[Hpn] SCPD Jails Homeless Activist for "Vandalism" chalking

Becky Johnson Becky_Johnson@sbcglobal.net
Wed, 21 Aug 2002 14:01:53 -0700


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POLICE JAIL HOMELESS ACTIVIST FOR "VANDALISM" CHALKING=20

IN NEW ESCALATION OF WAR ON POOR DOWNTOWN;=20

ERASIBLE CHALK USER FINDS JAIL CONDITIONS GRIM AND ABUSIVE=20


August 21, 2002=20


>From the Santa Cruz Sentinel 8-20-02 excerpt from article "Downtown =
Violence a problem of culture" by Jason Shultz.

"Police on Monday said they are still investigating a massive gang brawl =
that occurred Friday night on Pacific Avenue. Police have made no =
arrests in the melee, which started at 11:30 p.m. on the sidewalk across =
from Cinema 9. As many as seven fights erupted in the area during the =
next few hours."

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- "Police have made no arrests..." despite an outbreak =
of violence which included at least one young man being taken to the =
hospital. Monday, the SCPD did make an arrest. Becky Johnson was =
arrested for misdemeanor vandalism for chalking in the 12" gutter =
bordering the curb at Pacific Ave. and Cooper St. She had previously =
been cited and released for "defacing the sidewalk" an infraction for =
which she and fellow co-defendant, Tim Rinker, have both plead "not =
guilty" and are scheduled for trial on September 13th.

MC 9.20.010, if interpreted the way the SCPD has been lately, would make =
hopscotch illegal throughout Santa Cruz, children's drawings, the chalk =
festival on First Night, and construction workers chalk markings =
commonly used when measuring a site. This ordinance has been on the =
books unchanged since 1964, but has only recently been interpreted to =
apply to chalk writing, only on Pacific Ave. and only when activists or =
homeless people do it.

But yesterday, Johnson, whose case is still pending, opted to obey the =
law (as interpreted by police and the City Attorney in their campaign to =
shut down protest downtown). She chalked, not on the sidewalk, but =
instead on the edge of the street. Her message, written neatly in yellow =
and purple chalk read "Are we so Mean-spirited we deny Homeless people =
the right to Sleep at night, beg for food with a sign after dark, sit, =
or to cover with a blanket?"=20

Her message wrapped around the edge of the plaza area where Food Not =
Bombs was feeding people, the HUFF table was playing a videotape about =
police violence in Santa Cruz, and two city council candidates, Steve =
Argue and Thomas Leavitt were speaking to the assembled crowd in one of =
the regular Monday rallies against the new "Dumber than Dirt" Downtown =
ordinances.

"Officer Brad Hilliard drove his bicycle right up to where I was =
chalking, and said something that I might be guilty of obstructing the =
roadway," said Becky Johnson. " We discussed it, and I asked if he was =
giving me friendly advice or whether he thought I was committing a =
crime. He said it was advice. I began to chalk again. I promised to be =
careful, and a friend of mine volunteered to lookout for cars and =
bicycles while I chalked. Hilliard rode off on his bicycle." Johnson =
continued to chalk another fifteen words of her political message =
outside the "forbidden for chalking" sidewalk zone until Parks and Rec. =
parks division employee, Mia Duquet, pulled her truck up, double-parked =
it and, according to Johnson "Stomped over blaring out in a the gutter =
until Parks and Rec. parks division employee, Mia Duquet, pulled her =
truck up, double-parked it and, according to Johnson "Stomped over =
blaring out in a loud voice, 'You are SO busted!'" Duquet implied that =
she expected Johnson to "clean it up."

Since Johnson had already spoken with Officer Hilliard about the =
legality of chalking in the gutter, had received no warning, and since a =
gardener from Parks and Rec. has no authority to stop a civilian from a =
legal, first-amendment activity, and since MC 9.20.010 "defacing the =
sidewalk" only applies to sidewalks, she continued to write, "How can =
Vice-Mayor Emily Reilly, Tim Fitzmaurice, and Ed...." Duquet charged at =
Johnson, forcefully stomped her foot precariously near Johnson's hand =
and hitting Johnson's head with her knee. "She stopped me right between =
the Ed and the Porter," said Johnson.

