Freedom SleepOut Enters Its 80th Week Challenging Trumpist Sleeping Ban Locally

Location Details Alongside City Hall across from the Main Library on Center St. In Vehicles, sleeping bags, and under tarps and tents. The protest runs from Tuesday afternoon to mid-morning Wednesday. Bring plenty of warm gear to use and to share. Hot soup and morning coffee are usually available.
Event Type
Keith McHenry (story by Norse)
Email keith [at]

With numbers somewhat diminished from 3 AM police roust-em-into-the-rain raids, the occasionally-open Warming Center, and the walk-to-the-outskirts-of-town-to-get-sheltered-downtown Winter Shelter program, Freedom Sleepers continue their year and a half Tuesday night vigil.

There are protests aplenty planned for the Trump Coronation coming up this weekend (elsewhere on this website). Missing however is any focus on halting repressive policies being pushed by both DemoRats and RepubliCons. These polices most obviously include continued warmongering, wealth privilege, police power, extensive deportations, and–most especially–attacks on the poor outside. In Santa Cruz neither Democrats, Republicans, or Greens in office have moved to stop criminalization of the homeless or acted to secure their most basic survival rights.

Between 4 PM and 5 PM Thursday January 19, Freedom Sleeper Pat Colby will be joining the 19th Annual Homelessness Marathon–which will stream on Free Radio Santa Cruz at or directly from their home website at . More info at . The entire broadcast runs from 4 PM to 8 PM.

Tenant activists are planning a free meal and story-swaping session where you can ” meet other renters and learn about rights you have under state, county, and city law. Plus presentations on successful renter protection actions. Sunday at 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM at 517B Mission Street. No landlords or property managers invited!

First They Came for the Homeless Encampment in Berkeley In 16th Move: Interview with activists Mike Lee and Sara Menefee at (1 hour and 14 minutes into the audio file)

A new vigil at SF City Hall and a 24-Hour vigil for the recently-dead Homeless by Homeless and Activists rather than the Traditional Annual Mourn-Today-and-Watch-’em-Die-Tomorrow Remembrance:

In Salinas the Monterey County Union of the Homeless huddled for its 1st Anniversary Strategy Session yesterday. See

In Sacramento, city bosses respond to pressure from media and activists to open winter refuge from the storms: See

As Anger at the SCPD Rises, Freedom Sleepers Bed Down for Sidewalk Sleepout #68

Date Tuesday October 25

Time 2:30 PM Today- 9 AM Tomorrow

Location Details On the sidewalk outside the last pre-election City Council meeting in the wake of the SCPD’s Sean Arlt slaying, housed and unhoused folks are gathering again. The continuing target: the City’s anti-homeless 11 PM to 8:30 AM Sleeping Ban as a shelterless police-heavy winter looms. The safe-but-not-legal-sidewalk slumber event begins on Tuesday afternoon and goes through Wednesday morning.

Event Type Protest

Organizer/Author Keith McHenry (story by Norse)

Email keith [at]

Phone 575-770–3377


While folks chow down, chatter, and prepare to bed down, the afternoon Santa Cruz City Council meeting has absolutely nothing on its agenda indicating any awareness of or concern for with the upcoming winter ordeal for unhoused folks.

And nothing on what some are calling the SCPD murder and cover-up of Sean Smith-Arlt Sunday before last when he was gunned down facing four police officers within 20 seconds for wielding a metal rake. Video and audio footage is still not being provided, nor the names of the killer(s).

Activists led by Abbi Samuels and Sherri Conable have called for a mass presence at 4 PM in front of City Hall to be followed by a public speak-out at 5 PM Oral Communications. Some have suggested that the real Speak-Out be outside when Mayor Mathews imposes her “two-minute” speaker limitation (within a total of half hour “allowed”). Repetitive staff presentations on agenda items may take up far more than half an hour.

Beyond who shot Arlt and where’s the video/audio, some activists have demanded restoration of a stronger Citizens Police Review Board process, the prior one dismantled by Mathews and others when they were on the Council in 2003. Unfortunately government run CPRB’s have been severely limited by the Officer’s “Bill of Rights” and the Copley court decision of 2006 shielding the militarized police departments of the state from public exposure. (See ).

This has led one activist to suggest that private agencies need to take the lead in any “independent investigations” of police brutality and murder. More broadly, will the militarization of the Santa Cruz police continue to be fueled by acceptance of state and federal grants? Will the City Council keep up its refusal to require police accountability? Its current token review subcommittee is the Public Safety Committee, and its overseer–the $40,000-a-year no-info-to-the-public attorney Bob Aaronson.

A listing of this year’s fatal police shootings nationwide can be found at . One activist has pointed out that police shootings nationally are usually 1 out of 17 of all fatal shootings. In Santa Cruz, it’s 1 out of 5 this year.

Meanwhile one homeless man reported his arm broken by SCPD in the midst of an arrest; another woman is going to court tomorrow to fight a year old “Resisting Arrest” charge; friends of a third fear she faces loss of her service dog as part of the “Homeless Mistreat Dogs” movement that seems to have become more overt in the past few months. More on this at the HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meeting on Wednesday October 26 11 AM Sub Rosa Cafe).

Both the SCPD and the ACLU seem to have had little to say about surveillance devices funded by government money in Santa Cruz that look out and video record public places. A Public Records Act request for a listing of these places was initially met with the ridiculous claim that no such records exist. A second request was met with delay until mid-November–well after last night’s ACLU Surveillance Forum.

