Homelessness Up For Discussion or Diversion? 7-9 PM Tonight–Monica Martinez & Don Lane

NOTE FROM NORSE:   Tonight Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom hosts a talk at the Quaker Meeting House, 225 Rooney St., east of Morrissey Blvd., in Santa Cruz (next to the freeway) 7-9 PM.Speaking are former Mayor and Board President of the Homeless Services Center (which some of us call the Homeless Lack of Services Center) Don Lane and Monica Martinez, its Executive Director.Their topic is “the current state of homelessness in Santa Cruz and calling for action in support of the 180/180 Initiative which provides permanent supportive housing for the most at-risk and vulnerable of our homeless citizens.”The 180/180 program seeks to raise government and private funds to house a fraction of the most costly homeless folks (i.e. those who scare the merchants most) with  no provision for the rest of the community and no let-up in the criminalization of the other 95%.  It seems to be a successor program to the Housing First! program and the Continuum of Care (“End Homelessness in Ten Years” shuck and jive) that got federal funding for the last decade and a half.

It’s not that providing housing and supportive services for 180 people in Santa Cruz county is a bad idea.  Obviously it’s not.  But focusing all attention and energy on a fanciful grant-magnet 180/180 program is done at the expense of immediate shelter and human rights needs.  It seems largely a self-justifying project for bureaucrats.  Meanwhile the same leaders (Lane and Martinez) counsel colluding with police and courts in their campaign to drive away and criminalize a whole class of people.  Focusing exclusively on 180/180 diverts the public’s attention from the recent smear campaign of anti-homeless warriors on the right led by Councilmembers Comstock and Robinson.  The massive “needles = homeless = illegal camps = crime” rage given unjustified credibility were recently echoed by the Mayor of the City (See http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/opinion/ci_22606878/hilary-bryant-public-safety-is-our-top-priority ).

Unfortunately Santa Cruz has several thousand homeless people (Santa Cruz County even more)–currently under rabid attack by vigilantes, police, sheriffs, rangers, security guards, city council, hired clean-up crews as well as courts and D.A.’s.   It is illegal to sleep in Santa Cruz after 11 PM at night, illegal to set up a survival camp site at any time.  The City Council (with Lane voting in favor and Martinez silent) has made “unattended” camping tickets into misdemeanors punishable by a year in jail and $1000 fine.

A prior “Homelessness Summit” on December 1st out at Cabrillo College, masterminded by the backers of the 180/180 program completely sidelined the real issue of the need for immediate shelter, campsites, legal support now and has resulted in no further action.

These “feel good” psuedo-positive initiatives sacrifice human dignity and human lives for what some politicians seem to consider the “politically possible”.  Fresno and D.C. are apparently experiencing similar problems as the stories below seem to indicate.

Fresno Activist Mike Rhodes writes:
This is from a Washington Post article published last Friday.  It is painfully obvious that the local government (both the city and county of Fresno) has had many of the same problems.  But, that does not stop them from continuing to push one program after another, even though they are doomed to fail. 
The current plan to build housing (The Renaissance project) houses a small percent (perhaps 5%) of the homeless population, with the vast majority of people left to fend completely for themselves. 
The city and county won’t even provide them with drinking water, portable toilets, or trash pick up.  I believe the reason they (city and county officials) do this is to give people (in the broader community) the illusion that they have a plan to end homelessness, but the bureaucrats in their cynical hearts, know what they are doing is not going to work.  Unfortunately, people who are not paying close attention have the hope that something is being done to solve the problem, when in fact they are being mislead.  In the meantime, the vast majority of homeless people are the ones who suffer, while the bureaucrats collect their fat salaries.
Why does D.C. still have so many homeless?By Colbert I. King, Published: February 15