"I was going to write 'How can Vice-Mayor Emily Reilly, Tim Fitzmaurice, =
and Ed Porter Sleep at Night?' until the Parks and Rec. worker =
forcefully interfered," said Johnson. Several police officers arrived =
including Officer Brandt and Sgt. Lunnen. For several minutes they stood =
around and talked with Duquet about the situation. Then, shortly before =
6PM, Officer Hilliard arrested Becky Johnson for 594 (a) P.C. =
misdemeanor vandalism on citizen complaint from Ms. Duquet.


"Since it was apparently Ms. Duquet who demanded the arrest, police had =
to cite Johnson," noted nearby witness Robert Norse who audiotaped some =
of the controversy. "But they did not have to arrest, handcuff, and jail =
her. It also seems police helped Duquet cook up the charge, possibly to =
shield her from a potential civil suit and to back up the "tough on =
activists" posture." Norse reported that police ignored others who =
chalked on the sidewalk, though hours later they ticketed Guitarist =
Billy Starr for "defacing the sidewalk."

Johnson disputed Sgt. Lunnen's claim that he had to arrest her to stop =
her from "continuing the offense."

"He never asked me to stop or stated what I was doing was illegal until =
he handcuffed me," said Johnson. "I had never been arrested for =
vandalism before. In fact, 15 minutes earlier he had confirmed my belief =
that as long as I didn't chalk on the sidewalk and I didn't obstruct the =
street, what I was doing was a legal activity." She said "What happened =
to me is what the police do to homeless people and street musicians all =
the time. It is a vicious policy of selective enforcement promoted by =
the City Council and the new downtown ordinances."

She was handcuffed and transported to the Santa Cruz County Jail where =
she was booked and held in a tiny "drunk" tank with four other women =
with an open toilet visible to male guards and even to the occasional =
male prisoner. "It was filthy. The guards all wore latex gloves if they =
had any contact with the prisoners. We were "dirty" and because of the =
unsanitary conditions in which we were kept, every wall, every surface =
was covered with germs."=20

Johnson reported that the prisoners, who are mostly homeless people with =
drug or alcohol dependencies, are piled into the 5 ft. by 6ft. room with =
one corner of the room chopped off, and the toilet/sink combination =
taking up the over a fourth of the remaining space. There was no soap; =
no cups to drink out of, and the floors had not been cleaned in some =
time. "One woman came in and she had wet her pants, so from that point =
on, the place reeked of urine as well," said Johnson.=20

"Many of these people suffer from HIV, hepatitis B and C, Tuberculosis, =
and other infectious diseases. To pile people in a small holding tank =
like that invites the spread of illness." One woman kept insisting the =
nurse, who she could see through the glass, get her medication. "I'm an =
epileptic," she explained. "I need to take 200 mg. of dilantin twice a =
day or I could have a seizure. I missed my 4PM dose." The nurse nodded =
cheerfully, disappeared and never came back. Later, a male deputy =
sheriff opened the door to remove a prisoner. "Excuse me sir, but this =
woman needs her medication. She has a serious medical condition," =
Johnson told him. "We know. The nurse will be getting it for her," he =
promised, but no medication appeared. It was well after eight-o'clock, =
and the woman was beginning to shake. "I'm so cold," she moaned.=20

Another guard appeared at the door. This time a woman. "Officer, I have =
had nursing training. This woman suffers from epilepsy. She needs the =
anti-convulsant medication Dilantin or she may have a seizure. She is =
way overdue on her dose." The guard scornfully viewed Johnson and said, =
"You're just a prisoner in here. You are not her advocate!" Ten minutes =
later the woman got her medication.

Although Johnson has never been convicted of anything, is not on =
probation or parole, has never missed a court date, has permanent =
housing and a job in Santa Cruz, and that the crime she is accused of =
only involved 2 chalked messages in the gutter of a public street, the =
SCPD called Judge Barton and got him to impose $1000 bail on what would =
normally be an OR'able offense.

After a series of phone calls from the holding cell, including an on-air =
interview on Free Radio Santa Cruz 96.3FM, Johnson was able to post =
bail. "And they made my supporters wait for an hour and half after they =
arrived with the cash," said Johnson.=20

Becky Johnson recently wrote a letter to the Citizens Police Review =
Board and reported a policy of selective enforcement by the SCPD that =
appears to ignore tourists and middle-class people while citing homeless =
people for sitting, The CPRB voted to hold a special meeting to =
investigate the charges.

