City escalates effort against camping-ban protestors, event attracts variety of supporters

by Zav Hershfield
Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 4:04 PM

Police arrest two, write 15 tickets at 8th community sleepout event, install floodlights. Community members discuss themselves, their history.



“Where are we supposed to go? After we’re run off somewhere, where do we go?” was the question asked by Lisa, a houseless person present in the city hall plaza at this week’s recurring Santa Cruz camping ban protest. Santa Cruz’s camping ban, present in the law since 1978, makes it illegal for someone to sleep outdoors in the city using any kind of sleeping gear. Blankets, tarps, sleeping bags, and tents are all included in this ban. The protestors here, now in their eighth week of the ongoing demonstration, say that the ban unfairly targets unhoused people and is used to make them unwelcome in Santa Cruz.And they do feel unwelcome. “It’s overwhelming,” said Lisa, “there are no basic services for us. I stopped going to work because can’t get a shower, don’t have anywhere to store my things.” It’s the loss of basic services like showers and simple meals that started these protests. Earlier this year, budget cuts to the Homeless Services Center on River Street led the to the organization’s choice to close down such services to people not living on site. The local chapter of Food Not Bombs – an international activist group that supplies free vegan food to protests and progressive causes – in partnership with the group Homeless United in Freedom and Friendship organized several breakfast servings at the corner of River and Highway 1 to draw public attention, but were unsuccessful in seeing the cuts reversed. Now folks like Lisa are crippled in their ability to work, store their belongings safely, and even keep themselves clean.

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.

§the protest site, at sundown

by Zav Hershfield Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 4:04 PM



§police set up floodlight

by Zav Hershfield Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 4:04 PM



§Fred w his dog Corwyn

by Zav Hershfield Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 4:04 PM



§police ticket citizen journalist

by Zav Hershfield Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 4:04 PM



§cop stands over protesting sleeper

by Zav Hershfield Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 4:04 PM



§Max displays his citation

by Zav Hershfield Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 4:04 PM



Comments  (Hide Comments)

Repeatedly, explicitly, for years.”Where?”

“No where in California.” (I’d have to check the trial transcript(s) to get the exact quote(s), but that is very close to verbatim)

Judge Gallagher made that very clear. The Santa Cruz Appellate upheld that opinion, as did the California 6th Circuit Appellate. Repeatedly. This was all well known, well before the latest protest began, didn’t they tell y’all?!

Unless there are serious people planning a serious challenge via a higher court (the Federal 9th Circuit Appellate might disagree, given the oral arguments in Desertrain v. Los Angeles and the recent statement of interest from the DoJ), the judicial branch has been shown to be a dead end.

California bill SB-608 has been stalled in committee ( because it was DOA. The legislative branch, including the Federal Congress, appears to be a dead end.

Santa Cruz City Council is a dead end. It seems likely that the California AG and Governor are also a dead end.

Are we exhausted yet?

by Robert Norse

Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 9:37 PM

Moving and educational narrative account with photos that bring the people and situation more sharply into focus. Nice work, Zav.Though I missed some of the police action, after being arrested and jailed in the initial raid as I stood on the sidewalk, I was told that police came four times, giving out additional tickets.

Keith McHenry, who maintained a hot pot of coffee with his portable stove, got two citations, one as he unloaded equipment from his truck in the newly-declared “no parking corridor” around the City Hall Courtyard. The second he got while sleeping in one of the “no cars” spaces along with another activist.

Police refused to acknowledge the right of the public (including Freedom Sleepers) to have the legally required 24-hour access to City Council and associated committees and commissions under the Brown Act. The man I was arrested with–Kevin–was actually sitting next to the agendas.

Max Green, pictured above, goes to court tomorrow morning (8:30 AM, Dept. 1). Promised some legal help from a local public defender that has not materialized, Max will ask Judge Burdick for a second continuance to find a lawyer. Freedom Sleepers is still looking for an attorney as well. He was ticketed as he stood next to the agendas. Three of the agendas (City Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, Planning Commission, and Zoning Administrator) were for meetings to be held in the next two days. [Gov. Code § 54954.2(a)(1) requires 24-hour access for a 72-hour period.

