Freedom SleepOut #79 Swims Toward Justice Tuesday Night

Date Tuesday January 10- Wednesday January 11
4:00 PM Tuesday -  9 AM Wednesday
Location Details Under the eaves of City Hall until driven away by “peace officers” and “park protection rangers” and then on the wet sidewalks outside City Hall. Bring cardboard, canvas, protective gear, video, and friends. The protest runs from 4 PM today to mid-morning Wednesday.
Event Type
Keith McHenry (story by Norse)

In wretched cold wet weather, the Freedom Sleepers continue the vigil that was begun 78 weeks before outside the offices of the City Council members who have the power to end the Sleeping Ban, permit protective encampments, open up vacant buildings for shelter, and actually protect the homeless population instead of criminalizing them.

City Council however, has nothing on its agenda for its first meeting of the year–in the shortest meeting scheduled in memory. Ironically one of the only two regular proposals is a Sanctuary proposal for undocumented workers. Meanwhile, police active persecute and harass the city’s own displaced poor.

Councilmember Krohn will be meeting with the public 9 AM today at the Cafe Pergolesi at Cedar and Elm Streets this morning before the vigil. He has the power to request police reports on the amount of ticketing and harassment done throughout the winter and in the last year (records still withheld by the police department). He can pressure the opening of bathrooms at night by demanding detailed reports on the actual needs of a homeless population of 1000-2000.

He can openly demand documentation of the amount of homeless property taken by police and rangers and insist that such seizures of survival gear stop (as the Denver mayor has finally done). There are many such demands of staff that do not require a Council vote (which he’s not likely to get).

At the last Freedom Sleepout in freezing rains, homeless advocate Dreamcatcher reported that police drove homeless sleepers out from under the protective eaves of City Hall into the rain and cold with no alternative places to go. The private Warming Center program and the 110-capacity Winter Shelter program have no shelter for more than 90% of the city’s homeless population. Police have reportedly made it a point in the particularly cruel weather to station vehicles outside public buildings to make sure the poor don’t dare to huddle under the overhangs for protection.

The SC Tenant Organizing Committee plans a Tenants’ Community Meal on January 22nd! See or call (831)-471-7842 for more info.
A broader union with tenants facing imminent homelessness could be a strong force for change.   Late afternoon organizing and door-knocking is planned for 1-10 @ 5pm, 1-12 @ 5:30pm, 1-15 @ 4pm, and 1-16 @ 5pm.

Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs responding to half a dozen arrests over the weekend of food servers in Tampa, Florida, will be joining in a solidarity feeding and protest 4 PM Saturday January 14th outside the Main Post Office.

Salinas Union of the Homeless will have its 2nd annual celebration at 22 Soledad St. 10 AM – 1 PM at the CSUMB Learning Center on Monday, January 16, 2017, Martin Luther King Day. Contact HUFF at 423-4833 for more information, or come to the Wednesday January 11th HUFF meeting at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe.

Meanwhile in Santa Cruz, activist artists Joff Jones and Alex Skelton have blown the whistle on selective police enforcement against street artists, activists, and performers. See “Selective Enforcement documented on Pacific Ave” at .

Come prepared for wet weather and icy reception from uniformed thugs armed with the power of law and the force to lethally enforce it. Hot soup will likely be available.

Fight Back on Selective Enforcement and Merchant Privilege on Pacific Avenue

NORSE’S NOTES: A recent story on Santa Cruz indymedia (“Selective Enforcement documented on Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz, CA” at ) highlights the well-known SCPD and Ranger harassment of vendors, performers, and other tablers on Pacific Avenue will giving merchants with their display devices and unpermitted signs a free pass.

Anti-performer and anti-activist laws (also known as the Downtown Ordinances) were originally designed in 1994 to go after homeless folks and peaceful sparechangers (as well as to give police broader powers to go after youth, minorities, and anyone who didn’t “feel right” to businesses and police). Some of them are itemized at

In order to pass constitutional muster, the “h” word couldn’t be used or it would violate the 5th and 14th Amendments (equality under the law).

As the noose was drawn tighter with expanded forbidden-to-sit zones and a 1 hour “move along” law in 2002/3 and further expansions in 2009, merchants continued to violate the law.