Becky Johnson faces a September 10th court hearing on the misdemeanor =
vandalism charge. She is planning on pleading "not guilty" and demanding =
a jury trial. She also faces trial along with Tim Rinker on September =
13th for two other infraction citations before Commissioner Irwin Joseph =
at 1:30PM.

                                                                         =
                                               --- article by HUFF =
staffwriters

Becky Johnson's attorney, Ed Frey, can be reached for comment at =
(831)479-8911.=20

Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom (831) 423-HUFF

www.huffsantacruz.org=20






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<BODY bgColor=3D#ffffff><FONT face=3DArial size=3D4><STRONG>
<P align=3Dcenter>POLICE JAIL HOMELESS ACTIVIST FOR "VANDALISM"=20
CHALKING</FONT></STRONG><FONT size=3D2> </P></FONT><FONT face=3DArial>
<P align=3Dcenter>IN NEW ESCALATION OF WAR ON POOR DOWNTOWN;</FONT> =
</P><FONT=20
face=3DArial>
<P align=3Dcenter>ERASIBLE CHALK USER FINDS JAIL CONDITIONS GRIM AND=20
ABUSIVE</FONT><FONT size=3D2> </P>
<P align=3Dcenter></P></FONT><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>
<P align=3Dcenter>August 21, 2002 </P>
<P align=3Dcenter></P>
<P>From the <EM>Santa Cruz Sentinel </EM>8-20-02 excerpt from article =
"Downtown=20
Violence a problem of culture" by <STRONG>Jason Shultz</STRONG>.</P><EM>
<P>"Police on Monday said they are still investigating a massive gang =
brawl that=20
occurred Friday night on Pacific Avenue. Police have made no arrests in =
the=20
melee, which started at 11:30 p.m. on the sidewalk across from Cinema 9. =
As many=20
as seven fights erupted in the area during the next few=20
hours."</EM></P></FONT><FONT face=3DArial size=3D3>
<P>Santa Cruz, Ca. -- "Police have made no arrests..." despite an =
outbreak of=20
violence which included at least one young man being taken to the =
hospital.=20
Monday, the SCPD did make an arrest. <STRONG>Becky Johnson </STRONG>was =
arrested=20
for misdemeanor vandalism for chalking in the 12" gutter bordering the =
curb at=20
Pacific Ave. and Cooper St. She had previously been cited and released =
for=20
"defacing the sidewalk" an infraction for which she and fellow =
co-defendant,=20
<STRONG>Tim Rinker</STRONG>, have both plead "not guilty" and are =
scheduled for=20
trial on September 13th.</P>
<P>MC 9.20.010, if interpreted the way the SCPD has been lately, would =
make=20
hopscotch illegal throughout Santa Cruz, children's drawings, the chalk =
festival=20
on <EM>First Night</EM>, and construction workers chalk markings =
commonly used=20
when measuring a site. This ordinance has been on the books unchanged =
since=20
1964, but has only recently been interpreted to apply to chalk writing, =
only on=20
Pacific Ave. and only when activists or homeless people do it.</P>
<P>But yesterday, Johnson, whose case is still pending, opted to obey =
the law=20
(as interpreted by police and the City Attorney in their campaign to =
shut down=20
protest downtown). She chalked, not on the sidewalk, but instead on the =
edge of=20
the street. Her message, written neatly in yellow and purple chalk read =
"Are we=20
so Mean-spirited we deny Homeless people the right to Sleep at night, =
beg for=20
food with a sign after dark, sit, or to cover with a blanket?" </P>
<P>Her message wrapped around the edge of the plaza area where =
<I><STRONG>Food=20
Not Bombs </I></STRONG>was feeding people, the HUFF table was playing a=20
videotape about police violence in Santa Cruz, and two city council =
candidates,=20
<STRONG>Steve Argue </STRONG>and <STRONG>Thomas Leavitt </STRONG>were =
speaking=20
to the assembled crowd in one of the regular Monday rallies against the =
new=20
"Dumber than Dirt" Downtown ordinances.</P>
<P>"<STRONG>Officer Brad Hilliard </STRONG>drove his bicycle right up to =
where I=20
was chalking, and said something that I might be guilty of obstructing =
the=20
roadway," said <STRONG>Becky Johnson</STRONG>. " We discussed it, and I =
asked if=20
he was giving me friendly advice or whether he thought I was committing =
a crime.=20
He said it was advice. I began to chalk again. I promised to be careful, =
and a=20
friend of mine volunteered to lookout for cars and bicycles while I =
chalked.=20
Hilliard rode off on his bicycle." Johnson continued to chalk another =
fifteen=20
words of her political message outside the "forbidden for chalking" =
sidewalk=20
zone until <B><EM>Parks and Rec. </B></EM>parks division employee, Mia =
Duquet,=20
pulled her truck up, double-parked it and, according to Johnson "Stomped =
over=20
blaring out in a the gutter until <I><STRONG>Parks and Rec.</I></STRONG> =
parks=20
division employee, <STRONG>Mia Duquet</STRONG>, pulled her truck up,=20
double-parked it and, according to Johnson "Stomped over blaring out in =
a loud=20
voice, 'You are SO busted!'" Duquet implied that she expected Johnson to =
"clean=20
it up."</P>
<P>Since Johnson had already spoken with Officer Hilliard about the =
legality of=20
chalking in the gutter, had received no warning, and since a gardener =
from Parks=20
and Rec. has no authority to stop a civilian from a legal, =
first-amendment=20
activity, and since MC 9.20.010 "defacing the sidewalk" only applies to=20
sidewalks, she continued to write, "How can <STRONG>Vice-Mayor Emily=20
Reilly</STRONG>, <STRONG>Tim Fitzmaurice</STRONG>, and =
<STRONG>Ed</STRONG>...."=20
Duquet charged at Johnson, forcefully stomped her foot precariously near =