More than 900 people, including 600 children, crammed into a makeshift D.C. homeless shelter? Things weren’t supposed to turn out this way. By now, we were told, homelessness in our nation’s capital would be a thing of the past. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
In 1993, the Clinton administration persuaded Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly to enter into a partnership, called the D.C. Initiative, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The idea, hatched under HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and Assistant Secretary Andrew Cuomo, was to make the District a national model for local governments on ending homelessness.
To get the city’s buy-in, HUD dangled a $20 million grant and other federal bucks, provided that the District kicked in some of its own funds for homeless services.
After weeks of meetings stretched into months, the cash-strapped District signed an agreement in 1994 transferring the city’s responsibility to an entity known as the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness.
In 1994, according to city estimates, approximately 3,400 single adults used the District’s shelter system. They represented about 60 percent of the people in the system.
It was thought that 1,200 to 1,500 of those 3,400 lived on city streets and used the shelters or public space intermittently or interchangeably.
About a fifth of shelter residents were families who turned to the system repeatedly because of their precarious and unstable situations.
Some had drug addictions or major health problems; some were victims of domestic violence.
The D.C. Initiative’s solution? Transition from a shelter-based system to a “continuum of care” approach that entailed creating a community network of agencies and programs to tackle not only housing needs but also the root causes of homelessness.
Over time, The Post ran a series of cautious editorials about the feds’ push for the initiative.
The District had been used before as a federal test case — with city officials often left holding the short end of the stick.
Vincent C. Gray, the director of the D.C. Department of Human Services under Mayor Kelly, testified before the House subcommittee on housing and community development on Oct. 26, 1993, as to the D.C. Initiative’s goal.
Yes, Gray has been at this for a long time.
He promised Congress that with HUD money the District would try “to create real, permanent, enduring solutions for families and singles who are homeless . . . and make a contribution to . . . the Nation in how to resolve, once and for all, the problem of homelessness in this Nation.” That was nearly 20 years ago.
The Post tracked the D.C. Initiative through the departure of Cisneros and Cuomo from the Clinton administration, and through Pratt’s leave-taking from the District government.
By 2000, the D.C. Initiative was over and done. But the homeless were still here.
In June 2004, Mayor Anthony A. Williams presented with fanfare: “Homeless No More: A Strategy for Ending Homelessness in Washington, D.C. by 2014.” He billed it as a “client centered” approach focused on bringing to the table all the key service providers to create a system that prevents and ends, rather than maintains, the problem of homelessness.
Williams left office. The homeless remained.
In April 2008 Mayor Adrian M. Fenty introduced the “Housing First” fund. “What we are proposing is a new approach to serving our chronically homeless neighbors,” Fenty said. “The systems of the past have not brought us closer to ending this humanitarian crisis.”
Fenty proposed moving chronically homeless people from the streets and shelters to housing where they could be provided comprehensive services to solve the problems that contributed to their homelessness.
Sound familiar?
Fast-forward to 2013.
Today, millions of dollars later and after years upon years of government, nonprofit and private-sector efforts, homeless families are still in the defunct D.C. General hospital shelter, in motels or on the streets.
Is it a question of funding or underfunding, management or mismanagement, commitment or lack of concern? Does part of the problem also rest with those without roofs over their heads? Is the answer some or all of the above?
The Post’s Annie Gowen reported this week that Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), chairman of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Human Services, said he would conduct hearings on conditions at the hospital shelter. That’s too limited a focus.
There is no better time to take a sober look at the persistent problem of homelessness in our nation’s capital, its causes, what has worked and failed, and what can realistically be done to get people beyond their plight to greater independence.
That may be a better D.C. initiative.

Fresno: Burning Out a Homeless Encampment?

Fresno has no Heart – Will Evict the Homeless on Valentines Day
by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] fresnoalliance.com )
Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

The photo below shows the north end of the Monterey and E street homeless encampment.



An eviction of a significant number of homeless people at a downtown encampment will probably take place on Thursday, February 14. According to residents of the homeless encampment, located near Monterey and E street, they were told by the owner of the property they are living on that they have until Thursday to “move on.” The owner was accompanied by several officers from the Fresno Police Department and a truck & crew from the Fire Department.One homeless man told me this afternoon (Monday, February 11) that the owner of the property said he would be bulldozing the vacant lot on Thursday and everything would be destroyed. “He told me to get the fuck out of here,” he shared with me as he sorted through recycled items sitting in several shopping carts on the property. When I asked if he was sure it was the owner, he said “well, he had the police with him, so it looked pretty convincing to me.”

Unlike other evictions by the City of Fresno, there are no signs posted to notify the residents of the demolition that is to come. Julie (not her real name), said someone had posted an eviction notice about a month ago, but those were torn down within an hour or two. The owner told her that he did not have to post notices because it is his property.

There was an eviction that took place in the spring of 2012 at another homeless encampment, behind the grain silos near Palm and H street, that was similar. This was private property, the owner made numerous attempts to force the homeless to move, and eventually put a fence around the property to force the eviction. Many of the homeless people from that encampment moved about 200 feet south and occupied a different vacant lot. They have not been threatened with eviction again, as far as I know.

Most of the residents at the Monterey and E street homeless encampment who are being threatened with eviction said they were planning on moving, but I was told that not everyone would pack up and move. I was told that it is only the north end of the encampment that has been threatened with eviction. The dividing line is Monterey street. Everything north of Monterey street will likely be destroyed on Thursday. Everything south of Monterey street is said to be safe from the demolition.

Can the owner of a vacant lot take and immediately destroy homeless peoples property? Did the City of Fresno threaten the owner with legal action if he did not move against the homeless? Will FPD officers participate in the demolition or arrest anyone if they resist? Observers are needed starting early Thursday morning. If you can help, meet at the encampment starting at 7 a.m. on Thursday. Bring your video or still camera to document what takes place. If you can’t come until later, let me know so we can coordinate having someone there all day.

Demolitions of homeless encampments in October and November of 2011 resulted in over 30 lawsuits against the City of Fresno claiming that the city violated homeless peoples legal rights by taking and immediately destroying their property. Those cases are working their way through the court. Without this litigation it is likely that the city would have been more aggressive in their attacks on the homeless. A new strategy of forcing property owners to evict the homeless may be emerging as City Hall seeks to avoid additional lawsuits.


Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. He can be reached by email at editor [at] fresnoalliance.com .

§Another view of the norht end of the encampment

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM


§This shows the entire area impacted by the evictions

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM


§Typical Shelter in the Area

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM


§This is the center of the homeless encampment looking north

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM



Burning the Homeless out

by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] fresnoalliance.com )
Sunday Feb 17th, 2013 7:10 PM

This is a follow up to an earlier Indybay article about an eviction of homeless people at the Monterey and E street encampment in Fresno.



As I drove toward the Monterey and E street homeless encampment on Valentine’s Day, I could see a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky. When I got a little closer I could hear and then see the fire trucks screaming towards the smoke. They got there about 5 minutes ahead of me, but they already had most of the fire under control by the time I arrived.I was going to the encampment to check out reports that the owner was going to bulldoze the vacant lot, inhabited by about 100 homeless people in downtown Fresno. See: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/02/11/18731822.php

After taking a few photos of the scene I headed over to the police and what looked to be the fire department supervisor. I asked the officer if there was anything suspicious about the fire. He looked puzzled. I told him that the owner of the property had told the residents that he was going to bulldoze the encampment today. More puzzlement in the eyes of the two guys I was talking to. I said, “have you looked into the possibility that the owner started the fire to force the homeless from this area?” This the police officer seemed to understand and he assured me that nothing like that had happened. “How do you know that?” I asked. “Well, these people out here would make a complaint if something like that had happened. Oh, they do all kinds of things themselves, but if something happens to them they will file a complaint.”

Seemed to me that the officer had some bias against the homeless and unlike any other house fire in this town, there would be no investigation of what happened here. After all, these were just homeless people, squatting on somebody’s land. Arson? An attempt to evict the people that lived there? Obviously, the police or the fire department were not going to be bothered to investigate what had happened.

This is one of the realities of the homeless encampments in Fresno. There are a lot of fires, some of which are caused by candles and other light or heat sources. Sometimes, as Gloria (a homeless woman who used to live in the area) told me, there are people who will burn your house down because you owe them $10.

Several people told me that the fire on Valentine’s Day was not due to the vigilantism of the property owner, but was the result of a personal dispute.

The eviction by the owner, who told everyone he was going to bulldoze their property, did not happen. This is not unusual and has become a pattern in Fresno. What usually happens is that you have a property owner who may or may not care that homeless people are living on his property. He or she is contacted by someone from the City of Fresno (usually code enforcement or the police) and they are told they have to do something about the homeless encampment on their property.

If the owner does not move to dislodge the homeless the city official will ratchet up the pressure. This could be in the form of telling the owner that if they don’t remove the homeless, the city will do it and send them a bill for the clean up. Another approach I have seen them use is to threaten the owner, saying that if they don’t remove the homeless, they will make life more difficult for them. In one case they told a home owner with obvious code violations that if they did not remove the homeless people from their property they would come and do an inspection. If the homeless people move, then there will be no pesky government officials turning over every stone at your house to make sure you are in 100% compliance of all local, state, and federal laws. You get the idea.

In this case, the owner came out to the encampment on Monterey and E streets, with the fire department and the police watching his back (from a safe distance) as he threatened them with eviction and a bulldozer on Valentine’s Day. This created enough anxiety among the homeless that at least ½ of them moved away. That was the desired result. If the city and property owner can get the homeless to leave, without bringing out the bulldozer, that is a win for them.

Most homeless people don’t want to be a part of a confrontation and they will move on when threatened with the destruction of their property. Of course, they usually just move over to the next vacant lot and the process starts all over again.

§Why was their no investigation of this house fire?

by Mike Rhodes Sunday Feb 17th, 2013 7:11 PM





All photos by Mike Rhodes

Berkeley Levels Restrictions on “Unattended Property”–Copying Santa Cruz Bigotry?

Norse’s Notes:  Is there a contagion of homeless-ophobia?   Are Berkeley gentrification folks watching Santa Cruz and taking their cure from the right-wingers here?   The Berkeley library’s “unattended property” rule change seems suspiciously close in time and content to the Santa Cruz November change banning unattended property.  Other changes included trying to tighten rules on service animals, and increasing penalties drastically for repeated violation by many months.

Those who want to examine the records of complaints and evictions from the Santa Cruz Library should contact the City Council staff at 420-5020 and ascertain whether they are still holding the public records I requested there.


Has it gotten harder to be homeless in Berkeley?

January 2, 2013 2:45 pm by Emilie Raguso

New policies at the Berkeley Library prohibit bringing in items larger than 24 inches. One reader wondered if the change were related to the failure of Measure S to pass. Photo: Emilie Raguso

After the failure of Measure S to pass in November, we heard from one reader who said there seemed to have been harsher enforcement around town of violations related to homelessness. The reader said a homeless friend had been hassled by police when trying to sleep in a regular spot, and also wanted to know about new rules at the library that limit the size and type of items that can be brought inside.