This forum, of course, reportedly had little mention of the current police surveillance–how extensive it was, how long the records are retained, whether the public has access to them. Nor has the local ACLU shown any concern about this issue (nor about homeless issues generally unless pushed to the wall by unhoused folks and activists).

Where are the SCPD audio and video tapes? What will folks do to demand their return?

How about a video-in at the police station with person after person walking up to request they be made public?
(A sign in the police lobby bans video or audio recording, something also posted in other city offices. But since there is no expectation of privacy in public places and since these so-called “public servants” are supposed to be accountable to the public, this is a complete (if often effective) bluff.

Will the public move beyond a ceremonial mourning session at the Town Clock on Sunday and a polite “stand-in-line-and-then-go-home” protest at City Council today at 5 PM?

What next public pressuring event is planned by those outraged by this latest killing (and the SCPD’s shoot-to-kill training and practice)? Or will the good liberals all trek home after a token showing today as they did when the BeatCat was slipped by the public?

HUFF will be grumbling about this issue over coffee tomorrow, as mentioned above.

This is the last Council meeting before the November 8th vote deadline when voters will decide whether to return Mayor Mathews and her slate of police apologists to office.

Organizing a demonstration /homeless mayor

Freedom SleepOut #65 on Eve of ACLU Forum,
Follows Salinas Shutdown of Flagpole Community
Date Tuesday October 04 Time 5:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location Details At the center of City Government–where peaceful protest is only allowed before 10 PM–when peaceful assembly becomes illegal on the City Hall grounds. Folks then assemble with sleeping gear on the sidewalk at the entranceway across from the main library on Center St. between Locust and Church. It goes from late afternoon Tuesday to mid-morning Wednesday.
Event Type Protest Organizer/AuthorKeith McHenry (story by Norse)
Building on more than a year of weekly defiance to the gentrification Sleeping Ban law, Freedom Sleepers and well wishers will again gather to create a Safe Sidewalk Sleeping zone for the houseless community October 4th.

Activists elsewhere credit the Santa Cruz Freedom SleepOut’s with inspiring both Berkeley’s “First They Came for the Homeless” protest encampment at their Old City Hall last winter and Salinas’s six-month long nightly Flagpole Community at Salinas City Hall.

The latter ended Saturday night as Salinas police threatened enforcement of a new harsh anti-sleeping law passed by City Council there on September 20th. (See Final Rally at and .

Flagpole freedom fighter Wes White says he’ll be continuing the fight in the courts, on the street, and in the upcoming election campaign where he is running for Salinas City Council.

Last week, the Mayor Cynthia Mathews, defying the Brown (Public Meetings) Act, moved Oral Communications from its printed agenda time at 5 PM nearly two hours ahead shutting out half a dozen would-be speakers. With no indication of this radical shift on the printed agenda, the cranky queen of cutback ended the meeting at mid-afternoon, ignoring tenants rights, homeless suffering, and other outstanding issues that are not acknowledged, must less debated at the City Council Talk Shop.

The previous City Council practice was to hold the token speaking time for the public at or after 5 PM. If Council business were concluded before that time, the Council would recess and return. Not under Mayor “Two Minute” Mathews (so called because she has regularly cut back public comment, even when no other items were pressing and few speakers were in line).

There’s no meeting of the Shitty Council this week (though the public bathrooms at City Hall will presumably continue to be closed “for repairs” or “because of vandalism”).

Santa Cruz Bus Rider’s Association Founder and Freedom Sleeper Supporter Elise Casby wrote: “Last Tuesday, I went to view the agenda for the day, which is usually posted up next to the public council chambers in glass cases. The doors to the chambers were locked, and there were two (2) notes taped up on the door. Both notices announced that the council had more or less done away with any way to participate that day. Oops.

On the notes taped up to the locked doors, in the city council chamber room where I thought an actual City Council meeting would be taking place at that time, there was something stated about an agenda item that had been pulled at the behest of a certain citizen. There was something else stated about the fact that the council would be having a closed session somewhere- in a different part of the city. There was a little more, but in truth, this was a very problematic move by Santa Cruz City Council and possibly the city attorney, and most of all, for all of us citizens.

Curbhugger Chris Doyen, a tireless and articulate media activist who led the 2010 PeaceCamp protest at the County Building and City Hall, has announced a new book ( on his work with Anonymous.

Now going by the nomme de guerre of Commander X, Curbhugger provided a storm of media for the 3-month long protest against the Sleeping Ban that apparently forced the City Attorney and his yes-men on City Council to pass MC 6.36.055 which required dismissal of all Camping Ban tickets if victims were on the River St. Shelter or Paul Lee Loft waiting lists.

The Homeless (Lack of) Services Center Phil Kramer and the HLOSC Board have narrowed the Paul Lee loft entrance criteria to having a “pathway to housing”. This requires participants to have government or private income; additional “don’t enable the homeless” policies ban folks outside without funds from the meals during the day. The River St. Shelter under Monica Martinez’s Encompass program still “allows” phone sign-up and confirmation at 459-6644.

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Support Freedom SleepOut #59; Fight Back Against City and County RV Repression!

Freedom SleepOut #59 as RV Rights Struggle Continues-
Date Tuesday August 23 Time 2:00 PM – 2:00 AM
Location Details City Hall sidewalk across from the Main Library as well as in the City Hall Courtyard. Food Not Bombs will serve vegan food along with literature and good cheer throughout the afternoon until early evening. The protest disperses on Wednesday morning around 8 or 9 after coffee.
Event Type Protest
Organizer/AuthorKeith McHenry (story by Norse)
The Tuesday night weekly protest moves towards its 14th month and 59th consecutive week. At issue is the City’s low-intensity war on the homeless community marked by social service cutoffs, vehicular bans, severe restrictions on public space usage, and increased “policing” downtown, in the parks, and elsewhere.

