[Hpn] Santa Cruz Mayor Disrupts Council Meeting-has peaceful protest stopped, activist jailed

Becky A Johnson becky_johnson@sbcglobal.net
Tue, 27 Jan 2004 11:26:02 -0800 (PST)


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Santa Cruz Mayor Disrupts Council Meeting 
Has Peaceful Protest Stopped, Activist Jailed 

by Becky Johnson 

January 26, 2004

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- The Xmas shopping season is over. On Pacific Ave. merchants count receipts and take inventory. Outside the Pacific Trading Company(PTC) people walk past a fenced-off planter where once guitarists sat and strummed and young folks lounged. But last June under pressure from the PTC, the City of Santa Cruz paid between $7000 and $12,000 to move the metal railing about 8 inches to the outside edge to eliminate seating. Move-along, Rosa Parks. You canít sit here anymore. 

Inside Borders Books half a block away, former Street Spirit vendor co-ordinator John Maurer was told he couldnít read there any more because doing so without buying was "basically stealing". Just outside Borders, a new change machine has been installed. Since a City ordinance prohibits sitting on the sidewalk or asking for spare change within 50 feet of such a machine, the City has effectively "cleaned up" the entire storefront area of kids and homeless people who used to gather there. Most had no better place to go.

And every night, the cops scope out homeless people in vehicles or out of doors for illegal sleeping, banned from 11PM until 8:30AM. The economy has not been kind to the merchants or to homeless people. Santa Cruz County has experienced a steep rise in homelessness from 2002 to 2003, a jump from 8,558 experiencing homelessness each year to a whopping 11, 898 for 2003. Shelters, such as Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center have had 10% cutbacks in their budgets and are struggling to hold the line providing for existing services. They cannot expand to meet the increased need.

On January 4th, HUFF [Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom] contacted Santa Cruz Mayor Scott Kennedy and asked him to place repeal of the sleeping ban and blanket ban on the January 13th City Council agenda. Mayor Kennedy declined saying "it [repeal of the Ban] might well, in fact, contribute to greater vulnerability and risk." Kennedy added "I have no reason to believe that Ďrepeal of the Sleeping Baní would be supported by a majority of the City Council." How does allowing homeless people to sleep at night and to keep warm with blankets make them more vulnerable? What about their risk of exhaustion and hypothermia?

 

HUFF TAKES THE SLEEPING BAN TO CITY COUNCIL 

On January 13th, HUFF held a critical press conference against the Sleeping Ban in front of City Hall. The Press Conference centered around the criminalization of the homelessness nationwide and the Santa Cruz City Sleeping Ban in particular. The Ban, passed in 1978 and supported by the Mayor and the entire City Council, menaces the physical safety of homeless people and makes them second-class citizens by subjecting them to arbitrary interrogation, detention, search, arrest, and exclusion.

Out-of-town writers and speakers from the One Dance Conference included social scientist and internationally-known writer Michael Parenti, author and editor Mickey Z, and Canadian student activist Yves Engler. Outspoken master chef, Joseph Schultz, provided hot vegan soup for the forty-five participants. The Conference took place while Kennedyís Council met nearby and was MCed by Street Spirit writer Robert Norse Local speakers included Steve Argue, on trial in February for political tabling for more than 1 hour, as well as members of the Society for Freedom and Expression [SAFE], street peformers who are challenging police harassment policies in federal court. Also present were former Homeless Issues Task Force members Thomas Leavitt and Linda Lemaster. 

Leavitt planned to read the names of the 47 homeless and formerly homeless people who died in Santa Cruz last year. Mayor Kennedy denied the public an accessible Oral Communications period by putting it at a time uncertain. This forced Leavitt to postpone the planned Speakers for the Dead Procession. Unable to speak to the council, the group filed in to City Council to silently register their protest. Some carried signs reading "Sleep is not a crime!!" "End the Sleeping Ban" and "Shelter requests are up 41% and we are arresting people for Sleeping?" 

