Update on the Police Crackdown at City Hall Tuesday Night


For the initial story (released earlier today on the HUFF e-mail and at indybay.org/santacruz) and subsequent comments go to https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/08/12/18776058.php .

by Robert Norse

Wednesday Aug 12th, 2015 11:52 PM

The UCSC documentarian Lauren and Israel Dawson had been videoing the protests with their lighting and cameras on tripods. They had videoed extensively throughout the last four parade/protest/ sleepovers as well as prior Freedom Sleeper (then called “Homeless Lives Matter”) breakfasts at Hiway 1 and River St.

Indybay photographer and writer Alex Darocy also covered and published photos of all the Freedom Sleepers protests except the comparatively placid August 2nd Sleep-In at City Hall. All three reporters were either cited or arrested earlier in the night. Add me to the list since I extensively record police interaction with protesters for broadcast on Free Radio Santa Cruz; I received my second citation and my first-ever Stay-Away-from-City-Hall order (for 24 hours).

Lauren Dawson got a ticket for “being in a park after hours” (MC 13.04.011) as well as a Stay-Away-from-City-Hall order for 24 hours. I had the honor of getting this phony citation several minutes before Lauren. Sgt. Forbus denied my right to be on the access pathway through the City Hall Courtyard and my demand to be allowed free access to the posted agendas along that passageway. Perhaps his primary concern was my audio recording of each ticketing encounter. Perhaps it was my loud denunciations of police shutting down the right to assemble at the seat of government. Police also cited Darocy for the being in the park as he took photos of the event. This is the first time when all four reporters were cited.

Israel Dawson reports when told by cop to get his ID, he started walking towards his backpack, at which point he was seized and handcuffed, charged with “resisting arrest” [PC 148a], held three hours at the jail, and given a misdemeanor charge. His court date in mid-September and could face 6 months or a year in jail.

Police sought to drive protesters out of the park with the eight citations and one arrest. They seemed upset that we simply didn’t disperse, responded with angry questions, and declared an intention to return to the City Hall courtyard in front of the Mayor’s office.

Once most had been pushed to the sidewalk, police then began ticketing people for “blocking the sidewalk” or “lying down on the sidewalk” when they attempted to set up their bedding there—in legal spots. They threatened confiscation of the fruit and vegetables, peanut butter and jelly and other food items. Abbi Samuels of Food Not Bombs responded hotly that they could take the table; Freedom Sleepers would not be driven away.

Another officer ignored Samuel’s attempt to explain to him that the public sidewalk in front of City Hall is not covered by the ban against lying down (not just sleeping). City Council passed that Ban to hostile-ify Pacific Avenue for poor people, street people, youth, and travelers two decades ago (MC 9.50.011).

Demonstrators were very upset with the soft-spoken Israel Dawson’s abduction for “resisting arrest”. In response, some Rabbi Phil Posner and others declared they would immediately return to where they’d been resting or standing and if necessary, go to jail in solidarity with Dawson.

Perhaps this threat challenging their authority prompted police to abruptly leave. It might also have been the appearance of four sheriff’s deputies seen consulting with police. Hours later when Dawson was released, he noted he was not held because of the bed shortage there, so (perhaps the deputies asked the cops not to send more folks into a crammed jail.

Folks did get back to sleep, though in reduced numbers. There were probably at least 10 sleepers on the sidewalk. I slept in my car adjacent to the sleepers. All of this is “illegal” under MC 6.36. which bans all sleeping on public property or in cars after 11 PM.

Police did not return at all in the morning—a break from the practice in prior protests when there was often a second visit (though no citations)

Interestingly, no one got 6.36 (Sleeping, Blanket, and Camping Ban) tickets, perhaps to sidestep the embarrassing reality and legal liability that Santa Cruz has no legal place for homeless people to sleep–all 1000-2000 of ’em and simultaneously a law making sleep outside a crime.

After some discussion in an impromptu General Assembly, the protesters decided to maintain both their right to protest at City Hall (though along the sidewalk at this point) and the right of the homeless to sleep without being declared criminals (perhaps half the protesters were homeless).

We plan to return next Tuesday night in increased numbers and press the community to support restoration of civil rights for the homeless (as well as the basic right to be at City Hall in peaceful petitioning, assembly, and protest at night—denied since 2010 by administrative edict). Join us if you believe in the right to sleep…and the First Amendment.