According to the city clerk’s office some years ago, it was never legal, for instance, for stores to put up free standing signs on the sidewalk advertising their stores. There was not even a permit process for doing so.  Yet merchants regularly have done so.  Police and city enforcement officials have turned a blind eyes.

The “performance pens” set up by City Council in 2014 (and then severely restricted unilaterally and behind closed doors by city staff) are routinely ignored by merchants when they display their wares, preempting more of the little public space left to the rest of us.

It’s striking to me to read the July 16 letter from Martinez and Khoury [below].  I will be making a Public Records Act demanding copies of all citations issued since the letter was written.

An obvious thing to do is to begin calling the police on various merchants to cite merchants for violating the law and arrogantly expropriating the public space.  Then document what police do or don’t do.   And publicize it.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) previously considered advising merchants that we’d like them to join in a coalition to support giving individuals the same right to set up their tables as merchants have.   Otherwise, for every citation given a street performer, vendor, activist, or homeless panhandler, there would be a specific documented complaint made out against a store owner with a display device sitting out on the sidewalk.

I’d be happy to support folks doing this.

In fact, I’ll be bringing it up as an action item at the next HUFF meeting (Wednesday January 11th 11 AM at the Sub Rosa).

Here are some selections from The Jones/Skelton Report on indybay at that exposes this practices.

For more photos, video, and to make comments, go to:


                              A little over six months ago park Rangers began patrolling downtown Santa Cruz, CA in part to enforce new ordinances which modify and restrict activity for anyone placing anything on the public sidewalks and open spaces of downtown Santa Cruz. These ordinances have had major implications for musicians, street performers, artists, political advocates, and anyone else wishing to use the public spaces for many forms of constitutionally protected activity (see SCMC Chapter 5.81, below).
                             They are required to be located within a “zone” or “box” 4×6 feet in size, leave after one hour, and follow additional restrictions. These spaces have been reduced in number progressively by more than half over the last couple of years, with few viable spaces remaining. Businesses have also long used public spaces and sidewalks to display merchandise and signage. They received a letter dated July 21, 2016 (see photo, below) outlining the need for their compliance with the new laws. Rangers and Santa Cruz police issued citations for violations of these codes, and many performers, artisans, and other individuals who weren’t allowed under the new code, or weren’t “in a zone,” or were there longer than one hour, were cited. As the months wore on and the business signage and racks of merchandise began to reappear along the avenue, there has been no apparent concern by law enforcement at their daily presence (almost never “in a zone,” and often displaying “banned items”).
                               Many individual citizens and visiting performers to Santa Cruz continue to be cited for various related “offenses,” however. Tickets we have seen have all been in excess of $300.00.

See below for additional photo documentation, the letter from law enforcement, and Santa Cruz municipal code Chapter 5.81:

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In the wake of smoking police guns, HUFF meets tomorrow 11 AM Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific

With the recent killing Sean Amit Sunday morning,  police gunslingers have raised a long needed debate about the need for Community Control of Police that HUFF has long been urging.    Or will this be another excuse to blame the disabled and the “mentally ill”?     Also on the Agenda:

  • the ACLU Board of Directors meeting 7 PM tomorrow night at Louden Nelson–homeless defense on the agenda or was the Houseless Forum A Carnival Passing Through Town?…
  • Tenant Rights Forum 7 PM Louden Nelson also tomorrow–Will City Council candidates punt or play (don’t get your hopes up)…
  • the continuing struggle of vendors and street performers downtown–Romina’s struggle as the City Attorney stonewalls…
  • street artists Joff and Alex–a lost battle against the Blue Boxes–but an ongoing war?
  • Endorsing Council Candidates or Repudiating the Election?
  • Rainy Days and Rousts–is Jessica Nash’s report a peek into the future?…

and, of course, more and more…
with hits of coffee available to keep you going…

Rain or Shine–Freedom SleepOut #67 Rolls On

Date Tuesday October 18
Time 3:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Location Details Cityhall Land–where sleep for the homeless is banned and armed Sleepbusters get their paychecks at 809 Center St. After the First Amendment closes down at 10 PM on the City Hall grounds, many will choose to sleep along the Center St. sidewalk between Locust and Church Sts. The event goes on until Wednesday morning, after which houseless folks face harassment at the whim of police, rangers, and security thugs for the rest of the week.
Event Type Protest
Organizer/Author Keith McHenry (story by Norse)
keith [at]

Freedom Sleeper Lucero Luna, many times arrested and jailed, for peaceful protest against the Sleeping Ban on Pacific Avenue, reported her attempts to create alleviation of bad conditions in the women’s jail resulted in a “crazy” designation. Her report noted women were held on the men’s side of the jail; male jailers watched her while she was stripped; women were packed into a cell like sardines; the floors covered with women trying to sleep; She was wakened every half hour with a flashlight in the face for “suicide checks”. Reportedly bunk beds were put in shortly after her departure in possible response to Lucero’s expose.

