The Right to Disrespect Abusers in Power: A Reminder

I wrote this letter this morning after Vice-Mayor Cynthia Chase attempted to stop me from speaking with my back to the Council during Oral Communications yesterday afternoon. It wasn’t clear to me that she was taking action to arrest me, but seemed like she was threatening to do so. It has to emphasized again that a violation of Council rules, unless it disrupts the meeting, is not a disruption, however much a presiding officer wants to paint it as one. The interruption and threat to the speaker is the disruption. Showing disrespect is not a crime and often a duty.

At issue was the SCPD slaying of Sean Arlt Sunday before last ( ) and their refusal to hand over audio and video as well as the Council’s refusal to take any action.  Mayor Cynthia Mathews reduced time for each speaker to one minute instead of extending Oral Communications time.   I requested Councilmember Micah Posner by phone before hand to move to extend the time, but he remained silent when Mathews asked if any Councilmembers had objection to her “one minutes and then shut up” ruling.

Cynthia Chase, Vice-Mayor
309 Center St.
Santa Cruz, CA


Council’s failure to either agenda-ize or allow at least a three minutes per speaker Oral Communications time last night (and a 5 minute period for groups as has been traditional) provoked a lot of justified anger in the community.

Council has failed to recognize, much less reign in a long out-of-control police department with a lethal use of force policy, a perpetual lack of transparency, and a history of class profiling. This means many have lost their faith that the Council will provide even the semblance of a discussion, much less action, on these issues facing communities confronting abusive behavior by police departments across the country.

I think other speakers (and common sense) has made it clear. Leaving everything to the same department (and its D.A. friends) who OKs 4 armed and armored police shooting a guy “brandishing” a rake 4 times in 20 seconds appears like a corrupt rubberstamping of an out-of-control police department.

Refusing to demand the department show its video/audio to the community seems further evidence of this. And the final straw, of course, is failing to protect the community by requiring Vogel either discipline his officers or be fired.

I’m writing you regarding your attempt to persuade me to face the Council when speaking. I actually wasn’t aware it was you speaking (though I should have been), incidentally. My comments were not intended to be personally insulting, but to attempt to finish my (1 minute only!) public testimony without interruption.

Without intention to insult you, I’d add that this wouldn’t have made any difference. As I’ve told the Council in the past, this is my right and the right of any member of the public which the Council is required to respect (though it seldom does). As the 9th Circuit Court has ruled in an early City Council attempt to arrest me and later avoid responsibility for a civil rights violation–violating a Mayor or a Council’s “rule of procedure” is not a disruption. On the other hand, repeatedly interrupting a speaker at the microphone during Oral Communications so as to materially interfere with their right to speak is.

It was those who repeatedly interrupted my attempt to speak that were creating the disruption. A disruption is something that materially impedes the progress of the meeting. I would go so far to say as shout from the audience while viewed as “disrespectful” are a part of the democratic process–which is often not polite and friendly.

I thought this whole matter was made clear to the Council in the lawsuit that cost the City $200,000 in the mock-Nazi salute case of 2002–which you may be familiar with. Mayors Lane and Mathews have thought better of trying to stifle an obviously First Amendment-protected activity at the microphone during a public comment period.

This is likely to happen again, depending on the behavior of the Council. It’s up to the speaker at the mike, not to the Council or the Council’s presiding officer, how a person makes their commentary. If they choose too be disrespectful, that’s something the no member of the Council has any business moving to repress with force or threats of force.

I’ve had little contact with you other than the brief friendly chat we had when I interviewed you last month outside City Council for Free Radio Santa Cruz. I don’t have much faith in your interest in restoring basic rights to the broader community or the homeless community–based on your track record. But I found you amiable and approachable.

Hence I’m writing to you to explain that my back-to-the-Council presentation was not intended as a personal insult to you. My raised voice was intended to make what I was saying audible because, indeed, as you pointed out, I was turned away from the microphone.

I was addressing my views to the community because the Council clearly intended to do nothing about the Arlt slaying other than leave it in the hands of the agencies who committed what appears to be a rather lethal crime. I encourage you not to take gestures of disrespect to the Council personally, but to regard them as a necessary (if unpleasant for you) part of the cost of being a public official facing an justifiably outraged citizenry.

I would be happy to discuss this matter more fully with you if you wish. I think it’s important for you to understand some of the history here as you are likely to be the next Mayor.

I can appreciate your wanting me to behave in a certain fashion and your asking me to do so. Repeatedly interrupting me so as to interfere with my speaking time, however, is another matter. Obviously, even more seriously, I cannot and will not accept the use of armed force to attempt to suppress free speech at the public microphone during public comment period. Please assure me that you will not do this again and will intervene on behalf of speakers there if other members of the Council attempt to do so.

Feel free to call me if you wish to discuss these matters more fully.


Unexpected Victory at Coastal Commission Overturning Nighttime RV Ban

The Coastal Commission today found by an 11-1 vote that the City’s midnight to 5 PM RV ban involved a “substantial issue” and so would require a new hearing in the months to come. Unimpressed with Assistant City Manager Scott Collins’s flimsy if not false claims that Santa Cruz provides RV alternatives, is dealing with an RV “crime crisis”, and is only duplicating what other cities have done.FLYER DISTRIBUTED TO THE COMMISSION AT THE HEARING

notes_for_a_coastal_commission_speech__final_flyer.pdf_600_.jpgDownload PDF


City councilfolks and staffers can bullshit themselves, but it’s harder to bullshit the Coastal Commission. In Santa Cruz, staff word is usually holy writ, so they can spin whatever yarns they want with challenge only from the occasional critic that the Council ignores. The Coastal Commission staff initially advised the Santa Cruz Council staff that last year’s proposed 8 PM to 8 AM RV ban would be too sweeping to pass muster once I’d filed an appeal at the recommendation of Councilmember Posner. The Coastal Commission staff, after months of consulting with the Scott Collins City Council staff, agreed to a “compromise” midnight to 5 AM ban, swallowing whole Collins’ specious arguments. The CC staff then recommended upholding the “RV’s Get Out!” law and denying my appeal.

