of City Hall and
> blocked off parking.
> The Freedom Sleepers feel that the ban is cruel and unusual, in keeping
> with the recent Justice Department the 2015 statement of interest on the
> 2009 case of Bell v. City of Boise. The Justice Department stated, that
> it “should be uncontroversial that punishing conduct that is a universal
> and unavoidable consequence of being human violates the Eighth Amendment
> … Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity—i.e., it must occur at some
> time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then
> enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person
> criminalizes her for being homeless.”
> The 2-15 Grand Jury Report claims that Santa Cruz county has 3,500
> unhoused community members. That number is not conclusive, having been
> counted over a period of 4 hours in one day by a group of volunteer
> researchers. There are not nearly enough shelter beds in the county to
> house all the unhoused people here, therefore to criminalize people for
> sleeping outdoors is to criminalize them for engaging in a survival
> activity for which they have no legal alternative. For this reason, we
> the group of activists known as the Freedom Sleepers are engaging in
> civil disobedience, defying the camping ban in order to draw attention
> to its cruel, unusual, and inhumane character. We and the homeless
> community present at the protest have been harassed by police, prevented
> from sleeping by enormous lights rented by the police department,
> ticketed, and arrested.
|At City Council and Under the Stars, Challenge the Crackdown at Freedom SleepOut #9
|Tuesday September 08
|3:00 PM – 3:00 AM
|In front of City Hall at 809 Center St. in what used to be public space in the broad City Hall Courtyard beginning in mid-afternoon Tuesday September 1st and lasting until 8 AM Wednesday morning September 2nd.
The center of the event is likely to be outside City Council during its meeting, and on the lawn and the bricks across the street from the Main Library thereafter. At 10 PM, participants will likely move to the sidewalk, since city bosses have declared the City Hall Courtyard a “closed area’ 10 PM to 6 AM to end peaceful protests they don’t like.
|The following posting reflects my understanding of the proposed protest as well as recent events. –Robert Norse
SCHEDULE FOP FREEDOM SLEEPOUT #9
Within half an hour of 3 PM probably: City Council to consider Item #15 City Manager Martin Bernal’s proposals to sabotage RV dwellers by attacking the right to park.
5 PM: Oral Communications where Freedom Sleepers will discuss the outcome of their earlier conference with the City Manager in hopes of halting City repression against protesters and homeless sleepers.
5:30 PM (more or less) Freedom Sleepers Press Conference to more fully flesh out specific concerns, strategies.
6 PM General Assembly: to discuss the likely situation at night and how to deal with police interactions and their aftermath.
(throughout the evening): food provided by Food Not Bombs, Cafe HUFF, and concerned community members.
10 PM Being in the City Hall Courtyard apparently becomes a cause for citation and/or arrest by the SCPD. Those wishing to avoid this are advised to move to the sidewalk in anticipation of stepped-up harassment.
11 PM Sleeping becomes illegal outside and in vehicles all around Santa Cruz. There is no emergency shelter for the overwhelming majority of the homeless including the elderly and disabled. They face $159 ‘SleepCrime’ citations.
6 AM Holding up a protest sign at City Hall or sitting on a bench there or lying on the grass again becomes “legal”
7:30 AM Campers breakfast.
8:30 AM Sleeping becomes legal on some public property in Santa Cruz for the City’s 1500-2000 homeless
L A S T W E E K
THREATS FOLLOWED BY HARASSMENT
In the afternoon of Tuesday September 1st, police officials set up a “no parking” zone all around City Hall, making sidewalk sleepers more vulnerable to noise and harassment from passing vehicles. It also made loading and unloading more problematic (Keith McHenry got a ticket for parking briefly to unload literature and cooking tables).
Repeating a “sleep deprivation” strategy they had employed in 2010 to crush a similar protest against the Sleeping Ban, They also set up three loud generators powering 30 foot high intense klieg lights at City Hall such as those used on Pacific Avenue during the New Years and Halloween holidays for crowd control
Ironically, the “no parking” zones around the Sleep-Out ironically allowed protest signs and sleepers to be seen more clearly by supportive passersby. The bright lights also allowed easier clean-up.
Two were arrested and jailed for declining to sign the “park closed” tickets. They asked to be taken to a magistrate or magistrate’s clerk to challenge the whole business of claiming that being at City Hall at night awake with a protest sign sas a crime. Instead they were jailed and told at the jail they might not be allowed a hearing for 72 hours.