An 11 PM to 8:30 AM ban on the act of sleeping outside or in a vehicle on public property has created a nonsensical, costly, and cruel conflict forcing unhoused vulnerable people to hide in unsafe areas, avoid well-lighted spots, and disperse from larger (safer) groups.

Without formal organization, unhoused folks have gathered every Tuesday scrunched on the sidewalk in front of City Hall (as the City has made it illegal to be in the Council “park” after 10 PM). They share company, security, and food compliments of “Jumbogumbo” Joe Schultz of India Joze. Join them to share your blankets, watching eyes, documenting cellphone recordings, and support.


After the Coastal Commission’s defeat of Councilwoman Richelle Niroyan’s anti-homeless midnight-to-5 AM ban on RV’s in the city, the City Council last Thursday placed the item on its agenda for today’s 12:30 PM Closed Session. By Monday (perhaps earlier) it had been struck out. When asked why, Councilmember Posner neither offered a reason, nor expressed any interest in finding out.

Assistant City Manager Scott Collins has been e-mailed with the same questions. Collins is the same staffer who declined to verify the Freedom Sleepers’ claims that they were regularly cleaning up the protest area after use last fall. Instead, McHenry reports, Collins leveled criminal charges against Freedom Sleeper and Food Not Bombs co-founder after McHenry yelled at him as Collins fled the scene. In a deal to protect another Freedom Sleeper, McHenry pled to a lesser charge in the Shouting Incident as City officials went after him last winter for restoring and expanding the “blue boxes” on Pacific Avenue with do-it-yourself paint and stencils. Collins and his associate Julie Hendee are regular presenters of anti-homeless measures to City Council.


The new crackdown on poor folks in RV’s in the broader County area was reviewed last week in “Freedom Sleep #58 In the Midst of Struggle Over RV Rights: COUNTY RV BAN ENFORCEMENT IN PROGRESS? ” at .

On August 12 the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office wrote on this thread: “No Overnight Parking zones will remain No Overnight Parking Zones with or without a permit. As for obtaining the permit, you must have permission from your friend or family who lives directly adjacent from your RV.” A rather straightforward interpretation here is that ALL overnight parking on ALL County roads are currently technically “illegal” under the County’s Ordinance Section 9.70.620 passed in March. There has been no discussion on this thread dated later than August 12.

However, Santa Cruz Fulltimers founder Julie Schaul–an activist concerned with the rights of poor families living in RV’s in the City–reports no citations have been given out since the Sheriff’s Department announced it began enforcing the ban on August 1st. Schaul has a facebook page that covers the RV struggle.

County staff and Coastal Commission staff, though questioned about the legality of the County’s ordinance and the Sheriff’s enforcement announcement, have declined to apply the Commission’s August 10th ruling against the City ban. They have also declined to clarify an appropriate appeal procedure on the issue. E-mail and phone exchanges continue. If you wish to express your concern, contact Sharif Traylor, staffer at the Coastal Commission, at 427-4863 or sharif.traylor [at] or Paia Levine, planner, at County Planning at paia.levine [at] 454-5317.

Though Sharif has noted he reply by e-mail, it’s still useful to create a paper trail. The issue is whether the County March law violates the Coastal Commission’s clear statements on August 10th that there must be real public access for folks of all incomes. Neither Santa Cruz County nor the City provides places for poor people to park their RV’s, nor have they shown a real “crime” problem.

Please cc all such inquiries and responses to rnorse3 [at] .


Contact the 9 Council candidates running by e-mail or phone to insist they raise the issues of Sleeping Ban Repeal, Access to public spaces at night, security for homeless persons and property, as well as restore the meager social services. These were some of the original demands of the Freedom Sleep-Out. The protests began as a Community Sleep-Out under the “Homeless Lives Matter” slogan last summer as services closed down at the Homeless Lack-of Services Center.

The candidates are J.M. Brown, Steven Pleich, Nathanael A. Kennedy, Drew “Dru” S. Glover, Martine Watkins, Cynthia Mathews, Steve Schnaar, James (Jim) P. Davis, Robert Singleton, Sandra (Sandy) L. Brown, and Chris Krohn. Their contact information is available at under “List of Prospective 2016 Candidates”.

Only Steve Pleich has spent an overnight with the Freedom Sleepers and not recently.

To discuss RV pushback and electoral antics, check out the HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meeting at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe Wednesday August 24.

52nd Freedom SleepOut to Celebrate a Year of Protest at Santa Cruz City Hall

1st Anniversary Freedom Sleeper Celebration and Look Back

Date Tuesday July 05
Time 4:00 PM – 4:00 AM
Location Details
City Hall Grounds and Sidewalk at 809 Center St. Event to last through the night until 9 AM or thereabouts (the 4 a.m. cutoff time above is incorrect).
Event Type Protest
Organizer/Author Keith McHenry (posted by Norse)
Email keith [at]
Phone 575-770–3377
Veterans, newcomers, sympathizers, and supporters are called to come together to look back on a year’s weekly protests at City Hall demanding the end of the Santa Cruz City Sleeping Ban and related laws.Slated for the celebration are a gathering, a march, a speak-out, a memorial, and (if possible) an outdoor video. Plus the ever popular sidewalk slumber party where homeless folks get one night a week of cement pillow sleeping with some housed folks there ready to confront vigilantes, security thugs, and over-eager cops.