Johnson's hand and hitting Johnson's head with her knee. "She stopped me =
right=20
between the <STRONG>Ed </STRONG>and the <STRONG>Porter</STRONG>," said=20
Johnson.</P>
<P>"I was going to write 'How can <STRONG>Vice-Mayor Emily =
Reilly</STRONG>,=20
<STRONG>Tim Fitzmaurice</STRONG>, and <STRONG>Ed Porter </STRONG>Sleep =
at=20
Night?' until the Parks and Rec. worker forcefully interfered," said =
Johnson.=20
Several police officers arrived including <STRONG>Officer Brandt =
</STRONG>and=20
<STRONG>Sgt. Lunnen</STRONG>. For several minutes they stood around and =
talked=20
with Duquet about the situation. Then, shortly before 6PM, =
<STRONG>Officer=20
Hilliard </STRONG>arrested <STRONG>Becky Johnson </STRONG>for 594 (a) =
P.C.=20
misdemeanor vandalism on citizen complaint from Ms. Duquet.</P>
<P></P>
<P>"Since it was apparently Ms. Duquet who demanded the arrest, police =
had to=20
cite Johnson," noted nearby witness <B>Robert Norse</B> who audiotaped =
some of=20
the controversy. "But they did not have to arrest, handcuff, and jail =
her. It=20
also seems police helped Duquet cook up the charge, possibly to shield =
her from=20
a potential civil suit and to back up the "tough on activists" posture." =
Norse=20
reported that police ignored others who chalked on the sidewalk, though =
hours=20
later they ticketed Guitarist <B>Billy Starr</B> for "defacing the=20
sidewalk."</P>
<P>Johnson disputed Sgt. Lunnen's claim that he had to arrest her to =
stop her=20
from "continuing the offense."</P>
<P>"He never asked me to stop or stated what I was doing was illegal =
until he=20
handcuffed me," said Johnson. "I had never been arrested for vandalism =
before.=20
In fact, 15 minutes earlier he had confirmed my belief that as long as I =
didn't=20
chalk on the sidewalk and I didn't obstruct the street, what I was doing =
was a=20
legal activity." She said "What happened to me is what the police do to =
homeless=20
people and street musicians all the time. It is a vicious policy of =
selective=20
enforcement promoted by the City Council and the new downtown =
ordinances."</P>
<P>She was handcuffed and transported to the <EM>Santa Cruz County Jail=20
</EM>where she was booked and held in a tiny "drunk" tank with four =
other women=20
with an open toilet visible to male guards and even to the occasional =
male=20
prisoner. "It was filthy. The guards all wore latex gloves if they had =
any=20
contact with the prisoners. We were "dirty" and because of the =
unsanitary=20
conditions in which we were kept, every wall, every surface was covered =
with=20
germs." </P>
<P>Johnson reported that the prisoners, who are mostly homeless people =
with drug=20
or alcohol dependencies, are piled into the 5 ft. by 6ft. room with one =
corner=20
of the room chopped off, and the toilet/sink combination taking up the =
over a=20
fourth of the remaining space. There was no soap; no cups to drink out =
of, and=20
the floors had not been cleaned in some time. "One woman came in and she =
had wet=20
her pants, so from that point on, the place reeked of urine as well," =
said=20
Johnson. </P>
<P>"Many of these people suffer from HIV, hepatitis B and C, =
Tuberculosis, and=20
other infectious diseases. To pile people in a small holding tank like =
that=20
invites the spread of illness." One woman kept insisting the nurse, who =
she=20
could see through the glass, get her medication. "I'm an epileptic," she =