Though they had plenty of time to research, both staffs failed to include the particulars. For instance, the (lack of) availability of RV parking in the City. Or the miniscule number of churches that actually allow an RV to park (where they have to compete with vehicles). In essence, Collins’ failed to come up with specific parking alternatives for unhoused people using RV’s as housing.

He had no specific statistics clarifying what “crimes” required passing such a Draconian city-wide ban. But claimed he had. A few simple questions from the Commission itself exposed the how unsubstantiated these claims were.

We brought up these issues repeatedly before City Council but were ostentatiously ignored. Arrogant politicians in an echo chamber suddenly run up against outside observers who, whatever their political preferences, have to consider real facts. Like denying coastal access to a whole class of people to please NIMBY neighborhoods.

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Vanish the Vendors Law, RV Night Ban, Big Police Budget & Freedom SleepOut #46 (whew!)


Mathews Council Crushes Handicraft Vendors; Freedom SleepOut #46 Soldiers On
by Robert Norse   Tuesday May 24th, 2016 12:58 PM
Last chance to make a cry of outrage at the City Council’s law to outlaw all handicraft vending in the downtown and wharf-beachfront areas. Follow-up by saying no to a cop-heavy budget (social services take up less than 3% of the budget compared to police & rangers (42%). Finally the Food-Not-Bombs supported Freedom Sleepers will resume their principled civil disobedience on the sidewalk and city hall courtyard that night for the 46th week.
On the docket shortly after 2:20 p.m., Mathews’ City Council will likely rubberstamp the staff’s law reducing performance, vending, and “free speech” spaces by half. The new law will also seriously stiffen the “Move Along Every Hour” law. It will require anyone with a table or display device (anything “capable of holding tangible things”) to move along every 61 minutes. No warning will be required. Fines for overstaying your time or being outside the “exempt” areas (the blue bracketed areas on the sidewalk) will be $250 to $300 when court fees are added.The new Commercial Vending ban bars selling or displaying for donation any articles like clothing, scarves, crystals, rocks, geodes, and many other articles. This true whether anywhere on Pacific Avenue or the adjoining streets, whether inside or outside the Blue Boxes. Banned performances also may include face-painting, creating visual art, “visual art produced with limited variation”, handicrafts such as weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, and beading.The “clear” standard is whether an item though it has an “expressive purpose”, it is “deemed to have more than nominal utility apart from its communication, if it has a common and dominant non-expressive purpose.

Permitted performers such as singers, dancers, jugglers, puppeteers, magicians, actors, will be allowed to put a donation-seeking device directly on the sidewalk with their table, instruments, and possessions entirely contained within the Blue Boxes.

A map of the Blue Boxes showed only 17 between Plaza Lane and Soquel Avenue. Only two spaces are available on the Del Mar Theater block in spite of the wide sidewalks. Much sidewalk space is taken up with privatized outdoor areas next to sidewalk cafes, unpermitted merchant A-frame advertising signs (technically illegal) and other city equipment. The expansive vacant space remaining is banned for “display device” use.

Defeated on May 10th at the first reading was a motion to allow “a few” spaces against any buildings for performers as repeatedly requested. Playing against the sides of building used to be regular practice prior to 2002 under the Voluntary Street Performers Guidelines.

There is no provision for public input or regular public hearing on the adequacy of these spaces or concerns about inappropriate police or host enforcement. Apparently these issues are left in the merchant-friendly hands of staffers like Redevelopment Agency leftover Julie Hende and Assistant City Manager Scott Collins. Both have a history of creating laws or projects that reduce public space at the behest of nearby merchants.

Vendors under the leadership of Shindig, a jewelry vendor, have begun signing up to oppose and fight back against the laws. HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) joined Shindig on Sunday to circulate petitions opposing the destruction of street culture. Many of these laws originate with a 1994 deal between merchants and a “progressive” City Council to clear away homeless-looking people from the sidewalk by instituting ever-expanding zones where it’s been forbidden to sit, table, peacefully spare change, perform, or vend.

Agenda item #13 returns Councilmember Richelle Niroyan’s toxic attack on families living in their vehicles with a nighttime ban on RV parking anywhere in the City unless you’re a resident with a permit.

Though the federal government accepts homeless people as “residents” in allowing them to vote at the spot they currently frequent or try to find rest at, Santa Cruz will now ban homeless vehicle dwellers from applying for “resident” permits, no matter how long they’ve lived in town.

Niroyan’s latest attack on the poor on behalf of West Side wealthier folks who are concerned that RV’s block their view or “make them nervous” will have to meet a Coastal Commission review–which now seems more likely according to letters in the agenda packet.

The City’s 2017 Budget will be up for discussion beginning at 7 PM tonight all day tomorrow beginning at 9 AM. Social services (what little there is) will be up for discussion tonight with local agencies squabbling for tiny pieces of the ever-diminishing pie. Tomorrow morning Parks and Recreation (slated to take over First Alarm enforcement on Pacific Avenue and notorious for heavy ticketing and stay-away harassment in the parks at night) will be up for budget discussion at 9:10 AM. The police budget follows at 10:10 AM.