Food Not Bombs and Gumbojumbo Joe Schultz will be providing food, coffee, and who knows what else. Bring blankets, sleeping bags, signs, high spirits, and friends !

RV dwellers celebrating the delay of the midnight to 5 PM city-wide parking ban in the wake of an appeal are also invited. As are vendors, performers, and other brave activists fighting the latest attack on public space on Pacific Avenue. New city policies criminalize handicraft art, severely limit First Amendment space, and beef up harassment by assigning “stay away order”-happy Parks and Rec rangers to do patrols downtown.

A review of Freedom SleepOut’s ##50 and 51 (this will be #52) can be found at (“Summer for the Freedom Sleepers”).



by Robert Norse   Monday Jul 4th, 2016 5:57 PM

Events are likely to start closer to 6 PM on the 5th.

There will be the classic Food Not Bombs DIY street shower available for those seeking relief from the summer heat. Also a DIY commode, since the city refuses to open any 24-hour bathrooms city-wide and is keeping the City Council Courtyard bathrooms locked shut.

Entertainment will be decided by those present, chosen from a variety of options–classic comedy (I heard Blazing Saddles and Life of Brian mentioned) as well as Freedom Sleeper documentaries.

A proposed parade and march through town will depend on numbers, weather, and mood of the multitude.

Folks may be called to vote on a List of Demands to Authorities and Goals for the Freedom Sleepers and allied groups.

Come and celebrate! Bring nighttime apparel plus blankets, bags, and teddy bears!


Santa Cruz Freedom Sleeper Protests Hit KPFA as Media Coverage Expands


NOTES BY NORSE:  One of my main concerns about the effectiveness of the Freedom Sleepers is their out-of-the-way location outside a closed City Hall (always at night, and during the Xmas holiday all the time).   Local media attention has been biased or non-existent.  It’s refreshing to read word is spreading, even as activist Toby Nixon and his unhoused comrades brave rain, wind, and cold to keep the protest alive each Tuesday night.  (Tomorrow February 5th will be Freedom Sleep-Out #26).

It’s been my feeling that protests need to be mounted downtown in full public view of merchants and tourists, encouraging shoppers to do a phone-in to City Hall, or a direct boycott, or join CD actions or take up other militant actions of their own to stop the threats to homeless survival in Santa Cruz.   The Xmas and New Year’s season is particularly significant commercially and religiously.   Police can quietly terrorize but generally ignore Freedom Sleepers at City Hall at night, but would find it more difficult to make them invisible during the day on Pacific Avenue.

The recent Public Safety Hysteria has been overseen and orchestrated by the Martin Bernal/Tina Shull/Scott Collins Mangle-the-Mendicants Manager team.  These well-paid unelected officials are at the center of the increasingly militant homeless-hostile Santa Cruz government.   They created the “no homeless RV’s allowed at night” law (goes into effect January 8th), as well as police state police-generated Stay-Away orders from all city parks, greenbelts, and other sleep-at-night-to-survive zones.   The Take Back Santa Cruz, the Harvey West Association, the Downtown Association, Santa Cruz Neighbors, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and the SCPD rhetoric is now the new neo-fascist SantaCruztoosoftonthepoor “normal”.  This language has successfully supplanted the earlier  hypocritical “we’re the most compassionate town around; it’s a national problem; we’re going to end it in 10 years” rhetoric by psuedo-progressives used to reassure university students muddled liberals.

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Driving Out the Mosquitoes: Making Homelessness Illegal
by Dennis J. Bernstein, Reader Supported News
Sunday Jan 3rd, 2016 6:16 PM

The seaside city of Santa Cruz, California, is one of several municipalities in Northern California that have become home for the herds of bubble up dot-comers rolling the dice in Silicon Valley. From San Francisco to San Jose to Berkeley, and down the coast to Salinas and Monterey, local officials are salivating at the multitude of possibilities for bringing in the tax bucks. And more often than not, these local officials are rolling out their welcome mats for the Silicon set, right over the bodies of the growing numbers of the poor and disinherited in this wealthy nation.


“They’ve actually installed mosquito boxes to drive out the homeless and hungry,” says Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs (Global). “They’ve set up these horrible sound machines that they put under the bridges and in parks that just turn on automatically and drive people out of the areas, because they make you nauseous and give you a terrible headache.”

I spoke to McHenry as he passed out free food in front of the post office in downtown Santa Cruz. McHenry described a situation that is familiar to many advocates for the poor and homeless across the region and across the country. “The poor and growing numbers of the desperately hungry in this city, state, and country are under attack,” said McHenry. “There are new laws just in the last couple of years, and others that have been strengthened, that make it a crime to be poor and hungry.”

McHenry, and more than a dozen other housing and homeless advocates interviewed for this article, expressed alarm at the expanding attempts by state governments and local municipalities to criminalize the homeless by passing harsh laws and local ordinances that make it unbearable and downright dangerous to live on the street.

“Now they’ve got these new ‘stay-away orders’ here in Santa Cruz,” said McHenry, “and city employees can just ban you from parks for up to half a year at a time. And you can end up getting a year’s sentence if you violate these stay-away orders. They treat the homeless and hungry like they’re pigeons, or some kind of vermin that can just be driven away. Their human rights are being totally violated.”

Osha Newman is a civil rights attorney who represents the homeless in Berkeley, Oakland, and Richmond, California. Newman said he is extremely troubled by this new stepped-up brutality against the homeless in the East Bay. “It’s an everyday, daily routine,” said Newman in a December interview. “The cops kicking and punching and prodding the homeless, even as they sleep. Beating them awake. It’s outrageous. Now Mayor [Tom] Bates and his anti-homeless supporters have succeeded in passing a new batch of draconian laws against the homeless, including one saying that you cannot have belongings that take up more than two square feet on the sidewalk. Can you fit your life’s belongings in two square feet?” he asks.

