Trial date set in case of Santa Cruz Peace Camp protester Linda Ellen Lemaster


Santa Cruz Sentinel:   07/06/2012

SANTA CRUZ – A trial date of Oct. 15 was set Friday for Linda Ellen Lemaster, a community activist involved in a controversial homeless protest in 2010 on the steps of Santa Cruz County Superior Court and City Hall.

Lemaster, a homeless activist and projects facilitator for the Santa Cruz group Housing Now!, is charged with illegal lodging for her participation in the demonstration. The protest, called “Operation Peace Camp 2010,” gathered activists opposing parts Santa Cruz’s camping ban.

The occupation comprised a group of more than 50 people who slept and held signs on the courthouse steps. It lasted three months, before deputies began warning, ticketing and arresting protesters under a criminal misdemeanor law for unlawful lodging.

Lemaster appeared in court with friends Friday. Her attorney Jonathan Gettleman said he filed a writ of habeas corpus with the 6th District Court of Appeals in San Jose. The 53-page writ requests the court to hear and dismiss Lemaster’s case, linking it to the protection of freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

“This matter is very serious as far as we’re concerned,” Gettleman said. “This case could really injure people’s ability to engage in protests.”

Gettleman said the illegal lodging law was misused to put an end to the protest and violated the constitutional right of people to assemble peacefully and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Gettleman said he not only hopes to clear Lemaster, but also to make the illegal lodging law unconstitutional. The federal court should decide whether to hear the case in the next few months, before the beginning of the Santa Cruz trial in October.

In a previous case related to the protest, two other activists, Ed Frey and Gary Johnson, were sentenced to six months in County Jail last October.



In response to a critic who wrote:

“People could protest from dawn to dusk every day till they die and never run afoul of this law.”
  • Linda Ellen Lemaster·

    “this law”? If you mean the california pc 647(e), illegal lodging, for which I was cited, youa re mistaken – it does not distinguish between daytime and nighttime. This is one of the many reasons which I believe calls for better accountability by the County (Sheriff’s dept and beyond). because “Lodging” (illegal or otherwiise), as spelled out in California’s laws, does NOT mean “sleeping”. What does it mean? Depends on what “legal authority” one asks. Personally, I may agree that a daytime venue could have worked out better for everyone than a 24/7 demo? Or not: after all we were trying to demonstrate how DIFFERENTLY the displaced homeless population must live, in part due to our dated laws.That demonstration had a time it was daytime only, and a time it was 24/7, reflecting different leadership. But there were problems with each. Problems that warrant selecting out political scapegoats? Or was that an accident? Or just acceptable collatoral damage in our Country’s Reign of Terror against displaced homeless people? Maybe, if we are lucky, the courts can do some actual good, here?

  • Becky Johnson·

    Look at you. You’ve already given up your RIGHT to protest between dusk and dawn. Way to surrender your 1st amendment rights which exist 24/7 despite your surrender. Also: you are WRONG. Lodging is enforced 24 hours a day, so they can still arrest you if they continue to use this overbroad and undefined “crime”.

In response to another critic who wrote:

“Santa Cruz Peace Camp – that’s rich. Site of muggings, arrests, assaults, drunkedness, littering, vandalism, and thefts. BumFest by any other name.”
  • Linda Ellen Lemaster

    Doug, I did not mug you, arrest you, assault you, get you drunk, leave litter in your path (quite the opposite), vandalize anything you or anyone else brought there — nor did I vandalize the cement or grass, not even a chalk or soot mark by me — and I did not steal during PeaceCamp2010. And I am not a bum. There were a LOT of differing people there throughout PeaceCamp2010. It wasn’t over-run with such as you describe until after the City and County razed the riverbank greenery and displaced fifty MORE homeless people. I agree if you’re saying the demonstration was unpopular, I understand if you’re saying it was an aesthetic disappointment. But I’m not sure that’s your point. I thought “bumfest” was specifically about exploiting homeless folks by getting them to fight and betting on them like roosters, except it’s illegal with roosters? Maybe we just have different meanings for “rich”? I can deal with facing my consequences for this alleged crime, but are you saying I should be responsible for the behavior of other people, of people you, yourself, are NOT responsible for?

  • Becky Johnson·

    Yet not a single littering ticket was issued in over 3 months of the protest. I doubt you can say the same about the beach in front of the Boardwalk!