A recent up date of the Public Meetings Act [ ] suggests that the state Attorney General’s office supports this position [78 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 327 (1995)].

This would indicate that not only I was falsely arrested and taken to jail, but so was Max Green and anyone else who got a citation for MC 13.04.011 (being in a “closed area”)–since it was improper to close the area where the agendas were posted. Since virtually every citation given since the first protest on July 4 was for MC 13.04.011, police and the city attorney have a lot of explaining to do.

Police and rangers, while generous with Sleeping Ban citations elsewhere in the city (as well as “stay-away” orders), have been driving protesters to the sidewalk with “closed area” citations. Perhaps cops are shy to showcase how abusive they are to those without shelter. Harassing, citing, and jailing homeless people for sleeping when all emergency shelter has been abandoned as a matter of policy–at least until the winter? Not good PR or sound financial policy considering the Department of Justice’s recent support of the homeless in Boise, Idaho. Bearcats, yes; basic human rights, no.

by Robert Norse

Wednesday Sep 2nd, 2015 9:56 PM

I was arrested after a Sgt. Rodreguez approached me on the sidewalk–the narrow “legal” area–and told me he’d seen me “in the park after closing hours”. He ignored my pointing out that the entire City Hall Courtyard was required by law to be open because of the agenda posting issue (as well as the fact that it’s the seat of government, the most important of all public forums).In his eagerness to ticket me, as I stood in the legal area on the sidewalk, Rodreguez ignored others still actually in the park, suggested he was especially interested in giving me a ticket (which would be my second). Somewhat disgusted at being targeted, I suggested he had no probable cause to cite any of us and asked to be taken to a magistrate for a hearing.

If you request this during the day when the courts are open, police are supposedly required to take you to a court in a timely manner prior to jail booking or requiring you to sign a ticket. However it was around midnight, so he took me to jail, where I got various stories that I’d be held for anywhere from 3 to 72 hours before being taken to court. Not wishing to miss my weekly meeting of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom), I subsequently gritted my teeth and signed a promise to appear in court for an October arraignment.

Police also continued to ignore the clear wording of MC 13.04.011c which states “No one shall enter or remain in any park, building, facility, grounds or park road (EXCEPT A SPECIFICALLY DESIGNATED AND CLEARLY MARKED PUBLIC ACCESS WAY THROUGH A PARK), during those hours that the place or facility is closed to the general public.” [EMPHASIS mine]

And, of course, most importantly, Police Chief Vogel, City Manager Martin Bernal, and Mayor Don Lane have offered no legal place for those outside to sleep between 11 PM and 8:30 AM at night. Hence such anti-homeless closures and bans are “cruel and unusual punishment”. We’ve heard nothing of our local ACLU–fast asleep as ever–hiking up their briefs and filing some lawsuits. Freedom Sleepers, however, intends to be back next Tuesday. Hope you’ll join us.

I’ll be playing some audio from the 8th SleepOut last Tuesday on Free Radio at 101.3 FM (streams at between 6 and 8 PM tomorrow night. It’ll be archived at .

So what about all the other protests—like the Boston Tea Party. The people who protested and got assaulted, arrested that brought you a free and independent America, the 40 hour week, the eight hour day, overtime pay, paid sick days, paid vacation days, the women’s right to vote, desegregation, civil rights for minority, justice against racism, etc. If you enjoy any of these benefits that were achieved by protests but still think the right to protest isn’t important or a right —than you are a hypocrite!Gotta Love those FALSE “Obstructing the Sidewalk” Tickets that SCPD gives out. They need to be held accountable for them. It only proves SCPD good officers will taint themselves by easily lying as ordered by superiors, break laws themselves on duty and violate people’s civil rights—and we are supposed to trust and respect them!