Down the coast from Santa Cruz in Salinas, California, the homeless have been dealt with in a most brutal and destructive fashion, according to legal proceedings filed in federal court. After being ignored and disregarded “like so much trash,” a group of the homeless organized their own self-governed village, “Tents by the Garden,” complete with working toilet facilities.

“In 2012, me and the rest of the homeless community out here in Salinas started Tents by the Garden,” said Rita Acosta, one of the founders of the homeless community, who is now the lead plaintiff in a federal court action against the city of Salinas for illegal seizure and destruction of personal property under the 14th and 4th amendment.

“We had like 28 people in Tents by the Garden that was all into it altogether,” said Acosta in a phone interview at the end of December. “We also started a PHSH program (Public Hygiene to Stay Human), and we got porta-potties on our camping area. But then the city had a sweep here in January 2013 and they moved us all out, closed off our area, and put up gates. Now they complain about the streets being all unorganized. We were organized. They closed our area down and put us on the sidewalk. So now they’re complaining about it. This is their mess. They’re the ones who made it. They need to clean it up. If it was up to us, it wouldn’t be like this, because we had it more organized.”

Anthony Prince is one of the lead attorneys on the case being brought by Acosta and the homeless of Salinas. Prince said his clients have filed for a preliminary injunction against the city that challenges the constitutionality of the city’s policy and practice of seizing and destroying property that belongs to homeless people. “As you may know, under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, people have a right, a property interest which cannot be breached without due process. The government cannot seize property, personal property, without notice and opportunity to be heard. Those are the two essential elements of due process.”

The Salinas legal battle centers around a new city ordinance adopted in October. The city codified its brutal, forced-dispersal policies with a new ordinance that allows the city to seize and destroy property of the homeless, almost at will. Salinas City Ordinance 2564 authorizes the city to confiscate and destroy “bulky items” as well as items that are deemed to be “dirty,” “soiled,” “damaged,” or “broken.”

Prince asserts that 2564 is indeed unconstitutional and in flagrant violation of the recent Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Lavan v. City of Los Angeles. In affirming a preliminary injunction, the Ninth Circuit held that because homeless persons’ unabandoned possessions are “property” within the meaning of the Fourteenth and Fourth Amendments, a city must comply with the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, and the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable seizures, if it wishes to take or destroy those possessions.

According to the amended suit filed on December 22, 2015, the homeless plaintiffs assert that “The City of Salinas has adopted and begun to implement a municipal ordinance that run roughshod over these constitutional rights and threatens the homeless residents of Salinas with grievous and irreparable harm.”

The homeless were in federal court just a few days after a pair of homeless men died of exposure in the nearby city of Monterey. The two men were discovered huddled together without tent or blankets, and with only minimal clothing to protect them from the elements. “By allowing the city to seize essential property, like blankets, clothing, and tents, Salinas’s Ordinance could put the lives of members of the homeless community at risk.” said Prince. “We are determined not to see that happen here.”

“In past sweeps I have had my possessions – my tent, bedding, clothes, blankets, food stamps, identification, birth certificate, family photographs, and important legal documents – taken from me and thrown away,” said Acosta, a longtime resident of Salinas who is now homeless. She talked freely about the daily violence of poverty, enhanced by the brutality of official policy. “Well, it’s a lot rougher for us now that we’re back sleeping on the sidewalks,” she said. “Some of the tents are out toward the streets. We’ve actually had cars hit people’s tents and stuff like that. And I, myself, I had somebody reverse their van into my tent because they thought they were in drive, and they reversed all they way into the tent and pushed me all the way into the back. So it’s scary. It’s dangerous. It was a lot more safe when we had our own area.”

In an August 2015 directive on the subject, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness warned that “the forced dispersal of people from encampment settings is not an appropriate solution or strategy.”

Dumpster Diving for Survival

“Now the police department comes out here with the city,” Acosta continued. “They start around 8 o’clock. They just start from one end of the street until they make their way all the way around it. They tell us ‘you guys should have been ready, getting your things out.’ But how can we be ready with our things out when we don’t have any place to take our things? So it makes it a little bit difficult. Whatever we can’t take with us they have like a bulldozer thing that just comes in and scoops everything up and puts it straight into the trash … straight into the garbage can. They don’t ask or anything – they just take it. They just tell us, ‘We gave you enough time to take your things out.’ Out? To where?” asks Acosta. “There is no where else to go.”

Acosta makes the point that many homeless people still work, but find it more and more difficult to keep their jobs and their lives in order because of these new laws being imposed on the homeless. “In the Sherwood Park area,” she said, “there was this young man, he works. So when they were throwing his stuff away, he was yelling ‘Hey, hey that’s my … you’ve got my work stuff in there.’ And he actually jumped into the dumpster, into the big trashcan, to get his stuff out. No sooner than he jumped out, another big ol’ load came and almost crushed him. He was actually lucky he jumped out when he did. When you ain’t got nothing they just want to take more from you,” Acosta reflected.

In Berkeley, poor people’s attorney Osha Newman tells a story similar to Rita Acosta’s: The homeless, tired of being ignored and disrespected, founded their own community in Albany, between Berkeley and Richmond, on a piece of land known as the Albany Bulb that juts out into the bay. “There was a whole community of people living out on the Albany Bulb taking care of themselves,” Newman lamented, “not taking a penny from the government, asking nothing from the city but to be left alone, [and] those 60 or so people, they were evicted, with nothing. Kicked out of Albany and into Berkeley, where they have been kicked around ever since.”