Strangely missing from the budget presentation on-line but occupying more than half of it in years past is the policing budget for the SCPD and Parks & Recreation. Nor is there any indication of the total budget with a pie chart indicating which departments get how much. In fact, nowhere in the budget agenda attachment that I’ve found is there any indication of what the total budget is for this year. City Administrator Bren Lehr was unable to find these stats in the budget, but after tracking the matter to the Finance Department, I found that this year’s budget is $90 million or so. And 42% of it goes to cops and rangers.

Mayor Mathews has declined to clarify when public comment will be allowed. I’ve sent her an e-mail asking her to correct this problem, but so far she hasn’t responded.

To address the real problems in the police departments generally, I suggest taking a long hard look at Black Lives Matters’ proposed reforms at . My suggestions for meaningful police reorganization are at

The Social Service component of the budget is less than $2 million.

For the 46th night, unhoused folks and their supporters will gather for soup (thanks to India Joze), coffee, and company through the night. Last week there were no tickets issued in spite of harassment driving poor people from the bricks and City Hall courtyard onto the sidewalk, where none have been prosecuted for sleeping.

Robert Norse (the author of this piece) is still facing charges for MC 13.04.011–being in a park after dark. This charge was widely used against Freedom Sleepers last summer and fall. I went to court on Friday and had my demurrer dismissed with a trial set for 10 AM on June 24. Motions hearing will be 10 AM June 17th in Dept. 1.

Though an original Freedom Sleeper, I am now simply writing and reporting. Hats off to activists Abbi Samuels, Zav Hershfield, and others who are holding down the protest each Tuesday. Support them in any way you can or propose new actions to end the Sleeping Ban!

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Calling for Santa Cruz to Declare a Sidewalk Safe Sleeping Zone at Freedom Sleep Out #14 Tuesday 10-13

Title: Safe Sleeping Zone at Freedom SleepOut #14? Why not make it official!
START DATE: Tuesday October 13
TIME: 3:00 PM – 3:00 AM
Location Details:
809 Center St.–In and Around City Hall During and After the Tuesday City Council Meeting

The actual time will be Tuesday afternoon, evening, and Wednesday morning–with coffee to be available in the morning.

Event Type: Protest
Contact Name Keith McHenry (posting by Norse)
Email Address keith [at]
Phone Number 575-770-3377
For more than 3 months, Freedom Sleepers have held weekly food-sharing and sleeper protection to mobilize the community to end the City’s institutional hate crime of criminalizing homeless people if they fall asleep at night or seek to protect themselves with camping gear.

In a City with 1000-2000 homeless (and a County with far more), the Comstock-Mathews Santa Cruz City Council majority has declined to reopen closed shelter space and kept sleeping for the poor at night a crime–in vehicles or outside.

Repression against protesters and city-wide citations and stay-away orders against homeless sleepers continues in spite of Department of Justice statements that such behavior is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment (Bell v. Boise Statement of Interest).

The threat of HUD funding cut off for cities that don’t decriminalize homelessness may have some impact, but even liberal Councilmembers have remained silent instead of inspiring support to end Santa Cruz’s Legacy of Shame.


The 14th Weekly Freedom Sleep-Out will invite the community and City Council to declare the sidewalks around and near City Hall “Safe Sleeping Zones”.

Perhaps to avoid a blatant record of repression around the specific MC 6.36 which criminalizes homeless survival sleeping at night, police have notably given out no citations for camping or sleeping at the protest.

They have ticketed for “being in a park after closing hours’, ‘jaywalking’, “failure to sign a ticket”, and other such harassment “crimes”. But almost without exception folks sleeping on the sidewalk have not been cited.

This has led Freedom Sleepers to invite the Community and City Council to officially declare the sidewalks around City Hall a “Safe (from Citations) Sleeping Area”–since no such area currently exists for hundreds and hundreds of people.

We invite housed (and unhoused) folks to join us Tuesday night in solidarity, to witness, and to document the proposed Safe Sleeping Zone.

City Council’s afternoon agenda impacting folks outside includes Preparation for the Winter Storm Event–El Nino (Item #11); Banning RV’s From Parking in Any Spots the City Engineer Cares to Designate (#12), & Endorsing Rental Profiteering in the Summer (#13).

Around 5 PM those who oppose discrimination against the houseless outside are invited to bring sleeping bags and signs and speak about the issue during the Oral Communications session.

During the evening session,the City’s Parks Master Plan Study Session is up. It includes reference to “illegal” activities (i.e. the visible presence of poor people at night, homeless gathering day or night, smoking, drinking, yelling) See “Safety and Illegal Activities” at (p. 4) .

Here the apprehensions and prejudices of middle-class NIMBY’s are being raised as a new “public safety” standard, as done by the hand-picked Citizens Public Safety Task Force of 2013. There Deputy-Chief Steve Clark portrayed citations given to homeless people for sleeping, being in a park after dark, and smoking as constituting a “crime wave”.

Dannettee Shoemaker, Parks and Recreation boss, used similar scare tactics to push through the first-in-the-state No-Court-Necessary Stay-Away laws in 2013 and 2014, which ban poor people from the parks without court appeal, trial, or even formal charge. These unprecedented powers are proposed to remain permanent.

Building on the Needlemania hysteria of those years, the report validates the Hyper-Drug Warrior mindset that prompted City Council to destroy the City’s Needle Exchange program behind closed doors in 2013–providing real estate agents and property owners dramatic pretexts to clear away the poor and gentrify the area.