The reader sent us an email in December detailing the changes, and asked Berkeleyside to learn more.

“Since the no-sit measure failed, the city has begun new, more aggressive treatment of the homeless. My homeless neighbor … has been told he could sleep in the doorway of a movie theater but last night, a cop rousted him from his dry, out-of-the-rain perch in the theater’s doorway. The cop said the theater could face stiff fines for giving [my neighbor] permission to sleep in their doorway on a rainy night.”

The reader continued: “Is this really who we want to be as a city?”

According to police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats, the Berkeley Police Department has not altered its general approach to the enforcement of violations associated with homeless residents.

“There has not been any new change in policy regarding our enforcement efforts after the failure of Measure S,” said Coats, via email, in December. “Officers have the discretion to enforce laws if needed.”

(She said she did not have details about the specific incident described above, as no additional information was available from the reader who contacted Berkeleyside about it.)

New rules at the library

The reader also noted a shift in policy at the Berkeley Public Library, with visitors — seemingly suddenly — forbidden from bringing in items larger than 24 inches.

“This new policy, which appeared overnight … is clearly targeted to keep homeless with their stuff out of the library. Um, if you are homeless, you have nowhere to leave your stuff.  I know that, for middle-class patrons, it can feel uncomfortable to be sitting at a library computer next to a guy who appears homeless and has some luggage with him. Geez, have compassion for that human being.”

Douglas Smith, deputy director at the Berkeley Public Library, said in December that the changes had not come out of the blue, and that library staff members were working with patrons to let them know about the changes and help come up with alternatives.

Smith said the library has rules of conduct that are regularly reviewed and updated. At the Nov. 14 meeting of the library board, members voted to approve the new rules. They went into effect Dec. 1. (See the agenda packet related to this item here.)

Smith said changes to the rules included now letting patrons charge phones and computers using library outlets, which previously had been forbidden, as well as the new limitation on the amount and type of items people can bring inside.

The rules now prohibit entering the library with containers or packages that, singly or collectively, exceed 16 inches by 18 inches by 24 inches. They also forbid leaving items unattended, blocking walkways, and entering the library “with items inappropriate to library use, including but not limited to bicycles, shopping carts, large trash bags, bedrolls, and strollers without children.”
Smith said that, since the last revision of the rules, three years back, there had been “an issue in some of our libraries of people coming in with large amounts of stuff in a variety of shapes and sizes. It does have an impact on other people’s ability to use the library comfortably.”

Unattended items can cause a range of problems, he said, adding that library staff had observed an increase in this behavior, especially at the central library in downtown Berkeley.

“It was at least a daily occurrence, usually more,” said Smith.

Some patrons had made a habit of leaving their possessions around, blocking access to collections and computers, and “walking away for the day,” he said. When items were left around the building, it also made it hard for staff to clear the building in a timely manner at the end of the day.

For the greater good

Smith said the library aims to be accessible to everyone, but that involves putting limits on conduct that might interfere with access to the facility.

“Our mission is to say ‘yes’ as much as possible, but we do have to make sure people follow the rules,” he said. “Part of our mission is to help create a space in the community where people want to come, where it can be a place for silent study, meeting with friends, using collections, using computers and getting information from librarians.”

Smith said Rules of Conduct policies like those adopted in November are “very common” for libraries in urban settings.

Penalties could range from receiving a copy of the written rules, for the first violation, to suspension of library privileges for up to a year, with the fourth violation. Suspensions would only result from more egregious offenses of the rules, such as fighting, Smith added.

He said, as of the first week of December, there had been “a couple of complaints” about the new rules, “but we’re working with people to try and get them alternatives.”

Smith said staff had tried to let patrons know about the new rules prior to Dec. 1 and was making efforts to be flexible as people learned about the changes.

Smith said he understood that the new rules would be a challenge for some patrons, but that they were necessary for the facility to work as a shared resource.

“A lot of businesses — and non-profits, government offices and other organizations — place these sorts of restrictions on what can happen inside their premises and what can be brought in,” he said. “It goes back to the full range of people we need to serve here, from babies to senior citizens, people from all social classes, and every facet of society.”


I was the anonymous reader. I never gave Berkeleyside permission to publish what I wrote. I wrote in and asked them to look into it. I had not written an opinion piece or a letter to the editor. I sent in a story suggstion and did not give permission. I retain the copyright to everything I write and my permission is required to publish it.
Keep in mind the spinmeister police chief we have who sent a police officer to a reporter’s home in the middle of the night. I do not trust anything any spokesperson from the Berkeley police says: its all spin, smoke and mirrors in a department run by a guy who dedicates lots of resources to his kid’s stolen iPHone and rousts journalists in the middle of the night and prioritizies demonstrations in Oakland over urgent calls in the Berkeley hills. I do not trust the Berkeley police public relations spokespeople and the spin they are ordered to spew.
In my email, I copied an email I got from one homeless friend and I did not give berkeleyside permission to quote me because I had shared my friend’s email without his permission. To the people who are active on the street, such as outreach workers, cops and the Downtown Business Assoc workers with police-like powers who routinely order the homeless around like they are less than the rest of us, few regular homeless/street people are unfamiliar. I had no right to give away my friend’s identify without his permission and neither did Berkeleyside.

