Friday May 8th, 2015 7:03 PM
Monterey Police have portrayed their enforcement of the city’s sit-lie ban as a friendly process where first-time violators are simply given a “warning” when found sitting or lying on sidewalks located downtown and in other commercial districts. On May 1, community members participating in a sit-in held on the sidewalk of Alvarado Street to protest the new law demonstrated the process isn’t quite that simple. More than a dozen individuals were confronted by police and forced to give them their name, date of birth, and home address as part of the verbal warning that they were in violation of the site-lie ordinance. For the past several months, community members have been organizing sit-ins to oppose the ban, which they say unfairly targets homeless people and travelers.
As the warnings were being issued, a few individuals joined the group and sat down right in front of police. Some did comply with the warning and stood up during the encounter, but the majority continued to sit. Three police officers were deployed to the scene; two issued the warnings while Sergeant Bob Guinvarch photographed several people and looked on.
Officer Roobash instructed individuals several times they shouldn’t be opposing the ordinance by openly defying it.
“You need to take this to the City Council and proper channels,” he said.
He asked if any of them had written the city to complain, and several demonstrators explained they had been contacting local officials since 2013 when the Monterey City Council initially discussed the matter and decided not to move forward with a sit-lie ban at that time. The council reversed course in 2014, however, and enacted a re-submitted proposal for a sit-lie ordinance.
There was some irony in Roobash, a police officer, instructing demonstrators to complain to the city. It was Monterey Chief of Police Phil Penko who pushed hard for a sit-lie ban, and he authored the 2013 and 2014 city staff reports that requested council members approve one without any alternatives presented.
Additionally, Monterey Police have dedicated an entire section of their website, which is titled “Homeless Issues,” to give business owners and the public instructions on how to report homeless people to the police.
“The following information is provided to assist business people and individual community members in properly addressing incidents and concerns regarding the homeless and related quality of life issues,” the Monterey Police website states.
A tab on the homeless issues page lists what it calls “related city code,” a list of ten ordinances that can be applied to street people. The new sit-lie ordinance is not on the list yet, but the other laws referenced include: “begging prohibited,” “camping prohibited outside of designated areas,” “obstructing sidewalk or street prohibited,” “11 p.m. curfew for minors,” “loitering in parking facilities prohibited,” and “camping in vehicles prohibited on public property from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.”
While receiving a warning for sitting at the May 1 demonstration, one person told police, “I invite you to give me a citation and I am not getting up until you do.” He later explained that he wanted to be issued a citation for sitting so that he could fight it in court and have the law “invalidated.”
Another demonstrator told police that he was a “homeless man” and he felt “extremely offended” that officers were attempting to prevent him from sitting on the sidewalk. He explained later how he uses alcohol to cope with life on the streets, which puts him at risk of violating the sit-lie law, and being targeted by police.
“I drink myself to sleep every night,” he said…..[story with more photos continues at https://www.indybay.org/
MEANWHILE IN SANTA CRUZ…
Saturday May 9th, 2015 10:02 PM
Later on Friday two HUFF activists supported the right to assemble at Elm and Cedar (near or across the street from the Cafe Pergolesi) which police and security guards have been regularly attacking with false “obstructing the sidewalk” threats and tickets. The activist weapon: prominently displayed video equipment. Apparently the presence of folks and recording does make a difference. Officer Winston, reported hung out for half an hour, but didn’t demand youth gathering there move on–as police and security guards have been doing with regularity. You have a “right to stand” on the sidewalk if you move out of the way for passersby when requested to do so.
Even if you’re young, homeless, or a traveler with a backpack.
Ironically, it is illegal to sit down on the same sidewalks (on Elm St. or along the Pergolesi side of Cedar St.) as well as anywhere in the Elm and Cedar City parking lot (even in your own vehicle, legally parked). As it has expanded the mini-police state for homeless people, the Santa Cruz “no sitting” law (MC 9.50.012) is much harsher than the Monterey law and has been on the books for more than two decades now (and reduced legal sitting space downtown to less than 1% of the sidewalks). Though free-standing commercial signs in front of businesses are blatantly illegal, no store owner or manager has, to my knowledge been fined or otherwise sanctioned.
One possible strategy for the bold: If you’re being harassed for sitting down on the sidewalk on or near Pacific Avenue–or see it happening to someone else–request the cop issue a citation. To the nearest business hosting an illegal free-standing sign on the sidewalk in violation of city law. There’s at least one on every block. Video or audio recording would help, but a witness is also okay.
If–as is most likely–the cop declines to issue the citation, note his name and badge number, the time, sign location, and name and address of the criminal shop. File a complaint with both the SCPD and the City Manager, and post it on indybay. Ask to speak to the cop’s superior if he refuses to be helpful. Document it as you go.