Visual artists Joff Jones and Alex Skelton were assaulted with $1300 in fines for displaying their paintings “outside the blue boxes” in the courtroom of Commissioner “Bash the Bums” Baskett. She dismissed and ignored all Constitutional arguments after making a show of keeping to court protocol. It’s unclear whether two, who have (in my view unwisely) kept their defense and their case under wraps, will appeal.

Ramini–an Iranian musician and craftswoman–was fined $233 for having her artwork on display without any evidence of sales as part of a cultural background to her musical performing. The City Attorney’s office has refused to clarify whether it now regards any display of handicrafts, even if handmade and not offered for sale or donation, a crime.

A dozen homeless folks were driven out into the rain, reports Jessica Nash, late Friday morning as they took shelter under the trees across from the Civic Auditorium. See “Police and Ranger Raid on Homeless In the Rain Reported” at ./14/18792238.php

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Count for Freedom Sleeper Reaches 60 Nights Out

Date Tuesday August 30
4:00 PM – 8:00 AM Wednesday

Location Details Occupying with sleeping bag, car, and tent, the sidewalk and curbsides next to Santa Cruz City Hall from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday morning around 8 AM

Event Type Protest
Keith McHenry (story by Norse)


The 60th Tuesday night Freedom SleepOut continues a year-old weekly protest against the City’s attack on unhoused and poor people who sleep outside or in vehicles.

MC 6.36.010a continues to make the very act of sleeping after 11 PM a crime.

MC 6.36.055 does provide exemptions for those who sign up for the River St. Shelter Waiting List (call in at 459-6644, and then keep calling back every three days). There is no walk-in shelter currently available for the City’s 1000-2000 unhoused. There is no Winter Shelter at all on the radar. Homeless folks have to find their own community, safety, and sleeping spots where they can. On Tuesday nights, the Freedom Sleepers have apparently created a “safe” area.

Limited food and occasional coffee is available at different points during the afternoon, evening, and morning. Support human rights at home with your support and your presence!


An overflow crowd listened to nearly a dozen candidates give soundbyte answers to a flock of questions, some of which touched on (but none squarely focused on) criminalization of the homeless through the Camping Ban and other laws.

At the forum, the usual promises about “more affordable housing” and “safe (shelter) spaces” were tossed about. Drew Glover raised the issue of Deputy Chief Steve Clark, a notorious anti-homeless cop, and there was talk about a Review Board for Police–though none of the candidates have been active in Copwatch or other regular attempts to hold police accountable.

Some activists are suggesting the candidates come out squarely to support Campaign Zero–the Black Lives Matter proposals of a year ago demanding radical changes in policing:

HUFF [Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom] has repeatedly called for specific officer accountability and radical policy changes in the SCPD: ["Poor People Matter!: Round Four at Cop Corner"]. We call for candidates to give clear positions on each of the demands at .

The most outspoken advocate and sometime Freedom Sleeper Steve Pleich (rhymes with “h”) lost in a bid for endorsement by the 80+ “Burnt by Bernie” activists who caucused after the forum. They voted to support Drew Glover, Steve Schnaar, Chris Krohn, and Sandy Brown. Brown and Krohn are old-time politicos. Glover and Schnaar are more active but not specifically in civil rights activities. Pleich was the only regular Freedom Sleeper supporter–who regularly visits the Sleepers and provides photo coverage and commentary.

There was no criticism of local liberal groups like the NAACP, RCNV, SCCCCR, or the ACLU who have avoided demanding police accountability for specific brutal incidents. Candidate Schnaar did raise Officer Vasquez’s slamdown of Richard Hardy on April 22, 2013. See Schnaar’s story at ["Police Injury of Homeless Man Still Unresolved"]. Brent Adams’ video of the incident is at .