My homeless friend actually does have legal representation and his attorneys (Yes, plural, he is a well liked and even loved member of our community, an unfortunate but sweetly loving human being) who are licensed are helping him.

This berkeleyside story, written by Ms. Raguso who was merely an intern quite recently and is now ‘senior reporter’ — whatever happened to cub reporters and periods of training and, um, actual training — Ms. RAguso simply regurgitated PR from the police and library. since when is PR statements reporting the news. I did not, keep in mind, force B-side to publish this story.

Did she go out and try to talk to some homeless folks at the library or around downtown? Most homeless folks in downtown Berkeley are warm and friendly.

It is just an irrational cultural bias to reject someone cause they don’t shave every morning cause they don’t have a sink. and the claims that the homeless smell are grossly overstated. Spend time with some and you will see.

I think people are afraid of the homeless, deep down, because for most of it, ‘there but for the grace of god, it would be us” so we villify ‘them’ to feel safe.

They are us. It is as simple as that.

FOR MORE EXTENSIVE COMMENTS–BOTH CRITICAL AND SUPPORTIVE–ON THIS  ARTICLE SEE http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/01/02/has-it-gotten-harder-to-be-homeless-in-berkeley/

Venice program gives the homeless a place to keep belongings

 – latimes.com

By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times

February 10, 2013, 8:25 p.m.
Bone-chilling fog swirled along Venice Beach one recent afternoon when Robert and Nani Valencia and Ana Maria Reyes stopped by the long, metal storage container beside the sand.
After they showed IDs and claim checks, a volunteer wheeled out two blue recycling bins in which the three recent arrivals from Texas had stashed their suitcases. They pulled out toiletries, sweaters and blankets and stuffed them into reusable grocery bags.
“It makes us feel a lot better to store our things here,” said Nani Valencia, 37. “When you have all your [suitcases] with you, people treat you like you have rabies.”
With bags in hand, she, her husband and his 64-year-old mother joined dozens of others waiting for a bus to take them to a shelter. The three would rest, eat dinner and have a shower that night at the West Los Angeles National Guard Armory on Federal Avenue; most of their meager possessions would remain locked up at the beach.
In the wake of court rulings that bar cities from randomly seizing and destroying homeless people’s property, communities such as Venice are seeking long-term storage options to keep their streets and alleys clean.
“We’re not going to let [homeless people] keep items on the beach anymore,” said Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice. “We’re going to bag and tag [them]. We want to make it inconvenient but within the law.”
Contributing to the problem was a rule governing use of the city’s Westside winter shelter.
Homeless individuals who choose to sleep at the shelter are allowed to take with them only the items they can carry on their laps. And some were reluctant to leave their possessions for fear they would be stolen or seized. That meant many of the shelter’s 160 beds went unused.
Rosendahl and a local social services agency — Venice Community Housing Corp. — launched a pilot program late last month called Check-in Storage. The initiative allows individuals to store personal belongings in the container for a week at a time and retrieve them between 3 and 5 p.m. daily. (The program is slated to end March 1, when the shelter closes.)
To publicize the service, volunteers and social service agencies distributed bright orange fliers: “If your stuff will fit into a big trash can,” they read, “bring it to our storage container.” The flier noted that the program would not accept medicine, identification, weapons or “anything illegal.”
The storage option, said Steve Clare, executive director of Venice Community Housing, is modeled on successful programs in downtown L.A.’s skid row and cities including San Francisco, San Diego and Costa Mesa.
In September, a federal appeals court ruled in a lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles that seizing and destroying property left temporarily unattended on public sidewalks was unconstitutional. Personal possessions may be removed only if the items pose an immediate threat to public safety or health or constitute criminal evidence, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found.
Even then, the city must notify owners where they can pick up their property.
On the afternoon the Valencias and Reyes retrieved some items, about half of the 25 bins were in use. Also there for safekeeping was a Schwinn bicycle. Its owner, Love Sha Un of Nigeria, came by to check on his $215 purchase and thank the volunteers. Without the storage option, he said, “it might have gone missing.”
Not everyone is pleased with the program.
Mark Ryavec, a Venice resident who lobbied against overnight parking by RV dwellers, said the city should have sought a permit from the California Coastal Commission before plopping a storage container at the beach. Marc Saltzberg, vice president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, said the program was implemented without a public process that would have enabled residents and other interested parties to weigh in.
Rosendahl said he hoped to notify street denizens of a new location by the end of February and have a new program up and running by March. He said he was working with the Los Angeles city attorney’s office to ensure that any seizures of items would be done legally.