A second wave of ticketing half an hour later upped the ticketing tally to 15 or more. A third round an hour later saw police peering into people’s vehicles and opening car doors. A fourth round had them ticketing a man sleeping in one of the “forbidden” parking spaces in order to avoid blocking the sidewalk. Police previously insisted only half the narrow sidewalk could be used for sleeping.
SLEEPING BAN HARASSMENT CONTINUES
COUNCIL TO ATTACK VEHICLE DWELLERS
An earlier Public Works move by Marlin Grandlund this spring to forbid parking on streets adjacent to the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center has also apparently moved forward behind the scenes.
As no law is specifically up for a vote, council will likely direct staff to write a law make criminals out of those who park vehicles in the city who use their homes as their only affordable housing. If so, the law may be up for vote on September 22nd.
Freedom Sleepers will be meeting with the City Manager prior to the protest in search of agreement to suspend ticketing of those sleeping outside with no legal shelter options or to make it the lowest priority. There may be a Press Conference on the outcome.
RECENT BACKGROUND ON FREEDOM SLEEPER SLEEP-OUTS
See “Freedom Sleepers Back To Bed Down at City Hall in 8th SleepOut ” at http://www.indybay.org/
Recent print accounts of the Freedom Sleepers in the September Street Spirit newspaper: http://www.thestreetspirit.
Several stories not yet on line at thestreetspirit.org are available in the September issue of the Street Spirit in the Main Library, at the Sub Rosa Cafe, and from HUFF and FNB activists.
Police arrest two, write 15 tickets at 8th community sleepout event, install floodlights. Community members discuss themselves, their history.
The city is certainly not making things easy for this current protest camp. There has been a regular police presence that arrives each night near midnight to ticket people sleeping in the plaza, generally for being in a park after hours or for blocking a sidewalk. This most recent campout saw a visit from fourteen officers of the Santa Cruz Police Department, who wrote out fifteen tickets and made two arrests of protestors who refused to sign their citations. The officers were more aggressive than they have so far been in these protests, yanking blankets and tarps off of sleepers and ticketing without warning. In addition, the city covered parking meters by the city hall plaza and set up three police-rented sets of floodlights that they trained on the protest site. The lights ran on smoky, roaring generators for the entire night. Local activist Steve Pleich recalled these same tactics used by the city during Peace Camp 2010, an earlier protest camp directed against the camping ban.
The protest draws a variety of people from the city. One sleeper, Fred, ticketed earlier in the night for playing amplified music from his own car “without a permit,” shared his story wholeheartedly. Fred is a 3 year veteran of the US Army who served in Panama City as an intelligence officer during the Vietnam era and currently lives out of his car with his three dogs. Corwyn is a Saint Bernard, Moustache a terrier mix, and Lukie a Chihuahua mix. Fred credited the dogs with being his best friends and said they save his life every day. He’s got an ingrained sense of humor and sarcasm that he said comes from his upbringing in New York, just outside of the Bronx. Fred made a little light of his ticket when told the name of the officer that wrote him up. “Winston,” he laughed,”tastes good like a cigarette should!” recalling the advertising slogan. He’s got a serious attitude towards the situation of houseless folks like himself though. Recounting his experiences being ticketed or shoved along from a sleep spot, he growled “I want to tell the judge, put on a homeless person’s clothes and go to downtown Santa Cruz and you will be absolutely appalled. The police treat you with absolute disrespect.”
Another sleeper present was Frank Lopez, who is registered with the housing facilities at the Homeless Services Center, but still came out in support of the protests. Frank has had a long history of involvement in social causes. He was a Brown Beret with the United Farmworkers through the 1960s and participated in protests against Safeway grocery stores, as well as a caravan drive through California to provide food, clothing, and medical supplies to undocumented farmworkers. Also present were a young couple, Adam and Rein, who were actually attracted to the site when they saw the enormous lights. They had no idea the protests had been going on, but stopped on a detour taken to avoid a one-way street. They expressed some concerns that the site was so out of the way, and would have liked to see more people present.
Perhaps all these people will be at the next sleepout, on Tuesday, September 8. The organizers are welcoming food, clothing, sleeping gear, and monetary donations, and encouraging folks to come out and learn more about the challenges facing unhoused people in Santa Cruz.