Wes White, a “Flagpole Community” activist from Salinas, where nightly protest at City Hall has been continuous since mid-March, videoed the Santa Cruz forum. He announced there’d be a 6-Month anniversary weekend occupation in late September at the Salinas City Hall.

DENVER LAWSUIT…and in Santa Cruz?

A lawsuit was filed last week against the police theft of homeless gear, rights, and persons. Story at .

Talk of a proposed long-delayed lawsuit in Santa Cruz, announced late last year and supposedly involving the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s Tristia Bauman, is again making the rounds with a local attorney supposedly taking an interest.


James the Jeweler reports he’s gotten five tickets on Pacific Avenue in the last few weeks while trying to display his wrapped stones for sale. Several for not moving every hour, another for coming back to the same spot within 24 hours, and–most ominously–two for Commercial Vending where City Council and their police set themselves up as art critics, ruling that handicrafts, hand-made t-shirts, and other items are “not art”. MC 5.81.002, MC 5.81.006. These are the first citations I’ve heard for this “crime”.

Alex Skelton and Joff Jones go to trial 1:30 PM in Dept. 10 today Wednesday August 30th for being “outside the blue box” in their display of paintings. They don’t seem particularly enthusiastic for the public to attend, but I think censorship of art in public places is an important issue. See “City directed police shutdown of artists” at .

Meanwhile some homeless folks report portapotty and sink facility closures at Depot Park, San Lorenzo, and on Cedar and Lincoln.

In the wake of police murders nationally, Freedom SleepOut #53

Going Into Year 2 with the Freedom Sleepers

Date Tuesday July 12
Time 4:00 PM – 4:00 AM
Location Details
On the edge of City Hall, where city police, rangers, and security guards have driven the homeless protesters–along the Center St. sidewalk across from the Main Library
Event Type Protest
Organizer/Author Keith McHenry
Email keith [at]
Phone 575-770–3377
In the wake of escalating repression downtown, Freedom Sleepers will be gathering tonight for SleepOut #53. Police continue to harass and cite homeless people under MC 6.36 (the nighttime outside and vehicular Sleeping Ban).RESISTANCE DOWNTOWN
Artists Joff Jones and Alex Skelton were arrested for the 5th time downtown last Wednesday for displaying their artwork “outside the brass/blue boxes”. (See “City directed police shutdown of artists and PUBLIC ALERT on Pacific Ave” at ). In a bold move, they reappeared several days later defiantly repeating their assertion of First Amendment rights (and subsequently wheeling about enlarged copies of the First Amendment in colonial garb).LOCAL REACTION TO POLICE KILLINGS
Nationally, the police murders of Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota have already prompted a local Sunday protest (unfortunately not specifying local police discrimination and lack of transparency).

Another Community Meeting around the issue is scheduled for Friday, July 15 6-8 PM at 703 Pacific. HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom) have repeatedly raised local issues and hope that more “mainstream” activists, such as Pleich, Schnaar, and Glover–all running for City Council, will actually get specific in criticism. See “”Homeless People Matter” Protest Gets Honks, Volunteers, at Cop Corner” at . Specific concerns (that needed to be updated) are itemized at . .

Since City Council is on vacation while their police and the expanded Parks and Recreation Downtown Rangers do their dirty work, so there’s no Council meeting. Snakey staffers like Julie Hende and Scott Collins under the dark tutorship of City Manager Martin Bernal are continuing their oppressive work. Protests can still be registered (hopefully en masse) at staff offices. Possible targets: the forthcoming nighttime RV ban, the on-going Stay Away Order scandal, the stepped up bullying downtown, and the gentrification/sterilization of the City Hall Courtyard area.

Meanwhile activists Phil Posner and Steve Pleich are trying to coax a San Jose attorney to join the campaign to end the Sleeping Ban through legal action. Previous efforts to pursue sleep deprivation in Small Claims Court, enlist the help of the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty, and sue for the loss of homeless property seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Last week, library officials arrived in the morning after the 52nd Sleep-Out to demand removal of the makeshift commode, activists had moved (under pressure from the police) from the City Hall side of the street to the side of the library. Both the library and City Hall have closed and locked their bathrooms at night in spite of appeals from the Freedom Sleepers. Library supervisor Lee then called police who rapidly arrived, ignoring activists concerns that an enclosed and accountable commode was certainly preferable to folks shitting and pissing at random. To no avail. Tonight’s protesters will have to find their own accommodations.