Occupy protester guilty of vandalism

by Henry K. Lee
S.F. Chronicle Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Occupy protester has been convicted of felony vandalism for throwing a chair and smashing the windows of an Oakland police building near City Hall.

Cesar Aguirre, 24, of Elk Grove (Sacramento County) was convicted Monday by an Alameda County jury and could face up to three years in state prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 10.

Testimony showed he was dressed in black clothing and was wearing goggles and a dust mask in the early morning hours of Nov. 1 when he used a metal folding chair to break the windows of the Oakland police internal affairs and recruiting office on Frank Ogawa Plaza about 1 a.m. Nov. 3.

A police officer witnessed the incident from a parking structure. Aguirre had glass shards on his sleeves when he was arrested.

Authorities said he broke six windows and a door, causing $6,654 in damage. The city has sued Aguirre to recover the cost of repairs.

The incident happened amid rioting in downtown Oakland following a peaceful demonstration on Nov. 2.

Protesters damage Obama Oakland office

Demian Bulwa – S. F. Chronicle
Saturday, August 4, 2012

Protesters smashed a large window at President Obama’s re-election campaign office in downtown Oakland late Friday night, tore down a nearby fence and vandalized cars, according to police, witnesses and video footage.

Staffers and volunteers were inside the Organizing for America office at 1714 Telegraph Ave. when it was vandalized after 9 p.m., but no one was hurt, said a staffer who declined to be identified. The office is a joint effort of the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

When the window was broken, well over 100 people had joined what began as a rally against the city’s handling of growing crowds at the first-Friday-of-the-month event called Art Murmur, a gallery crawl centered in the Uptown arts district from 6 to 9 p.m.

Protesters – who included Occupy Oakland activists – said the city was cracking down on vendors and performers who came into the neighborhood during the gallery crawl without permits. Until June, the galleries had closed down a block of 23rd Street, but the approach got too expensive and hectic.

Danielle Fox, who directs Art Murmur and owns a gallery called Slate Contemporary, said of the vandalism: “It’s very unfortunate and we’re very concerned, because our commitment is that when people come to visit the galleries, they should have a safe and positive cultural experience.”

City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente said the frequency of vandalism at downtown protests was “unacceptable” and hurt restaurants and other businesses.

“It’s continuing to be bad publicity for us and the merchants trying to revitalize downtown,” he said. “Art Murmur is something that is getting bigger and becoming a destination for people. Obviously, this is something that is not good for the city.”

The vandalism happened a little more than a day after someone damaged two Oakland police cars near City Hall and attempted to break a window at a police station early Thursday.

A group calling itself the East Bay Uncontrollables said it was responsible for the attack and called it a reaction to a federal investigation into anarchist activity.

Lauren Smith, a 30-year-old activist, said the goal of Friday’s demonstration was to “create a space where people could have their social gatherings without asking permission from the city and the police department.”

She said she was not at the rally but watched it live online. She said she did not agree with vandalizing cars, but that the window-smashing at the campaign office was justified.

“People feel betrayed by Obama. … I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before now,” she said. “Oakland is a place where people are really struggling. When the pressure is released just a little bit, you see people go after those things that they see as responsible for the conditions.”

‘Stop and frisk?’ Not in our city

by The Rev. Amos Brown, President, San Francisco NAACP
SF Chronicle Letters to the Editor 7-28-2012

In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, Mayor Ed Lee has doubled down on his idea of replicating New York City’s ineffective racial profiling program known as “stop and frisk.” The San Francisco NAACP stands with a vocal majority of the city in opposition to this idea.

The numbers show that stop and frisk is irredeemably biased. Year after year, more than 85 percent of New Yorkers stopped by police are black or Latino. Yet 9 out of 10 walk away with no charge, just a bitter feeling that they have been profiled by the color of their skin. San Francisco needs to build greater bonds between police and the community they serve, not greater distrust.

Police Chief Greg Suhr has expressed strong concerns about stopping people for any reason besides reasonable suspicion. We agree that racial profiling is always bad policing. When police focus on race or ethnicity, they inevitably ignore the more important behavioral cues that can help locate a suspect.

This misdirection results in a waste of valuable resources and police time. Mayor Lee has said he is trying to “get to the guns,” but he should be reminded that last year NYPD officers turned up just one gun for every 3,000 street stops.

Stop-and-frisk doesn’t work in New York City, and it has no place in San Francisco.

Deadly shootings reveal divisions of Anaheims

Associated Press Jul. 26, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — As police around City Hall tried to quell rock-hurling protesters angry over two deadly police shootings, the night sky exploded with splendid bursts of green and orange from Disneyland fireworks a few miles away. Pyrotechnic booms trailed popping sounds as officers in riot gear fired pepper balls and bean bags at protesters.