Back in Santa Cruz, as the free food is being dished out by homeless volunteers, who also made it, Keith McHenry tells me that major cuts were made to the homeless services center, based on cutbacks by the Feds. “They shut down emergency services,” he said, “so the meals for hundreds and hundreds of people in early July, late June, disappeared. The showers disappeared, the mail service for a while disappeared … but came back, although at a much more limited level. And then around 50 employees were fired, who were dealing with the homeless service. It ended up being a total crisis. Two people living at the shelter, when they got their eviction notices, ended up getting hit by cars and killed. The local homeless people said that they were basically depressed and freaked out and didn’t want to go back out on the streets. One case was of a middle-aged woman who got hit by a car,” said McHenry. “I don’t think that case has been solved; it was a hit and run. And so there’s been such tension in the homeless community in Santa Cruz. Many of these people actually owned homes in Santa Cruz, but during the housing foreclosure crisis, folks lost their own places or they were renters that lost their places because their landlords were foreclosed on.”

According to a recent report from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, 21.8 percent of the nation’s children and 15 percent of the population overall are poor and often hungry. Despite the growing needs of so many people, the Feds continue to cut vital services and assistance meant to help the most at risk among us. “Added to this,” said Jennifer Jones, the Executive Director of the FPWA, “are the funding cuts for meals for home-bound seniors, vocational training programs for those who’ve lost their jobs, food for low income families, and the list goes on. At a time when our nation needs to protect people from continued and increasing hardship, and support economic growth, the Federal government has imposed sequestration cuts and proposes further budget cuts that take us backwards.”

“It’s also now become illegal to feed the hungry,” asserts McHenry, who has been arrested many times, once on Christmas Eve in a Santa outfit, for giving out free food. “Santa was tossed into the police wagon and the food was tossed in the garbage by the cops, while dozens of hungry people looked on,” said McHenry. “They are making laws across the United States against feeding people outside, in city parks … Their new strategy is to make it so hard for you to get the permits to feed people, and limiting it to just a small amount of time.”

“It’s not illegal to be homeless in the United States,” said Anthony Prince, “but what we see increasingly is an effort to criminalize the status of being homeless. As you may know, it is against American jurisprudence to criminalize a person or a sub-class of people based on their status, but that is exactly what the new laws do.”

Photo: Homeless veterans at sunset on the outskirts of Santa Cruz. (credit: Franco Folini)

Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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Square Dealing Against Sentinel Smearing: Freedom SleepOut #24 Tuesday December 22nd

Title: El Nino vs. Freedom Sleepers: the 24th Week
START DATE: Tuesday December 22
TIME: 7:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Location Details:
Under rainy skies on the sidewalk and area surrounding City Hall (or possibly in the shelter of some empty buildings nearby. 809 Center St. on Center between Church and Locust.
Event Type: Protest
Contact Name Toby Nixon
Email Address tobynixon [at]
As rain drives homeless folks into “illegal” sleeping spots and City Council rests snugly in its warm beds “on vacation”, there is neither shelter nor warming center for 90% of the unhoused community outside. Freedom Sleepers, though reduced in numbers, continue their vigils outside the palaces of the powerful–with the grounds closed at night and patrolled by “security guards”.
A Homeless Memorial for the Dead will make its annual appearance behind locked “security gates” at 115 Coral St. at 10:30 AM in the morning. This show ritual seems designed to benefit the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center rather than address the real causes of death creating new victims each year–compliments of the City’s anti-homeless laws.

Forced to sleep unsafely, scattered, and hidden from police and security thugs, unhoused folks die on average 20 years younger than those indoors. Some believe the best way to remember the dead is to fight like hell for the living against the laws that threaten their health and safety.

Freedom Sleepers and their supporters will be meeting in the Red Church (Calvary Episcopal) at Cedar and Lincoln Tuesday December 22nd at 5:30 PM to propose new actions designed to dramatize and exposes the cruelty of Santa Cruz’s anti-poor laws (such as the “No RV Parking at Night” ordinance due to hit the books on January 8th).

Around 2 PM Food Not Bombs activists including “Blue Box Bad Boy” Keith McHenry (See have announced plans to return to City Hall.

They will serve a hot meal at City Hall in response to the latest spate of falsehoods against the Freedom Sleepers by City Council staff and Sentinel scumslingers.

Folks are invited to chow down in anticipation of a cold if not a wet night and present grievances directly to City Council offices and homeless-hostile staffers–open until 5 PM.

Activist Toby Nixon will again lead the largely unhoused Freedom Sleeper Winter Soldiers in a continued protest against the City’s “go to sleep, go to jail” laws, which begins around dark.

He notes clear skies are predicted for Tuesday night and predicts that food & coffee will only be available if at all before 11:30 PM and after 5:30 AM to facilitate sleeping. Breakfast and clean-up will be done by 8 AM (if any food is actually donated).

Toby says his role is to sleep there, film what happens, and try to be helpful, but can’t be responsible for people’s stuff or serving meals. He has had some experience with encampments and is happy to try and be helpful if he can.

His main point is to encourage people to help establish a place to sleep and even brief visits to the area as well as donations of food, clothing, and protective gear can be helpful.

A video playlist of documentary work on Freedom Sleepers by Toby and others is at .

