[Hpn] Homeless Advocates ON TRIAL for "disrupting" City Council meeting in San Jose CA USA fw San Jose CA USA fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Thu, 16 Nov 2000 04:09:26 -0800 (PST)

Please POST UPDATES on this Civil Rights trial in San Jose, CA, USA

FWD  San Jose Mercury News - Thursday, November 2, 2000



     Bill Romano - Mercury News

Six advocates for the homeless went on trial before a jury in Santa Clara
County Superior Court this week for allegedly disrupting a meeting of the
San Jose City Council last winter.

    The defendants -- headed by the Rev. Scott Wagers of the Community
Homeless Alliance Ministry -- face misdemeanor charges of disturbing a
public meeting as a result of their arrests in February.

     Following an outdoor rally, Wagers and a score of supporters allegedly
took over the podium at the council meeting to demand the city do more to
shelter the growing number of San Jose's homeless.

     According to Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Powell, Wagers ignored
the council's two-minute limit for speakers as well as repeated offers by
Mayor Ron Gonzales to assist members of the group in need of overnight
lodging. After a time, he was asked to take a seat so other matters on the
agenda could be heard, but he refused to yield, Powell said.

     Gonzales recessed the meeting,  and police were summoned to remove the
protesters from the chambers.  An officer gave them another chance to
leave, but six of the activists, including Wagers, chose to stay and be
arrested, the prosecutor said.

     In an opening statement Tuesday to jurors, Jennifer Wintrobe, a
certified law student from the Santa Clara University Law Clinic,
representing one of the defendants, observed that it is not unusual at
government meetings for citizens to ``stand up, shout, clap their hands or
wave signs.''

     ``What's unusual,'' Wintrobe said, ``is that people are arrested and
prosecuted for their advocacy.''

     Andrew Read, another defense lawyer, said that Wagers and the group
had come to discuss their concerns for the homeless. They made ``requests,
not demands.'' At all times, the dialogue between Wagers and Gonzales had
been professional and mutually respectful, he said.

     Nevertheless, Gonzales thereafter wasted little time in calling in
police, Read added.  It was the second time within a month that Wagers and
the group had been escorted out of City Hall.

      Wagers subsequently was appointed to the mayor's committee on
homeless issues, Read remarked.

     The trial, which began Tuesday, is expected to conclude today before
Judge Sharon A. Chatman.


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