Kennedy, seeing the signs visible on the tv monitor, demanded sign holders take them to the side of the room out of the view of the televised broadcast, though no one had complained that their view of the Council had been blocked. When the Oral Communications period was not forthcoming, they silently paraded past the Council and out the door. Snapped, Vice-Mayor Mike Rotkin "you donít have to take that kind of crap, remove them!" Kennedy then interrupted speaking Council members to give a general warning that the silent protest was "disruptive". In response, Michael Parenti turned to the Mayor and said distinctly, "No, itís not. Itís really not." 

Gaping at this, Kennedy began a recitation of his interpretation of the Council "decorum" rules, but before he had gotten very far, the sign carriers had completed their single passage in front of the Council and left the room. Neither holding signs nor walking across the council chambers had formerly been a prohibited activity. HUFF activist Becky Johnson added, "We were careful not to cross while people were at the podium, that was the only ruling I knew about." Some minutes later Kennedy zeroed in on Norse for whispering to Doug McGrath. McGrath, a homeless activist who lives in his van had worked extensively with the Homeless Issues Task Force several years before. McGrath later explained "Robert quietly told me a television crew from Channel 46 wanted me outside to talk about how hard it was for us under the Sleeping Ban. There was no way he or I were being disruptive. There were several other louder exchanges going on in the audience. I later told Kennedy that what he had done
 was selective and discriminatory." 

Others agreed that the brief exchange, inaudible on the tape of the City Council session, and quite normal at council meetings, was not disruptive. The whispered exchange, the prior procession, and a "why am I being evicted?" question from Norse, became Kennedyís "evidence" that Norse was disruptive. Under threat of expulsion, Norse left but shortly returned to wait to speak at Oral Communications. Kennedy then announced a new policy of "cumulative warnings" tallied from meeting to meeting, as well as a Ďblacklistí of nine people who had received warnings at the meeting although nearly twenty people had crossed the council chambers, some with signs and some without. He said his decision as chair to eject or arrest a member of the public, could be overturned by a majority vote on the council. He then ordered Norse arrested. 

When Norse approached the podium to ask for a council vote in response to Kennedyís arrest order, Kennedy directed workers to "turn off the TV and the sound and recess while Mr. Norse is being arrested." As Norse was being forced out of the chamber by police, he asked the Council to vote to overturn the Mayorís order. "Will no member of the City Council uphold the right that the Mayor has stated?" 

In the half-hour before Norseís arrest Kennedy had unloosed a volly of warnings at various members of the audience for such things as "having a sign in the audience", "walking in front of the City Council", "having a sign while walking in front of the City Council", and "conversing in City Council chambers". At one point, Kennedy read the entire "Rules of Decorum" aloud which prohibit "making personal, impertinent, or slanderous remarks, or becoming boisterous." Norse is currently challenging these decorum rules in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as unconstitutional for giving the Mayor too much power to selectively intimidate & remove critics.

On orders from Lt. Steve Clark, Norse was held at the Santa Cruz County Jail for four hours rather than being immediately cited and released--the usual case in a citizenís arrest. He faces $1000 fine and up to six months in jail if convicted, and promises to subpoena Kennedy and other Council members to his trial, if the harassment charges are not dropped. He believes they will be. 

While charged by past mayors with "disruption", Norse says he has never been tried, much less convicted, of this charge. "This removes me from City Council meetings and frightens others from coming. Being arrested for trying to speak at a public meeting is bad enough. Kennedyís Sleeping Ban is even more cruel: it arrests people for doing what they must do--sleep at night. Kennedy co-founded the local Resource Center for Nonviolence and has kind words for Palestinian rights and Bushís political prisoners. But for the homeless and their supporters in Santa Cruz--over whom he has some real power, he wields the Sleeping Ban. For critics at City Council, he piously wraps himself in the flag of "decorum rules."