Sunday’s Santa Cruz Urinal (more commonly known as the Santa Cruz Sentinel) featured a slanted attack piece on the Freedom Sleepers at It hauls out all the old inflammatory falsehoods (poo poo, drug dealing, rowdy behavior, scary appearance) without any documentation.

A Community TV Forum on the Freedom Sleepers features Homeless Legal Assistance Project founder Steve Pleich, Senior Law Center on Homeless and Poverty Attorney Tricia Baumann, Local Free Radio Broadcaster Robert Norse, and San Jose Homeless Activist Robert Aguirre and can be seen at .

A strong editorial from Street Spirit editor Terry Messman responding to former Mayor Don Lane’s is on line at .

Robert Norse’s response is at

Keith McHenry will be defending the rights of those outside and responding to the Sunday Sentinel smearjob. He will also describe his own upcoming Blue Box trials in an hour-long KPFA live broadcast at . More info at .





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Keeping Up the Pressure–Freedom SleepOut #15 Slated for Tuesday Night 10-20


Title: As Winter Approaches– “Safe Sleeping Zone” Sleep Out #15
START DATE: Tuesday October 20
TIME: 5:00 PM – 5:00 AM
Location Details:
Around City Hall Until Authorities Declare the Seat of Government a “No Go” Zone at 10 PM; on the Sidewalks thereafter

With no City Council meeting this Tuesday, sleepers and supporters are encouraged to gather in the early evening, and consider staying over through Wednesday morning–with coffee and basic munchables available.

Event Type: Protest
Contact Name Keith McHenry (posting by Norse)
Email Address keith [at]
Phone Number 575-770-3377
Pressure from the federal Department of Justice and HUD to dump Sleeping Bans across the country as cruel and unusual punishment has apparently persuaded Anaheim to suspend enforcement of its nighttime sleeping ban.


No citations were issued to sleepers on the sidewalks adjacent to City Hall and the library and only one to a sleeper on the grass. However police continue to roust and cite those outside citywide.

Freedom Sleepers had the largest organizational meeting in their history on Friday. The enthusiasm for expanding protest was strong. The prospects of a future teach-in, know your rights forum, drum circle, and other welcoming events for human rights supporters is likely on future Tuesdays.

Freedom Sleepers (perhaps with the support of the local ACLU) may be bringing to town a lawyer from the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty in December.

Steve Pleich, a Freedom Sleeper and local ACLU Vice-Chair, has appealed to the Northern California Regional ACLU on behalf of the local to file suit against the city Sleepbusters.
[“Local ACLU Appeals for Legal Assistance to Challenge Camping Ban” at ]

There’s also a scheduled a showing of Exodus from the Jungle–activist Robert Aguirre’s documentary showing the deportation of the San Jose homeless community last fall as winter loomed.

For more background on the Freedom Sleeper protests go to “” at & “” at and follow the links.

Santa Cruz Sleepers Push Back Against City Crackdown Tuesday September 8th

Title: At City Council and Under the Stars, Challenge the Crackdown at Freedom SleepOut #9
START DATE: Tuesday September 08
TIME: 3:00 PM – 3:00 AM
Location Details:
In front of City Hall at 809 Center St. in what used to be public space in the broad City Hall Courtyard beginning in mid-afternoon Tuesday September 1st and lasting until 8 AM Wednesday morning September 2nd.

The center of the event is likely to be outside City Council during its meeting, and on the lawn and the bricks across the street from the Main Library thereafter. At 10 PM, participants will likely move to the sidewalk, since city bosses have declared the City Hall Courtyard a “closed area’ 10 PM to 6 AM to end peaceful protests they don’t like.

Event Type: Other
The following posting reflects my understanding of the proposed protest as well as recent events. –Robert Norse


Within half an hour of 3 PM probably: City Council to consider Item #15 City Manager Martin Bernal’s proposals to sabotage RV dwellers by attacking the right to park.

5 PM: Oral Communications where Freedom Sleepers will discuss the outcome of their earlier conference with the City Manager in hopes of halting City repression against protesters and homeless sleepers.

5:30 PM (more or less) Freedom Sleepers Press Conference to more fully flesh out specific concerns, strategies.

6 PM General Assembly: to discuss the likely situation at night and how to deal with police interactions and their aftermath.

(throughout the evening): food provided by Food Not Bombs, Cafe HUFF, and concerned community members.

10 PM Being in the City Hall Courtyard apparently becomes a cause for citation and/or arrest by the SCPD. Those wishing to avoid this are advised to move to the sidewalk in anticipation of stepped-up harassment.

11 PM Sleeping becomes illegal outside and in vehicles all around Santa Cruz. There is no emergency shelter for the overwhelming majority of the homeless including the elderly and disabled. They face $159 ‘SleepCrime’ citations.

6 AM Holding up a protest sign at City Hall or sitting on a bench there or lying on the grass again becomes “legal”

7:30 AM Campers breakfast.

8:30 AM Sleeping becomes legal on some public property in Santa Cruz for the City’s 1500-2000 homeless


City staff through Councilmember Micah Posner previously made vague complaints of “litter”, “feces” and “piss” and “harassing comments” at prior protests. Freedom Sleepers asked for specifics and that the Council bathrooms be opened at night. Neither was done. Instead Posner relayed an “assurance” from the SCPD that the protesters would be dealt with.

In the afternoon of Tuesday September 1st, police officials set up a “no parking” zone all around City Hall, making sidewalk sleepers more vulnerable to noise and harassment from passing vehicles. It also made loading and unloading more problematic (Keith McHenry got a ticket for parking briefly to unload literature and cooking tables).