Recent fencing and locks at Grant Avenue Park (not to mention the Homeless Lack of Services Center itself) as “security measures” are an ominous sign of the growing class war being waged against those outside. Increased appropriations for First Alarm and P&R patrols funds and fuels the advancing police state. More policing means more citations justifies a bigger threat justifies more appropriations…and so on.

There is no reference to using any of the Pogonip as vitally needed campground area for those outside.

While there is no specific proposal, the staff report suggests (p. 4.) that one of the “community concerns” which it apparently takes seriously is to “limit food giveaways”. Since Parks and Recreation has city-wide authority as far as the City manager may designate not just in parks, this may mean renewed attacks on Food not Bombs-style operations.

Last week, police gave out no citations by my reckoning (though there were fewer sleepers), came only once, and made no arrests.

On Saturday, Freedom Sleepers held a dusk Portapotty Parade through the downtown lasting half an hour. It drew active supporters and encouragement from the evening crowds (as well as the occasional heckle). Cries of “Stop arresting the homeless! Sleep is not a crime” were met with smiles, thumbs up, and an occasional new marcher.

At a time to be announced–a showing of the Exodus from the Jungle film documenting the resistance of San Jose urban poor (i.e. unhoused) to the displacement of the largest encampment in the country last fall….along with a KNOW YOUR RIGHTS training for those seeking legal tips to beat back the Sleeping Ban.


Editorial Note: The views expressed here are mine and in my view likely shared by many of the Freedom Sleepers. It is not an official statement however.

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BearCat Buffoonery Bumbles On: Santa Cruz Police Policies & Planned Protests

Latest Update to the SCPD Policy Manual including Use Policy on the Bearcat
by Robert Norse (and the SCPD) ( rnorse3 [at] )
Friday Feb 27th, 2015 10:38 PM

After several requests and considerable delay, assistant City Attorney Reed Gallogly finally coughed up the recent additions to the SCPD Policy Manual. I previously posted the full manual as of 2011 at and the new one as of November 2014 is posted below as well as a January 2015 addition, included the day after the City Council meeting where Mayor Lane gave special time to Police Chief Vogel to read his policy.

An updated list of SCPD Officer names and numbers as of November 2013 can be found at .

Chief Vogel insisted at the January 13th Council meeting that he would not make this policy statement public It was, of course, available on video and audio–especially for those who (“illegally”) recorded it as I and John Malkin did.

Vogel read off his description of the policy at the end of the Oral Communications period pmn 1-13 in the special time allowed by Mayor Lane apparently designed to deflect and calm the concerns of the largely anti-BearCat crowd that tried to speak. Vogel’s apparently created this “policy” without any input from critics or the community generally. It’s been included in the SCPD Policy Manual by Vogel’s fiat. With no dissent so far from anyone on the Council.

Lane, however, did not allow the public to conclude its input nor invite any critics to express their concerns at that meeting.

Nor did he direct Vogel to respond to questions about the supposed “deadline” date which he and Deputy Chief Clark falsely claimed required accepting the Bearcat before the end of 2014. Members of the audience who shouted out these questions were hushed into silence. Decorum, after all, must be preserved.

Instead of marching to the police station, sitting in at the City Manager’s office, or taking other forceful direct action, SCRAM (Santa Cruz Resistance Against Militarization) deferred any protests, originally scheduled for the February 24th meeting. Food Not Bombs did not provide food at the event–which had previously been scheduled. The purpose of ducking the meeting seemed to be to avoid offending middle class police patrons who were attending a round of SCPD glorification with yet another memorial to former cops Baker and Butler. These two are well-known in the homeless community for their abusive behavior towards the poor.

Meanwhile the struggle for the cash being collecting using the Butler and Baker deaths as fund-raisers is chronicled in the rapidly-shrinking Sentinel at .

There is however, I’m told, a march against police brutality being scheduled by UCSC students on Wednesday afternoon from the Quarry to the SCPD station against police violence as oart ofthe 96 Hours of Action around tuition hikes and such.

HUFF continues to urge a broader attack on local police abuse, as described at …and … . Sending back the BearCat and refusing License Recognition software as well as establishing an NDAA-free zone in Santa Cruz seem to sell more tickets than stopping the SCPD attacks on poor and minority people, demanding transparency from the SCPD, and dislodging the SCPD from its privileged position in the political process.

For a reminder that I’m not the only one concerned about these issues, see “Police Injury of Homeless Man Still Unresolved” at and “City Bicycle Program Dysfunction Continues” at –stories suppressed by the Good Times but posted by writer Steve Schnaar. Schnaar has also written “Santa Cruz Police Department: Political Smears, Unfair Profiling, and Harassment” at .

For some reason I was unable to download the individual page describing the BearCat Policy in the updates I received, so I’ve copied it below:

706.2.7 BearCat Rescue Vehicle

The BearCat rescue vehicle is specialized equipment designed for specific purposes. The vehicle is not intended to be used for routine patrol or day-to-day operations. Only properly trained and certified personnel may operate the BearCat rescue vehicle.

The Santa Cruz Police Department is obligated to make the BearCat rescue vehicle available to other law enforcement agencies upon request. Any request ofr use of the BearCat rescue vehicle requires review and approval from a police manager. In the event the request is approved, the Santa Cruz Police Department will provide our own personnel to safely operate and deploy the vehicle.