The contrasting scenes were reflective of the two Anaheims that were on display this week. One is a magical tourist destination, and the other is a place where shifting demographics have left a large segment of the population feeling like second-class citizens.

“This is not quite ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,’ and now the world knows it,” said Joese Hernandez, referencing Disneyland’s motto. “It’s great if you live in the hills, but if you live right around the corner from ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ you realize it’s a whole different ball game.”

The 27-year-old community organizer, who grew up in Anaheim, made the statement to the City Council as raucous protests raged outside Tuesday night.

Two fatal police shootings last weekend — one of an unarmed man police say was a known gang member— roiled the city and exposed its divisions. Demonstrators took to the streets four nights in a row.

Tuesday’s was the largest and most violent protest, with some of the nearly 600 demonstrators hurling rocks and bottles at police, who made two dozen arrests. About 20 businesses were damaged.

The city has asked federal authorities to investigate the shootings.

Both victims were Hispanic, as were most of the demonstrators. The city, about 90 percent white in 1970, now has a population that is 53 percent Hispanic.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city, alleging that Anaheim’s at-large elections have weakened Latinos’ voting power. The suit claims only three councilmembers in the city’s history have been Hispanic. Most of the City Council currently hails from the city’s upscale neighborhoods to the east.

“So much attention has been paid to building up the resort district and somehow those resources would trickle down to the rest of the city and we’re just not seeing it,” said Jose Moreno, president of Los Amigos of Orange County and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “A lot of us are saying enough is enough and this police shooting is really just emblematic of something more systemic in the politics of the city.”

While it’s known worldwide as the home of Disneyland, the reality is Anaheim is much more than a theme park. It’s a big city — the population is 336,000, about the same as Tampa, Fla., and Honolulu — and it has big-city problems. There is great wealth for some, but a large segment of the population lives in or at the edge of poverty.

Those differences can be seen in the tony, hilltop homes in the east to the rundown areas like Anna Street, where some residents shrug off the presence of gangs so long as they’re left alone. It’s a far cry from the place filled with orange groves that Walt Disney chose for his theme park in the 1950s because it had so much open space.

Since then, the city has been a magnet for tourists flocking to see Mickey Mouse or attend an event at the massive convention center touted as the largest on the West Coast. There is professional baseball with the Angels and pro hockey with the Ducks, whose original name Mighty Ducks name came from — what else? — a Disney film.

More than 17 million people visited Anaheim last year and spent nearly $4.6 billion. Few ever see much of the city, however. Visitors to the neatly manicured theme park or Angel Stadium can reach their destinations by zipping off the freeway and into a parking lot without passing through the city’s residential neighborhoods.

Tourism officials have been in close contact with the city since the unrest. On Wednesday, the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau was quick to reassure visitors the city is safe and pointed out the recent police incidents didn’t take place in the area where Disneyland and the convention center are located.

Gene Jeffers, executive director of the Themed Entertainment Association, said some area residents might put off visiting the resort in the next few days but he doesn’t see any real effect on tourism — especially not on those who hail from out of town.

“There’s a pretty big buffer zone around the park,” said Jeffers, whose organization represents theme park designers and developers.

Mayor Tom Tait warned the city would take swift action to stop any additional violence. He also noted the violence occurred far from tourist hubs.

Local activists have complained that officials spend too much time worrying about image for tourists and on big-time developers, but not enough on housing and services for its people.

Critics have blasted city officials for extending a tax break to a Disneyland-area hotel developer and want to change elections in Anaheim to make officials more accountable to local districts.

They have also demanded an independent investigation into recent police shootings — which officials had agreed to seek even before the weekend’s events pushed the total number of fatal police shootings to six this year.

On Saturday, a police officer fatally shot Manuel Diaz outside an Anna Street apartment complex. Officers say Diaz, who had a criminal record, failed to heed orders and threw something as he fled police. The city’s police union said Diaz reached for his waistband, which led the officer to believe he was drawing a gun.

Diaz’s family, which is suing for $50 million in damages, says he was shot in the leg and the back of the head. During a protest the night of the shooting, a police dog escaped and bit a bystander.

On Sunday night, police shot to death Joel Acevedo, a suspected gang member they say fired at officers after a pursuit.

Veronica Rodarte, a 25-year-old social services program coordinator, said she is well aware of the problems with gang violence and police in the city where she’s lived her entire life. But she doesn’t like how residents’ outrage, even if justified, has turned violent.

“We are very upset with the portrayals our city is getting and the violence that is erupting in our city,” she said. “Throwing rocks and rioting and setting trash bins on fire is not going to help us move forward.”

San Leandro sued in Oakland man’s death

by Henry K. Lee
S.F. Chronicle Thursday, July 26, 2012

The mother of a man who was high on methamphetamine when he died after struggling with San Leandro police has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.

Darnell Hutchinson, 32, of Oakland had been acting paranoid and scaring customers at the Nation’s Giant Hamburgers restaurant at 1335 Washington Ave. on Oct. 9.