Repeating a “sleep deprivation” strategy they had employed in 2010 to crush a similar protest against the Sleeping Ban, They also set up three loud generators powering 30 foot high intense klieg lights at City Hall such as those used on Pacific Avenue during the New Years and Halloween holidays for crowd control

Ironically, the “no parking” zones around the Sleep-Out ironically allowed protest signs and sleepers to be seen more clearly by supportive passersby. The bright lights also allowed easier clean-up.

Police followed up these preparations with four separate raids on homeless and housed folks trying to sleep through the night. Around 11:30 PM, they descended in force, and began citing many people in the “closed” City Courtyard area without providing them a chance to walk off the property. They ticketed those on access ways and those reading agendas.

Two were arrested and jailed for declining to sign the “park closed” tickets. They asked to be taken to a magistrate or magistrate’s clerk to challenge the whole business of claiming that being at City Hall at night awake with a protest sign sas a crime. Instead they were jailed and told at the jail they might not be allowed a hearing for 72 hours.

A second wave of ticketing half an hour later upped the ticketing tally to 15 or more. A third round an hour later saw police peering into people’s vehicles and opening car doors. A fourth round had them ticketing a man sleeping in one of the “forbidden” parking spaces in order to avoid blocking the sidewalk. Police previously insisted only half the narrow sidewalk could be used for sleeping.

In the last week activists reported police ticketing folks around town under the Sleeping Ban (no sleeping on public property after 11 PM). The actual number of such tickets remains to be counted, but activists made a Public Records Act request.

Not-In-My-Backyard bigots, intent on driving away the vehicularly housed homeless folks, persuaded Councilmember’s Richelle NIroyan’s Transportation and Public Works Commission to propose laws requiring permits for RV parking at night city-wide. Also part of the homeless harassment scheme is the elimination of all “oversized” parking spaces to further discourage RV parking. This will be coming up as a preliminary recommendation Tuesday afternoon.

An earlier Public Works move by Marlin Grandlund this spring to forbid parking on streets adjacent to the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center has also apparently moved forward behind the scenes.

As no law is specifically up for a vote, council will likely direct staff to write a law make criminals out of those who park vehicles in the city who use their homes as their only affordable housing. If so, the law may be up for vote on September 22nd.

Freedom Sleepers will be meeting with the City Manager prior to the protest in search of agreement to suspend ticketing of those sleeping outside with no legal shelter options or to make it the lowest priority. There may be a Press Conference on the outcome.


See “Freedom Sleepers Back To Bed Down at City Hall in 8th SleepOut ” at ,

Recent print accounts of the Freedom Sleepers in the September Street Spirit newspaper:

Several stories not yet on line at are available in the September issue of the Street Spirit in the Main Library, at the Sub Rosa Cafe, and from HUFF and FNB activists.

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8th Protest Action at City Hall Supporting Right to Sleep for the Poor Outside

Title: Freedom Sleepers Back To Bed Down at City Hall in 8th SleepOut
START DATE: Tuesday September 01
TIME: 6:00 PM – 6:00 AM
Location Details:
City Hall Courtyard and Nearby Sidewalk at 809 Center St. across from the Main Library on one side and Civic Auditorium on the other.
Event Type: Protest
Authorities continue to harass and cite members of the Santa Cruz unhoused community with $157 Sleeping Ban citations.

This is happening even though there is no emergency walk-in shelter for the city’s 1500-2000 homeless; waiting lists are full and generally seem to require a “path to housing”, social worker, and/or disability check.

No member of City Council has taken any action to either restore emergency food, shower, laundry, and/or toilet facilities at the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center. Reportedly coming up on the September 8th agenda are new bans against RV parking anywhere in Santa Cruz from 2 AM to 6 AM.

And there has been no move to end the Sleeping Ban against the homeless or to designate legal areas where people may sleep without fear of busts or other forms of humiliation.

Meanwhile in Laguna Beach, the ACLU there has filed suit against the city for sleeping bans that criminalized disabled people–as Santa Cruz’s ban does to folks outside here.

In recent complaints, routed through Councilmember Posner, city staff have grumbled that they have felt “unsafe”, and kvetched about “pee” and “poo” while giving no specifics as to when and where such deposits were found. Nor have they decided to open the City Hall bathrooms at night.

Neither I nor any other activists at these sleepouts have found any evidence of piss or shit. Some, far more fastidious, make it a point to clean up the area afterwards. Nor have staff forwarded any specific complaints to us in a timely manner or any other way.

I believe it is unwise for Councilmember Micah Posner to allow himself to be used as a conduit for anonymous and hostile criticism of the Freedom Sleepers.

Nor should police be surprised when homeless people, rousted from sleep, do not express themselves courteously when confronting armed men with flashlights and demands that they “move on”.

It still seems abusive and unconstitutional that the seat of government itself has been declared a “closed area” at night, even though that’s the only place where the city’s agendas are publicly posted. It could become an issue in a civil lawsuit if police physically arrest someone for doing nothing other than sitting or standing peacefully on the city hall grounds after 10 PM.

There will also be a set of proposed guidelines issued at the 6 PM General Assembly Tuesday, suggesting a “quiet for sleepers” and clean-up policy.

There will be a light snack provided around bedtime, and a light breakfast on Wednesday morning.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) will be meeting Wednesday morning at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe as usual to plot and palaver.

For more info on the sleepout, call me at 831-423-4833. Again, the opinions expressed here are mine, but may also represent those of others at the sleep-out.

Join us to restore sanity and decency to Santa Cruz. The right to sleep is the right to live.

Freedom Sleepers is develop a new website at