Use of the BearCat rescue vehicle is restricted to those situations where the utility and capability of the vehicle are necessary and when the capabilities of other department vehicles are insufficient for those situations as determined by the chief of police or department designee. This includes, but is not limited to public safety emergencies, where life threatening conditions exist, the extraction of persons at risk, the need to insert police, fire, and emergency medical services into a dangerous environment, ballistic or projectile protection, high-risk vehicle stops, high-risk warrant service, active shooters, unsecured crime scenes.

This policy recognizes that it is not possible to catalog or anticipate all situations where the BearCat rescue vehicles capabilities are necessary and/or appropriate. This policy acknowledges that it is not the intent that the BearCat rescue vehicle be used in an offense manner where no threat to the public or first responder personnel exists. such situations would include, but are not limited to parades and peaceful demonstrations where violence is not threatened towards the public, property, or law enforcement personnel.

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HUFF does another Wednesday at Sub Rosa 11 AM 703 Pacific

HUFF reappears a its usual spot as the Stay-Away Orders begin….Review of the sorry City Council meeting;  …Small Claims Demands Reach Council…Homelessness Marathon to Do It’s Annual Flurry from Florida Next Wednesday…and Recycling Rabbledybabble!   Come, learn, and drink lots of coffee.

Yo, HUFFsters!   Sub Rosa won’t be open, so we’ll be moving to the Bagelry a block or two away (Cedar just off of Laurel).  See ya there!    11 AM this morning.

Upcoming Events and Last HUFF Meeting Minutes

HUFFsters:  If you’ve looked over the e-mails of the last week, let me know what you think.  I’m wondering what we should focus on as an action this week.    HUFF will, of course, be huddling Wednesday 2-4 at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific.  Coffee and caffeinated tongues will flow freely!

Recent proposals for action have included a HOMELESS CLEANUP (to buff up the homeless image against anti-homeless propaganda), a PERFORMANCE PEN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE PROTEST (outside the bracketed color zones),

I favor prep for an action around STAY-AWAY’S (perhaps a protest to the staff or Terrazas’s Public Safety Committee), a follow-up on DISABLED  DISPENSATIONS on Pacific Ave. and elsewhere, and/or  SMALL CLAIMS COURT publicizing around the Sleeping Ban.

Other prospects are a STRIKE 4 AT THE SCPD (demanding the release of Azua’s citations, so we can check racial categories),  FINAL HOUSING FOR VETS (Becky’s proposal to unite anti-war, pro-vet, and pro-dignity-for-homeless sentiment by demanding a more local vet cemetary), SIMPLE HOUSING (some follow-up on Elisse/Raven’s proposal of last fall), VIDEO DEFENSE FOR THE HOMELESS (against violence and police harassment), VOLUNTEER OUTREACH (Major focus on getting more volunteers)… MAPPING THE MOSQUITOS I could go on and on.
If someone wants to volunteer to spearhead this (Pat has been sick), we could add Cafe HUFF to any of these.

Food Not Bombs continues to need volunteers–at its Saturday and Sunday meals 4-6 PM near the Main Post Office.  HUFF fliers are there–and we need activists to sign up people for SMALL CLAIMS COURT there.  As well as at the Monday Red  Church meal 6-7 PM at Cedar and Lincoln.  Sin Barras (the anti-prison group):  Check their facebook page at or .

On the more “appeal to the conventional” side….A City Council meeting is coming up Tuesday 2-9.  Phil Posner has a “Camp of Last Resort” forum 7 PM at Louden Nelson on Wednesday 2-4.   The BEARCAT public forum (not at City Council but at Louden Nellson) is coming up 2-10 7 PM–I think.  On 2-5, Brent Adams’ Warming Center Project is holding a beer benefit Thursday at 402 Ingalis St. 11:30 AM – 10 PM;

I’m also including HUFF notes from the last meeting below.  These are fragmentary and rough.
11:20 a.m.  Sherry, Gail, Jacks, Cal, Kip,  Kevin…(Janice, Becky, David, Gail, James-in-the Rain and Elisse joined later—not everyone was there all the time)…   Kip has a few ideas:KIP’S IDEAS ON THE AGENDA:  PERFORMANCE PENS (at top of  the Agenda)…HOMELESS CLEAN SWEEP…to  counter what  they’ll counter… Kevin–they let him  sleep i the park, and a park  worker said this good morning…Harvey West Park…he  was alone…VAN CAMPING…Sherry got notice from Rainbow Gathering Hawaii–kitchen person arrested and given 24 hours…because they do’t have a permit and gathering…annual state…    Cal wanted to know gender pronouns:    U.S. Foresty 800-832-1355.. Say you disagree with forestry service,  under constitution right to publicly assemble.  Sunday night about 8 outside Grafix on Pacificc Ave…boy and a girll and non-lifethreatening inuries, both shot…hand and shoulder–bartender at Poet  and Patriot…Brent and Tampico heard pop pop…

Kip  notes he sees vans and paddywagon mornings…   Jacks seems them on Westcliffe now where not seen …harassing street performers waiting for their hour to be up…security guards and cops, Kip notes.  Trying to get people to  understand…. Cal notes Peaceful Warrriors Seminar in Berkelley on the 7th…for Direct Action….  Cal  did a march fromFruitville to Oakland—MLK’s speech protesting violence–Oscar Grant… FNB, HNJ, Housekeys not Handcuffs…all peace…Chris arrives.

Cal  remembers police arassment:  friend hanging out on a beach–druk friend arrested for prowling—2 weeks ago…

PERFORMANCE PENS:  How to properly demonstrate against the ordinance…need numbers–timing is important…shows on the 8th and the 15th who will be showing up to town….Wants to see the community too come out and exercise their right to ask for things…any request for anything…a Hug is considered aggressive panhandling–statement…sign cannot have a question regarding a request.