Employees called police after Hutchinson refused to leave. Officers tried to take him into protective custody, but he became “physically combative,” San Leandro police Lt. Jeff Tudor has said.

An officer shot Hutchinson with his stun gun, but it had little or no effect, police said. Four officers finally managed to handcuff him, police said.

Hutchinson immediately began showing signs of distress. He died at a hospital.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Hutchinson’s mother, Katherine Hutchinson, said officers engaged in an “unlawful assault. The officers held Mr. Hutchinson down by digging their knees and feet into his body and leveraging their bodies against his and the pavement.” The suit, filed by Oakland attorney John Burris, seeks unspecified damages.

Hutchinson died of acute methamphetamine intoxication, authorities said.

An internal investigation determined that the officers had acted appropriately, Tudor said.

Occupy Oakland: focusing or fading away?

Matthai Kuruvila and Demian Bulwa
S.F. Chronicle, Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Occupy activists have assailed a federal government they say colludes with the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. But on Monday when the president came to raise money in downtown Oakland – home of the nation’s most militant Occupy movement – the protesters did little to respond.

President Obama, who attended a big fundraiser at the Fox Theater, was met primarily by a group of medical marijuana advocates. Some Occupy protesters joined them and later marched, but their actions were a stark contrast to events in the past that drew thousands.

Whether it’s a sign of a movement that’s lost steam – or is merely evolving – is still unclear.

“We don’t know where it goes, but we’re in the early stages,” said Matt Smaldone, 38, a West Oakland resident who has been involved in Occupy Oakland since the beginning. “I don’t think we’re at a risk of things stopping, because the economy is not improving.”

More than nine months after setting up an elaborate tent city outside City Hall, leading to infamous clashes with the police, Occupy Oakland is again trying to reinvent itself without the unifying force of the encampment and in the face of critics who question their aggressive tactics.

Thinking smaller

Large-scale actions – like shutdowns of the Port of Oakland in November and December – don’t appear to be the future. Instead, the movement has fragmented into smaller groups focused on issues like school closures, foreclosure prevention and a fatal police shooting in May.

That means doing things that often involve neighborhood organizing, which happens far from downtown. For some, that’s a sign of progress.

“It’s a good thing people are focused less on spectacles and doing more community organizing work,” said Steven Angell, 23, an Occupy Oakland activist since January. “Those are much more important, particularly for Oakland.”

But some critics of Occupy Oakland said the group had lost much of the support it had last year, in part because some members put so much energy into confronting police.

‘Mayhem’ criticized

“They would get support if they would fight for a cause, not just cause mayhem,” said Nancy Sidebotham, 67, who helped organize Stand for Oakland, a group of citizens and merchants that spoke out against Occupy Oakland. “They need to go after the banks or the economy. Pick something and go after it. Don’t try to go all over the map because you can’t get it together.”

Members acknowledge that their numbers have shrunk, and not just at public actions. General assemblies, held twice a week, have drawn fewer and fewer people, prompting moves to reduce from 100 the size of the quorum needed for a vote. In Occupy Oakland’s heyday, some meetings attracted more than 1,000 people.

Wendy Kenin, a 40-year-old Berkeley resident who is on Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, said a core group at the assemblies is “holding the space for the continuation of the movement. It might not look like the massive uprising of last year, but it’s still active. There are going to be ebbs and flows.”

Several people, though, said that frustration and burnout had chipped away at the movement and that divides had opened due to violence and infighting – sometimes, ironically, over how to spend donated money.

Some people who participated in Occupy Oakland felt it was important to rally against the police, particularly after they arrested protesters. But others saw a useless series of skirmishes that could have been largely avoided, and that distracted from the core message of economic inequality.

On Monday, Spencer Mills – who helped pioneer live, online broadcasts of Occupy Oakland events – criticized protesters for past tactics like throwing rocks at police.

“Please, come off that high horse & tell me what you have accomplished with violence & property destruction in Oakland,” he wrote on Twitter. “Actually, it has accomplished things. #OPD can better justify its budget,@JeanQuan gets the high moral ground & (Occupy Oakland) drifts in obscurity.”

Blaming the establishment

Many Occupy activists said tension is inevitable in a big social movement. They said the internal discord has been heightened by outside forces, particularly police and the press.

“The establishment did such a great job demonizing the Occupy movement that a lot of people who are unhappy with the economy are too afraid to show up,” said David Meany, 32, of Pleasant Hill, a self-described pacifist who has been coming to Occupy Oakland since nearly the beginning.

Rachel Dorney, 24, of Oakland, who moved into the original City Hall encampment, said she had been less involved in recent months, in part because of internal strife. But she, too, believed Occupy would not fade away.

“I don’t think it’s dead,” she said. “I hope it’s not. Whatever happens, we can’t go back to how it was (in America). Things have definitely changed. It’s an idea, and I think a lot of times people forget that. Whatever happens, we haven’t failed.”