For a review of last week’s Anniversary SleepOut go to “Freedom Sleepers Anniversary: One Year of Protesting the Sleeping Ban at City Hall” at

Food and drink will be limited tonight, but likely present. Folks are invited to join the protest even if for a brief time to provide heart and hope to those who face the heavy hand of the city’s gentrification program nightly.

This description of tonight’s event is the product of Robert Norse and represents his views and understanding of the protest and other recent events.

Freedom Sleeper Get Together 8 PM Tuesday June 14 at City Hall? Council Preview

Hi Everyone:

Zav believes it would be good for Freedom Sleepers to firm up any plans for the July 5 Memorial Demo and clarifying what needs to be done and who can do it.  He suggests we meet at 8 PM in front of City Hall at the Freedom Sleeper site on Tuesday night.

Zav has also asked HUFF members (and anyone interested) to be particularly aware of the Budget approval that follows the Consent Agenda (Item #22) probably at 2:45 or 3 PM, which concerns money for public bathrooms (if any).   HUFF is encouraging the City to open the City Hall bathrooms 24-hours a day (the “Give a Shit” campaign).  Unfortunately the documents giving budget specifics and when items are coming up are not on line at the moment.

Also up for possible discussion at the 8 PM meeting (if that’s what we decide) is support for the June 17 Motions Hearing on my two “in the park after 10 PM” citations (10 AM Dept. 1).  The issue here is to get the police video and audio released prior to trial.  And use the occasion to publicize the City’s continuing harassment of Freedom Sleepers (and, of course, the unhoused community).

There is a chance that the well-documented City staff’s movement of agendas to the sidewalk in December may nullify my tickets (and perhaps those of all other Freedom Sleepers) and show that the arrests were false.   My court (not jury) trial before Judge Marigonda is currently slated for June 24 at 10 AM but may be postponed–if the Discovery Motion is granted.

I’d also add that on the June 14 Consent Agenda at 2:30 PM earlier that day are item #5, expanding triple fine zones for the holidays from the downtown area to include the entire city for July 4, Halloween, and New Year’s.  Plus expanding the time affected to 48 hours before and 48 hours after the holiday itself.  Pretty serious expansion of police power for harassment (and fund-raising) for minor offenses.

Item #6 kicks down $100,000 for graffiti abatement; item #8 $50,000 for a trash container up at the golf course; item #10 authorizes the City’s whole financial packet without any examination of investments in war profiteering or companies boycotted by the BDS movement (to boycott Israel unless it leaves the Occupied territories); item #11 $36,000 for new police helmets at $350+ a helmet. 

If anyone wants to talk on these Consent Agenda items, I encourage you to send an e-mail to a Council member (,,, etc.) asking them  to pull the item from the agenda for separate discussion and vote.   Or call them at 420-5020 and leave them a message.

The Resolution specifying the number and location of the blue cages, or “exempt zones” (as the blue bracketed areas on Pacific Avenue are called) is NOT on the agenda as anticipated.  However the law banning jewelry and other “Commercial” sales and uses, tightening the “move every hour” law, and enacting further restrictions on using the blue cages goes into effect on June 23 or 24th.

Another Tuesday Night, Another Sleep-Out (#47!)

Protest Slumber Time at City Hall Grounds…Again…with Freedom SleepOut #47
Date Tuesday May 31
Time 5:00 PM – 5:00 AM
Location Details
Around ye olde Santa Cruz City Hall, with slumber to be likely pushed to the sidewalk, though sleepers may choose to spead out to different (all legally forbidden) locations.
Event Type Protest
Contact Name Keith McHenry
Email Address keith [at]
Phone Number 575-770–3377
Warmer days, but still cold nights for those outside and without basic human rights. One of these is the right to sleep legally without fear of police harassment not anywhere and everywhere–but somewhere. This is the aim of the Freedom Sleepers. With no shelter available,

We’re hoping that those fed up with the current system, on the right and left, will support the right of poor people to be free of this kind of state abuse. Many hundreds, perhaps thousands, attended a Bernie Sanders rally today. We call upon those same folks to support a restoration of civil rights locally.

