Santa Cruz Freedom Sleepers Face Rough Treatment at Sleep-Out #10

2 Harassment Arrests, 2 “Standing in a Parking Spot” Cites at Freedom Sleepers Protest #10
by Robert Norse
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.

While a closed door City Council meeting excluding the public examined (for the third time in as many meetings) City Manager Martin Bernal’s “performance”, homeless folks and housed supporters gathered to set up tents in the courtyard area, share food, and prepare to bed down for the night. Bernal is the most highly paid and powerful city official, and has still refused to follow the law allowing access to city hall grounds at night as well as the right to sleep for homeless folks.PROVOCATIVE FIRST ALARM AND
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).

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.

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.

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.

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.