David Silva has arrived. with Tickets book….on particular days collectively outside the box–play music, requesting things that are technically illegal  to request, the more ludicrous these requests the better…  If  with more than one person unless you’re playing music….fliers would be good…police likely to leave it alone and enforce after the crowd hasdied down..  Not sure oof how to engage with the commuity…   Instruments being confiscated…need the media…

Elisse shows up…  with goodies…Spang Outside the Box  Protest…  FNB 4  PM on Saturday meeting…

Homeless Clean Sweep…Kip notes something to counter anti-homeless:  document that nothing is changed by Stay-Away orders…mess is there,  and cleaning it up…  Hard to present information so that it’s very clear to the public…  Follow-up to City Council…

Becky arrives..  Follow someone around with a camera….Brent said bathroom was totally clean…  Getting together with environmenalists..

Elisse: 70%  of the homeless born here or grown up here–removed from their homes by economic pressures.   1000 people: simple housing….for  folks with debt–funded by …  Becky says HUFF position is anyone moved around be given a motel voucher..

I move we do the Small Claims Court..   Becky notes show the dollar and cents stuff to compare the cost…  David and Becky stopping by FNB after 5 PM…can do a 15  minute at 5:15  p.m.    Janice    Resolution to support Small Claims Court stuff passes…

Ellisse asked why River St. Shelter people did gates etc.–so many drugs sold on the property–they couldn’t do anything about that… Janice notes they never tried to sell drugs to her…  Janice–got to stop making people its permanent clients.  I propose tabling and polling out there.   Cal might be interested;  Elisse  will think about it.    Cal  has no  car.

12:40 p.m.  Van Camping:  Kip  friend sleeps in her car fed up with it….  Becky says insist on a voucher if harassed… Janice: why not a public parking lot where you don’t have to move around…designated…have it in Paso Robles–public parking lots…in Los Angeles County…

Becky:  HUfF position is calling for a nighttime carpark and  campground.

Janice’s Concern:  JD Miini Storage and 41st Ave….with them quite a few years…Loitering banned, only allowed there for 20 minutes, no-smoking areas (she lit incense), pets in vehicle,  hallway and unit doors must be open at all times…Janice harassed   Only she got that letter… was there  in a golf cart…she was looking at her fluids, considered “working on her van…”  new management…Becky: they can’t put in new conditions……got letter last Saturday…..Becky and Janice may get together if Janice looks over lease with specifics.

MHCAN Concerns–Sherry: positive people need ot be there so that outside problems in the neighborhood don’t happen…1051 Cayuga.  across the street from the Fire Station on    New restrictive proposals: …They’ll  cut one of her days off and close off where they  …people who give her occasional use permit–  they were going to have a Board meeting on Monday  but woman was sick….   Janice back 3 months and is still on the waiting list.  Elisse wants to collect data on how  many beds .

Janice 61-year old woman having problems with mechanics..

Elisse will meet with Micah on Friday–wants to start to do some organizing heself–get  his opinion…wants to build a group for homeless and poor–working to organize themselves and start dialogues with people whoa re housed and willing… Continue reading

Audio Idiocy and Bearcat B.S. Update from Santa Cruz


NORSE’S NOTES:  Indybay reporter Alex Darocy published an informative and well-illustrated account of the Santa Cruz City Council meeting of January 27th where, for a third time activists gathered to protest the Council’s surrender to SCPD pressure.  On 12-9 Council voted–in spite of overwhelming opposition–to get a turretless tank for Santa Cruz, or–in the words of manufacturer Lemco, a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.  Alex’s  story “Activists Say Santa Cruz Police Lied to Secure Armored Vehicle Purchase” is at .

I include here a few notes on what happened to me there regarding the right to record as well as the search for my records. I record for these written reports as well as my twice-weekly Free Radio Santa Cruz show Bathrobespierre’s Broadsides at 101.3 FM and Thursdays 6-8 PST and Sundays 9:30 AM to 1 PM.   More info there, and in archived shows at .

Nervous Norse in the Front Row

by Robert Norse

Friday Jan 30th, 2015 1:54 PM

Thanks to all the folks who showed up at the rally and Oral Communications session.

City Council audio equipment was, as usual, spotty. Accordingly I sat up front near but not technically “attending” my trusty tape recorder (because not within arms length). I advised Sgt. Bush, the sergeant at arms, that the uncertain nature of the equipment meant I’d be making my own recording, not dependent on the city’s speaker system and decision when to keep it on and when to turn it off.

In the past, Bush has arrested me for leaving a tape recorder there and replacing it when he removed it. That “disrupting a meeting” charge, filed by Mayor Robinson, was never filed by the D.A. Last fall I filed a claim for damages against the City for false arrest, which was denied. I now have until April 1 to take Robinson personally to Small Claims Court, which I’m hoping to do.

For many meetings following, Bush would confiscate my recorders, requiring me to squat next to the tape recorder while it was on in order to comply with Robinson’s (and now Lane’s) “decorum” rules. Lane made squatting next the tape recorder a violation of the new “decorum” rules, so on January 27th I sat in the first row–not quite “attending” the machine, but near enough to it to grab it if some officious cop should attempt to grab it.

Which is what Bush several times tried to do. Bush informed me he’d be removing my recorder if I left it there. I did so anyway, and when he moved to take it, I intercepted it and retrieved it. When he resumed his sentry position by the side door, I replaced the machine. He again moved to take it. I again intercepted. This time he advised me that he’d take it from me. I told him that to do so he’d have to arrest me.