Folks sleeping outside should also consider giving a call to the River St. Shelter at 459-6644 to put their name on the waiting list, with a renewal call every three days. Being on the waiting list supposedly means all 6.36 (camping, blanket, and sleeping tickets) will be automatically dismissed by the City Attorney.

Last week, City Council expanded the anti-homeless laws there to include many traditional vendors of handicrafts and jewelry, as well as banning face painting, oil painting, beading, sewing, and many other innocent and unobstructive behaviors on Pacific Avenue completely in a very restrictive interpretation of the 1st Amendment.

The suffocation of street culture on Pacific Avenue and surrounding streets downtown impacts unhoused and poor people. Many vendors there live in their vehicles. Peaceful sparechangers will now have to compete for space with guitarists, tablers, and others. Having a human or cat companion is illegal, as well.

The number of “exempt” zones (the areas demarked with blue brackets on the sidewalk) have been reduced, the requirements tightened, and the highly unpopular “move every hour” law made more severe. No warnings are required before the giving of $250 citations after 61 minutes, even if you agree to move along.

Craft artists like Featherlady continue to vow resistance to the new ordinances when they go into effect around June 24th. Shindig, Sam, James and other craftfolk continue to display and sell their wares. On Sunday previously jailed painters Alex and Joff were still displaying their work outside the exempt zones (also called blue boxes) and being ignored by police (who previously gathered in groups of more than 70 to arrest them a month ago).

Vendors, performers, and supporters can join SAFE (Sidewalks Are For Everyone) by contacting HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom) at 831-423-4844 or e-mailing rnorse3 [at]

All are invited to drop by the Freedom Sleepers from 5 PM Tuesday to 9 AM Wednesday. Or check out the HUFF meeting at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific Ave.

More information on the Council’s “Vanish the Vendors” law:
“Mathews Council Crushes Handicraft Vendors; Freedom SleepOut #46 Soldiers On”

Robert Norse wrote up this event description.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Vanish the Vendors” Viciousness at City Council Followed by Freedom SleepOut #44
Date Tuesday May 10
Time 3:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Location Details
The afternoon City Council meeting begins at 2:15 PM with the “Vanish the Vendors” law Item #14 on the Council Agenda. Food Not Bombs activists will be serving food in the late afternoon. Freedom Sleepers will hit the sidewalk and bricks across from the main library in front of the City Hall in the evening and night.
Event Type Protest
Contact Name Toby Nixon (post by Norse)
Email Address tobynixon [at]
Phone Number 408-582-4152
Freedom Sleepers will continue to defy the City’s 11 PM to 8:30 AM ban on the act of sleeping on all public and most private property in Santa Cruz by lining the sidewalk and City Hall grounds with sleepers on Tuesday night (5-10). Coffee and the occasional morsel to munch will likely be on hand.

The weekly organizational meeting of the Freedom Sleepers will hold their usual review and reorganizational meeting at 10 AM Wednesday at 10 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe to be followed at 11 AM by the HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom) meet. Both are open to all.

Food Not Bombs is slated to be feeding and organizing during the afternoon and early evening.

Santa Cruz’s 1000-2000 unhoused residents continues ot face the threat and reality of harassment and citation for simply falling asleep after 11 PM. Survival “camping” is a $159 crime 24 hours a day (do it twice in 24 hours and face a year in jail and $1000 fine). Santa Cruz has zero walk-in shelter and full waiting lists for the token shelters that exist (for less than 5% of the homeless).

In March, Council crushed a minimum proposal to strike “sleeping” and “covering up with blankets” from the law, while maintaiining a “no trespassing” ban on most public property around the City. No City Council member has followed up on proposals to establish Safe Sleeping Areas for the vulnerable homeless nor on Safe Parking Areas for those whose “affordable housing” is a vehicle.

The proposed law, created behind closed doors by city staffers Julie Hende and Scott Collins and City Attorney Tony Condotti, includes a radical restriction on display for sale or donation, and sale of all kinds of items.

