Support the Survival Sleepers on May 9th; Add a Dose of Reality to the Evening City Council Meeting; Time to Reclaim Public Spaces for the Community and Rights for the Unhoused

Yesterday former Councilmember Micah Posner posted an appeal for folks to come to a protest march and sleepout on Tuesday May 9th, beginning at the County Building at 3:30 PM, going to the main Post Office and its anti-homeless fence, and arriving at City Council at 5 PM in time for Oral Communications.   At 7 PM City Council will have an evening session billed as a consideration of a Homelessness Study.  Human rights supporters are encouraged to bring bags, blankets, and nightwear into City Council for a sleep-out later that night.

To read Posner’s thoughts, go to his article “Homelessness: Our Failure As A Society” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/05/05/18799186.php

My article below is a comment on his.

Focus on the Survival Sleeper Struggle

Missing from Micah’s analysis–good in many points–is any specific historical understanding of the role of City Council and its masters, the City Manager and his staff. Micah’s tendency to be deferential to the staff was unfortunately much in evidence when he was on City Council and can be very misleading to newcomers who want to understand the situation.

Much of the anti-homeless legislation, priorities, and attitudes in the last thirty years can be traced to an entrenched reactionary staff headed by City Manager Bernal, City Attorney Condotti (and before him Barisone), and other department heads who earn the big bucks. To excuse their behavior is to justify and perpetuate the abuses against poor people outside.

A PHONY REPORT
The Final Report of the Homelessness Coordinating Committee on the Council’s May 9th Evening Agenda is a bad joke. [http://scsire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/efyi3lsa1xpovuc2poq3qitk/457855405052017100625392.PDF ]

A better report is the Final Report of the Santa Cruz City Homeless Issues Task Force – at http://sccounty01.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/bds/Govstream/BDSvData/non_legacy/agendas/2000/20000502/PDF/020.pdf . It was ignored by the City Council and served as an activist “cooling off” tactic which effectively derailed protest. But there was sufficient pressure at that time for the report to actually recommend elimination of the entire Camping Ordinance as an emergency resolution many months before releasing the final report (p. 0064). For the City Council, the report served as protective cover and false reassurance. We have seen the pathetic results in the last 17 years.

Mayor Chase’s report is fluffed up with flowery and political correct blather about “ending homelessness” through “smart solutions”, more future plans, shifting responsibility to the County, and other false hopes. It is a complete facade that attempts to cover over and divert our attention from the actual behavior of city authorities towards unhoused folks to the glistening good intentions of two-faced politicos. To afford it any credibility and waste time “discussing” it is to play into the hands of those whose interest is in getting rid of the visible homeless, pandering to neighborhood bigots, and serving merchant interests. I.e. shifting the focus from what they’re doing to what they’re saying. Preserving the status quo.

It’s also a small clue, that the three Councilmembers who cooked up the report all voted last March to maintain the absurd and abusive 11 PM – 8:30 AM Sleeping Ban and have not changed their position.

WELL-MANNERED ACTIVISTS DON’T MAKE HERSTORY
As for the idea of “making nice” with the Council on Tuesday night (or thereafter).

Consider City Council’s recent history of almost continuous expansion of anti-homeless legislation, its contraction of support for shelter space (i.e. ignoring the conversion of the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center into a Homeless Prison/GrantGrabber), and its support of police mythology criminalizing homelessness and propagandizing the community with “public safety” nonsense and measures (closing the levee, intensifying Parks and Rec powers, winking at Bernal and Vogel’s attacks on activists).

It’s important that the community be made aware of this, not misled into believing that the Council is actually doing anything real or planning to do something real. The community has to be spurred to understand the legitimacy of outrage, and the need to ACT on that outrage. That is done by clearly defining the issues –clarifying who are the heroes and who are the villains. Whose actions show themselves to be the enemies of reform, and those who are waging the struggle.

BRING BAGGAGE AND FRIENDS
We need to take sleeping bags and blankets into City Hall and lay them down.

I was told that two trucks hauled away houseless folks property from City Hall two days ago and disposed of sleeping gear, blankets, and cloth as “trash”.

There can be no meaningful dialogue until there is the power of visible commitment. I have my doubts about pretty speeches and a one-night sleep out having much impact. In fact, they may fit quite well into the Council’s “see how democratic we are!” stance as they send cops and rangers in the next day to steal survival gear from those who remain after we liberals have gone home.

The “incremental” approach failed a year ago (in the token Sleeping Ban repeal vote). The notion that being “moderate” will attract the timid and tame the Neanderthals is simply wrong here. The Democrats have been proving that for years on the national scene. It’s a form of surrender before the struggle has begun.

SUPPORT THE SURVIVAL SLEEPERS
Meanwhile Survival Sleepers at City Hall are taking the real heat while we engage in media posturing. It is their nightly struggle, however unpretty and unpopular with the powerful that needs to be supported. As long as they choose to make it. That’s where our energy needs to be going as best we can.

Contact HUFF at 831-423-4833 to offer help to the survival sleepers. Suggestions are at https://www.indybay.org/uploads/2017/04/24/survivor_sleepers_sign-up_list.pdf .

A GOOD EXAMPLE
Black students up at UCSC have shown that direct action gets the goods.

And Reclaiming City Hall might be a very good start.

See you Tuesday night. With bag and bathrobe.

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