For the rest of the meeting, I nervously had to keep one eye on Bush and one eye on the tape recorder. After two assaults on the helpless machine, Bush took no further action Still, I was unable to make notes, move about the room, or speak with others, cause I felt I had to be ready to spring up and seize the machine before it could be confiscated–if that were tried again. I was able to hold up a sign visible on the TV (“Tanks, No Thanks!”) along with many others in the audience.

Still I must admit that having to guard my tape recorder from a cop on pain of exclusion from the meeting and arrest for “disruption” (as provided for under Lane’s new decorum rules– See “Council Armors Up” at specifically, ).

The same day I filed this Public Records Act request with the City:

From: rnorse3 [at]
To: npatino [at]
CC: kvogel [at]; citycouncil [at]
Subject: Public Records Act: re SCPD Contracts with Other Agencies
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:15:09 -0800

Nydia: Please make available for viewing or (preferably) in e-form (as usual) all contracts the SCPD has made with any other agencies since 2010 that involve the delivery or furnishing of goods, services, or money.

Thanks, Robert

The point was to determine whether the SCPD has been getting equipment and money indirectly from federal war enthusaists like Homeland Security, but doing so through third party agencies, It apparently did this in the case of the Bearcat through the City and County of San Francisco (see “Public Records Released by the SPCD on the Bearcat” at; specifically: ).

I encourage Bearcat opponents and those concerned with militarization and SCPD abuse more generally to parse the documents–both those already posted and those which I may obtain in the coming days. They’re supposed to respond by February 6th or thereabouts, if I understand the 10-day rule correctly.

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Rush HUFF Reminder: Still meeting to pick up the pieces 11 AM Sub Rosa Today

Sorry this message didn’t get out sooner, but it’s a rare Wednesday morning that HUFF won’t be pulling up a chair to chatter and chow down with whatever coffee and crunchables are available.   Main item is what to do around the galloping criminalization of homeless folks here as evidenced by last night’s Council Shameful Spectacle.  Specifics:  Fightback Training, Latest Public Records Act Info (Officer Bill Azua’s Stats), Bearcat B.S., and more…

Trying to Reason With Mayor Don Lane on His Restrict-the-Media Rules


Mayor Refuses to Postpone Repression with Quick and Dirty Decorum Rule Changes
by Robert Norse
Tuesday Jan 13th, 2015 12:59 PM

The “decorum rule” changes proposed at City Council today are part of a long ongoing process of marginalizing, discouraging, and discrediting actiivsts. When the community got righteously angry at the SCPD last-minute hurry-through of its armored personnel “rescue” vehicle and some members turned their back on the Council (quite legally and legitimately), Mayor Lane went into crisis mode. As a strong media critic of his and his Council around their homeless abuses, I’ve been punished for the last year with an absurd “unattended recording device” rule which required me to sit next to my machine or risk having it confiscated. Lane needs to abolish this rule and restore the prior “leave it where you want but don’t disrupt” process. But he won’t. In the following correspondence, I outline and Lane ignores my concerns and suggestions.


On January 8th, Lane did advise me he was putting new decorum restrictions on the agenda.

On January 10th, after reading them, I wrote back:
I suggest you withdraw your proposed decorum amendments and simply remove the “unattended audio devices” ‘rule’ entirely. It has never prompted any disruption at City Council other than that evoked by the Mayor.

I also suggest withdrawing the stuff about “obstructing aisles” and “furniture” since those issues would be gone once you remove the “unattended audio devices”. It’s pretty clear that this is a direct attempt to maintain a rule without good reason.

Or perhaps you have a reason for making it a potential crime to leave an “unattended audio device”? I’d be interested in knowing your reasoning.

I also recommend withdrawing your new definition of “disruption” as being “when a mayor insists on imposing a rule and has to stop the meeting to do so”. It flies in the face of the 9th Circuit’s opinion in my case that “disruption” means disruption, not imagined disruption, or the violation of some rule.

Responding to legitimate protest with harsher restrictions is in my view unwise and will ultimately cost the city administration as well as the rest of us.

Please postpone Council consideration of these changes until you sit down with some of the activists to discuss your specific concerns and how they can be equitably met.

I would hope we could discuss this matter and come up with a solution that meets everyone’s concerns. I think that would save all of us lots of time and trouble.


P.S. In the meantime please make available any documents that involve complaints, concerns, or documents regarding the new decorum rule changes you’re proposing. This would include any documents referencing obstructing city council aisles, furniture, recording devices in the chamber, and/or concerns about Council “disruption”.

Don responded the same day with this:

Thanks Robert
I look forward to hearing your comments at the council meeting.

I have forwarded your PRA request on to Nydia for formal processing– and I can tell you that I have no documents along the lines you requested. I have this information filed in my own memory: that when you and your proxies have been sitting adjacent to the lectern I have seen many community speakers show very visible concern about people sitting in that spot and on several occasions I have seen people flinch or recoil as you move toward or handle your recording device near the lectern. I know how committed you are to community participation at council meetings so I hope you will support eliminating one impediment to that participation.

Thanks for considering.

I responded on the same day with this e-mail:


I’m still trying to understand why you support the “unattended audio devices” rule at all. That was the first question I asked you.

What purpose does it serve? Can you cite any disruptions caused by my regular recording over the last dozen years?