“Commercial Vending” is “to sell, offer for sale, expose or display for sale, solicit offers to purchase, or to barter food, goods, merchandise, or services in any area from a stand, table, pushcart, motor vehicle, bicycle, or by a person with or without the use of any other device, or to require someone to pay a fee or to set, negotiate, or establish a fee before providing food, goods, merchandise, or services, even if characterized by the vendor as a donation. [This]…includes the practice of providing, free of charge, an item which may not be vended, in exchange for the purchaser purchasing an item which may be vended as a condition for receiving the free item.

Exempted from the law are “Traditional expressive speech and petitioning activities, and the distribution of the following expressive items: newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, bumper stickers, patches, and/or buttons.” Also “items, which have been created, written or composed by the vendor or performer: books, audio, video, or other recordings of their performances, paintings, photographs, & prints.” Additionally “any other item that is inherently communicative and is of nominal value or utility apart from its communication. Although an item may have some expressive purpose, it will be deemed to have more than nominal utility apart from its communication if it has a common and dominant non-expressive purpose.”

The City Attorney insisted that the law did not distinguish between what is art and what is not. Instead the hall monitors of Pacific Avenue will use the above definition to determine if an item is First Amendment protected or not.

Banned as “items that have more than nominal utility apart from their communication” “include but are not limited to… food, housewares, appliances, articles of clothing, hats, scarves, sunglasses, auto parts, oils, incense, perfume, crystals, rocks, geodes, lotions, candles, jewelry, jewelry holders, toys, stuffed animals, glass and metal pipes, and any vaping device.”

“Allowed” Performances are “playing musical instruments, singing, dancing, acting, pantomiming, puppeteering, juggling, reciting, engaging in magic, creating visual art in its entirety, presenting or enacting a play, work of music, physical or mental feat, or other constitutionally protected entertainment or form of expression.”

Banned Performances include “(a) The application of substances to others’ bodies, including but not limited to, paints, dyes, and inks; (b) The provision of personal services such as massage or hair weaving, cutting, or styling; (c) the completion or other partial creation of visual art; (d) the creation of visual art which is mass produced or produced with limited variation; or (e) the creation of handcrafts, such as weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, and beading objects such as jewelry, pottery, silver work, leather goods, and trinkets.”

These bans are in effect “on the streets or sidewalks of Pacific Avenue; and on the streets or sidewalks of the side streets, alleys, and surface parking lots one block in either direction from Pacific Avenue, between Laurel and Water Streets.”

The area in which no tabling is allowed except in select “exempt” zones will be chosen behind closed doors, largely by merchant pressure by Hende and Collins. That forbidden area extends from Laurel to Mission along Pacific Avenue and one block in either direction along the side streets. The forbidden zone apparently includes the twice-weekly Food Not Bombs set-up near the main Post Office. Although the new “Vanish the Vendors” law does not explicitly ban simply giving away free items such as food, another section of the ordinance prohibits the use of “display devices” (i.e. tables) except in the limited (less than 30) “exempt” zones which Hende and Collins choose to designate.

In addition the “Move Along Every Hour” law now requires what the current law does not–that folks time themselves. Anyone using a table, open guitar case, or any thing “capable of holding tangible things” placed on the sidewalk must move every hour without being asked to do so by a cop, security thug, or “host”. The current law requires a warning that one’s hour is up and then a “refusal” to move for the $200-300 ticket to be given. The new law just requires that you be there for 61 minutes to be slammed with a citation.

Two artists–Joff Jones and Alex Skelton–were taken away in handcuffs twice within two weeks for setting up their art displays outside the sacred “blue boxes”. They had also declined to move every hour. Defying the massive police presence in their second arrest, the two have returned to Pacific Avenue to continue to assert their rights. See “Santa Cruz Artists Dare to Display Art “Outside of a Blue Box”” at

Meanwhile in Sacramento, activists who staged a 3-month round-the-clock protest had all charges dropped against them. See “City of Sacramento Won’t Put Unlawful Camping Ordinance on Trial, Dismisses Criminal Charges Against City Hall Protest Organizers on Eve of Trials” at .

And a delayed Freedom Sleepers case will be returning to Court 8:30 AM on May 20th as Robert Norse demurs to two “trespass at the City Hall courtyard” arrests, claiming they were unconstitutional.

For more info on the Freedom Sleepers and the “Vanish the Vendors” law, check out for the last 43 Tuesday events.

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