explained. "I need to take 200 mg. of dilantin twice a day or I could =
have a=20
seizure. I missed my 4PM dose." The nurse nodded cheerfully, disappeared =
and=20
never came back. Later, a male deputy sheriff opened the door to remove =
a=20
prisoner. "Excuse me sir, but this woman needs her medication. She has a =
serious=20
medical condition," Johnson told him. "We know. The nurse will be =
getting it for=20
her," he promised, but no medication appeared. It was well after =
eight-o'clock,=20
and the woman was beginning to shake. "I'm so cold," she moaned. </P>
<P>Another guard appeared at the door. This time a woman. "Officer, I =
have had=20
nursing training. This woman suffers from epilepsy. She needs the=20
anti-convulsant medication Dilantin or she may have a seizure. She is =
way=20
overdue on her dose." The guard scornfully viewed Johnson and said, =
"You're just=20
a prisoner in here. You are not her advocate!" Ten minutes later the =
woman got=20
her medication.</P>
<P>Although Johnson has never been convicted of anything, is not on =
probation or=20
parole, has never missed a court date, has permanent housing and a job =
in Santa=20
Cruz, and that the crime she is accused of only involved 2 chalked =
messages in=20
the gutter of a public street, the SCPD called <STRONG>Judge Barton =
</STRONG>and=20
got him to impose $1000 bail on what would normally be an OR'able =
offense.</P>
<P>After a series of phone calls from the holding cell, including an =
on-air=20
interview on <I><STRONG>Free Radio Santa Cruz 96.3FM</I></STRONG>, =
Johnson was=20
able to post bail. "And they made my supporters wait for an hour and =
half after=20
they arrived with the cash," said Johnson. </P><STRONG>
<P>Becky Johnson </STRONG>recently wrote a letter to the <EM>Citizens =
Police=20
Review Board </EM>and reported a policy of selective enforcement by the =
SCPD=20
that appears to ignore tourists and middle-class people while citing =
homeless=20
people for sitting, The CPRB voted to hold a special meeting to =
investigate the=20
charges.</P><STRONG>
<P>Becky Johnson </STRONG>faces a September 10th court hearing on the=20
misdemeanor vandalism charge. She is planning on pleading "not guilty" =
and=20
demanding a jury trial. She also faces trial along with <STRONG>Tim =
Rinker=20
</STRONG>on September 13th for two other infraction citations before=20
<I><STRONG>Commissioner Irwin Joseph</I></STRONG> at 1:30PM.</P>
<P><EM>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; =
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; =
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; =
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; =
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; =
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; =
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;=20
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; --- article by =
HUFF=20
staffwriters</EM></P>
<P align=3Dcenter><EM>Becky Johnson's attorney, </EM><I><STRONG>Ed=20
Frey</I></STRONG><EM>, can be reached for comment at (831)479-8911</EM>. =

</P><B><EM>
<P align=3Dcenter>Homeless United for Friendship &amp; Freedom =
</B></EM>(831)=20
423-HUFF</P></FONT><FONT size=3D2>
<P align=3Dcenter></FONT><A href=3D"http://www.huffsantacruz.org =
/"><FONT face=3DArial=20
size=3D3>www.huffsantacruz.org </FONT></A></P><FONT face=3DArial =
size=3D3>
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