City Manager Stonewalls Sleeping Ban Protesters

 

Silence from the City Manager on the Eve of the 11th Freedom Sleepers Protest
by Robert Norse ( rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com )
Tuesday Sep 22nd, 2015 5:33 AM

On 9-22, I received a brief e-mail from City Manager Martin Bernal regarding the recent escalation of police force and First Alarm security guard violence against the Freedom Sleepers–a group protesting the City’s criminalization of homeless people. I present the following correspondence for public review so the community can decide what needs to be done next around this cruel repression of the most basic of human rights–the Right to Sleep at night without harassment. In a city which has essentially closed all accessible emergency shelter. Recent tallying of citations by police and rangers reveals nearly 1000 citations have been issued under MC 6.36 (Camping, Blanket, and Sleeping Bans) in the last three months. Nearly an equal number have been issued for MC 13.04.011 (“being in a closed area”–meaning being in a park, greenbelt, or at City Hall after dark). Fines for these offenses range from $157 to $198. The River St. Shelter refuses to voluntarily provide information to the courts documenting that their shelters were full on nights when people got citations.

Police intensified repression at our Tuesday 9-1 peaceful Freedom Sleepers protest demanding the Right to Sleep at night for those outside.

On 9-1 (and all subsequent Tuesdays) we were greeted with Security Guards, high-intensity klieg lights, a ‘no parking’ zone established around the protest area and harsher police behavior leading to unjustified arrests and First Alarm violence.

On 9-8 we sought to present a compromise proposal to Bernal regarding our willingness to leave City Hall if there were two weeks of good faith no-ticketing under the Sleeping Ban and other anti-camping ordinances, given the complete lack of emergency shelter.

We also tried to deal with vague staff accusations of activist misconduct undocumented by any specific complaints and contradicted by the reports of security guards and city employees. Several of us met with City Manager Martin (pronounced marTEEn) Bernal the morning before the 9-8 City Council meeting. Bernal dismissed our compromise proposal (which also included asking police to contact the River St. Shelter to determine if there were any beds before issuing a Sleeping Ban citation) but agreed to respond to certain other concerns. Police repression intensified with the false arrest of myself, Kevin Rothwell, and Lucero Luna. Our arrests were followed on 9-15 by that of Abbi Samuels for walking across the street with a thermos of coffee for the protest and that of Christina Barnes for talking back to a First Alarm Security Guard.

When Bernal had not responded as promised, I wrote to him.

FIRST LETTER FOLLOWING UP ON 9-8 MEETING BETWEEN FREEDOM SLEEPERS AND CITY MANAGER MARTIN BERNAL

From: rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com To: mbernal [at] cityofsantacruz.com
Subject: Following Up on 9-8 Meeting
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 09:49:50 -0700

Martin:

At the meeting you had with Rabbi Phil Posner, Steve Pleich, Steve Carter and me on 9-8, you agreed to follow up on assessing whether MC 13.04.011 allows us to be on the the City Hall grounds on access pathways according to the clear language of the statute. And whether the language of this statute was going to be respected in the future, unlike in past incidents where it has not been.

Many of us face citations for being on the City Hall grounds “after closing hours” which will shortly be going to court. I expect these citations to either be dismissed (and to advise us of this fact) or let us know you intend to proceed with prosecution–so that we can prepare the requisite subpoenas. I suggest the simplest approach is for you to direct police to acknowledge their error and proceed with a clean slate and a respect for the presence of peaceful protesters at City Hall.

You also agreed to determine whether we will be provided clear access to the City Council agendas–as we were not last night when there were at least 4 posted agendas of Commissions or Committees meeting in the next 48 hours.

You’ve also declined to provide any written evidence of complaints or concerns about past Freedom Sleeper sleep-out’s, though these undocumented “concerns’ have reportedly been used to intensify harassment of peaceful protesters. Is your position still unchanged on this issue?

Your First Alarm Security–present in unusually heavy force last night (5 of them)–recently assaulted an African-American woman, Christina Barnes, whose screams of pain lasted for five minutes. The First Alarm guards involved covered their badges and name plates and refused to give their superior’s name. What if anything will you be doing about this?

Please advise me at your earliest, since I’m meeting with HUFF members today at 11 AM. And it has been more than a week.

Thanks,

Robert Norse
HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom)831-423-4833

BERNAL’S REPLY AND SUBSEQUENT CORRESPONDENCE ARE AT https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/09/20/18777872.php?show_comments=1#18777950

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