As you know, the rule was unenforced for 13 years until a singularly repressive and anti-homeless Mayor took power. I have been a homeless advocate and strong Council critique for nearly three decades, and I think it’s pretty clear this “rule” targets my radio work. Do you deny this?

You note some find it uncomfortable to have me sitting near the podium. I did too. It’s awkward to have to guard my recorder throughout the meeting. And should be unnecessary, as well. I wouldn’t have been up there at all, except an armed police officer kept shutting off my “unattended” recorder and outrageously confiscating it. That was after I was falsely arrested on April 1st.

I found it sad that you neither objected to the arrest or the subsequent confiscations, nor took action to stop it when you had the power as acting Mayor. This kind of behavior by the Council is petty and unnecessary.

It’s also unprecedented. Can you cite any other local legislative body that requires you to “sit next to your recorder or risk having it confiscated” or requires it to be placed in a special zone?

It seems to me a rather arrogant and pointless assertion of authority for its own sake.

Your proposed “permission zone” for recording devices runs afoul of the basic First Amendment right of any member of the public, and particularly a reporter, to record–even if they step away from their machine to read an agenda, chat with a friend, use the restroom, or take a break outside.

How does the placement of a small inconspicuous device actually disrupt the meeting?

As I mentioned before, I’d be happy to make any reasonable accommodation. How about it?

As I advised Mayor Robinson, I’d be happy to be careful not to interfere with others at the podium–as I have been throughout the years–in recording. Wouldn’t this satisfy your concerns? In this case no furniture, signs, additional recorder “attendants” would be necessary.

I know how committed you are to community participation and media access at Council meetings, so I hope you will restore what has been a problem-free arrangement for the last decade or more.

Let me know. While there are far more important matters we are both concerned about, the issue of media access is an important one to me.


P.S. I’m also concerned with your new definition of “disruption” which seems to ignore the court case which the City lost when the 9th Circuit clarified that “disruption” means real disruption not simply a rule violation. Has there been some more recent court decision changing this?

Don responded on Sunday January 11th:

I guess I’m still wondering what the problem is with you and everyone having a place to leave a recorder unattended that is a bit of distance away from the area where other people are speaking. You still seem unable to explain why this arrangement will keep you from recording the proceedings– which you are entitled to do and which I intend to support your doing.

Prior to enforcement of the “unattended” rule, you were regularly stepping up to the lectern to move or remove or replace your recorder. This may not noisily disrupt the meeting– it was simply a persistent and annoying interruption for many. My experience is that you are not a particularly perceptive judge of which activities cause small disruptions in our council meetings since you are regularly doing those activities even as you say you are concerned about avoiding disruptions.

Sorry this situation has made you so sad. I believe this new arrangement will spare us both some future sadness.


I replied the same day:


I think I’ve clarified why I find the “unattended recorder” rule so ridiculous. You haven’t stated why you support it and what you found wrong with the usual process I’ve used over the last decade or more. But I’ll try again…

Why should members of the public and media be compelled under threat of exclusion to place their recorders in a particular spot? It is simply a massive unprecedented restriction which seems to be a masking justification for an untenable rule. Your observation of me in a position I was forced to be in by the previous mayor to “attend” my recorder does not outline any problem with the pre-Robinson approach.

I haven’t placed my machine on the lectern for years. I have been careful to place at least 2′ away from speakers on the railing–which is the optimum place for me to record with the equipment I have. The City Clerk’s office noted no correspondence indicating any phone, e-mailed, or written complaints.

It seems you are not serious about any kind of reasonable discussion or accommodation. The process you use is similar to the one you used in creating the “performance pens” on the Pacific Avenue sidewalk or approving the BEARCAT: no meaningful prior discussion with concerned and impacted people, just the wham/bam/slam City Council approach that rubberstamps Staff recommendations.

While I appreciate the courtesy of your last-minute correspondence, it doesn’t take the place of all important real preliminary discussions. These are the substance rather than the shell of a democratic process–which is what we see at City Council.

For the reasons mentioned before, I again encourage you to withdraw these proposed constricting rules. At until do so until you’ve actually talked to the people impacted–and done so with notice and not at the last minute in the face of a done deal.

You also have not answered most of the questions I’ve raised. Perhaps because there are no reasonable answers. Of course, those in power often feel they don’t have to.


Don concluded:

And I have clarified why the rule makes sense. I guess we disagree about this.

You seem oblivious to how your own behavior in council meetings is disruptive. Because your legitimate free speech activity is protected does not mean that everything you do is appropriate or protected.

I will protect your free speech rights as I will protect the rights of everyone that comes to speak– but I will not give you license in council meetings to do whatever you feel like doing without regard to how effects others.

Your handling of your tape recorder at and adjacent to the lectern pre-dates the previous mayor. That annoying and interruptive activity is something I am trying to bring to an end.

If you know of others that seem to be impacted by this proposed rule please let me know. I contacted and corresponded multiple times with the one person I know that is likely to be immediately impacted– that would be you.

That correspondence is now ending.

I answer many questions you ask… and am always treated with a “not good enough” or “I have some more questions” You could pretend that this represents me being unresponsive or you could consider how I see it from my end: badgering and attention-seeking behavior from someone who can never be satisfied.

Don Lane, Mayor City of Santa Cruz

My final e-mail the same day:

Don: Until you actually address the basic question, naturally you will find me unsatisfied.

To repeat, that question is simple:

What was wrong with the previous arrangement that a dozen previous mayors and Council’s used?

For me, your failure to address this issue (and to actually bring the issue up for meaningful discussion before you send a done-deal package to City Council) is telling point here.

Sorry you choose to take this road.


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