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<DIV>
<DIV><BR><BR><B><FONT size=5>Santa Cruz Mayor Disrupts Council Meeting 
<BLOCKQUOTE class=replbq style="BORDER-LEFT: #1010ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px">
<DIV></FONT><FONT size=4>
<P>Has Peaceful Protest Stopped, Activist Jailed </P></B></FONT>
<P>by Becky Johnson </P>
<P>January 26, 2004</P>
<P>Santa Cruz, Ca. -- The Xmas shopping season is over. On Pacific Ave. merchants count receipts and take inventory. Outside the <B><I>Pacific Trading Company(PTC) </B></I>people walk past a fenced-off planter where once guitarists sat and strummed and young folks lounged. But last June under pressure from the <B>PTC</B>, the City of Santa Cruz paid between $7000 and $12,000 to move the metal railing about 8 inches to the outside edge to eliminate seating. Move-along, <B>Rosa Parks</B>. You canít sit here anymore. </P>
<P>Inside <B><I>Borders Books </B></I>half a block away, former <B><I>Street Spirit </B></I>vendor co-ordinator <B>John Maurer </B>was told he couldnít read there any more because doing so without buying was "basically stealing". Just outside Borders, a new change machine has been installed. Since a City ordinance prohibits sitting on the sidewalk or asking for spare change within 50 feet of such a machine, the City has effectively "cleaned up" the entire storefront area of kids and homeless people who used to gather there. Most had no better place to go.</P>
<P>And every night, the cops scope out homeless people in vehicles or out of doors for illegal sleeping, banned from 11PM until 8:30AM. The economy has not been kind to the merchants or to homeless people. Santa Cruz County has experienced a steep rise in homelessness from 2002 to 2003, a jump from 8,558 experiencing homelessness each year to a whopping 11, 898 for 2003. Shelters, such as <B><I>Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center </B></I>have had 10% cutbacks in their budgets and are struggling to hold the line providing for existing services. They cannot expand to meet the increased need.</P>
<P>On January 4th, HUFF [<B><I>Homeless United for Friendship &amp; Freedom</B></I>] contacted Santa Cruz <B>Mayor Scott Kennedy </B>and asked him to place repeal of the sleeping ban and blanket ban on the January 13th City Council agenda. Mayor Kennedy declined saying "it [repeal of the Ban] might well, in fact, contribute to greater vulnerability and risk." Kennedy added "I have no reason to believe that Ďrepeal of the Sleeping Baní would be supported by a majority of the City Council." How does allowing homeless people to sleep at night and to keep warm with blankets make them more vulnerable? What about their risk of exhaustion and hypothermia?</P>
<P>&nbsp;</P>
<P>HUFF TAKES THE SLEEPING BAN TO CITY COUNCIL </P>
<P>On January 13th, HUFF held a critical press conference against the Sleeping Ban in front of City Hall. The Press Conference centered around the criminalization of the homelessness nationwide and the Santa Cruz City Sleeping Ban in particular. The Ban, passed in 1978 and supported by the Mayor and the entire City Council, menaces the physical safety of homeless people and makes them second-class citizens by subjecting them to arbitrary interrogation, detention, search, arrest, and exclusion.</P>
<P>Out-of-town writers and speakers from the <B><I>One Dance Conference </B></I>included social scientist and internationally-known writer <B>Michael Parenti</B>, author and editor <B>Mickey Z</B>, and Canadian student activist <B>Yves Engler</B>. Outspoken master chef, <B>Joseph Schultz</B>, provided hot vegan soup for the forty-five participants. The Conference took place while Kennedyís Council met nearby and was MCed by <B><I>Street Spirit </B></I>writer <B>Robert Norse </B>Local speakers included Steve Argue, on trial in February for political tabling for more than 1 hour, as well as members of the <B><I>Society for Freedom and Expression </B></I>[SAFE], street peformers who are challenging police harassment policies in federal court. Also present were former <B><I>Homeless Issues Task Force </B></I>members <B>Thomas Leavitt </B>and <B>Linda Lemaster</B>. </P>
<P>Leavitt planned to read the names of the 47 homeless and formerly homeless people who died in Santa Cruz last year. Mayor Kennedy denied the public an accessible Oral Communications period by putting it at a time uncertain. This forced Leavitt to postpone the planned Speakers for the Dead Procession. Unable to speak to the council, the group filed in to City Council to silently register their protest. Some carried signs reading "Sleep is not a crime!!" "End the Sleeping Ban" and "Shelter requests are up 41% and we are arresting people for Sleeping?" </P>
<P>Kennedy, seeing the signs visible on the tv monitor, demanded sign holders take them to the side of the room out of the view of the televised broadcast, though no one had complained that their view of the Council had been blocked. When the Oral Communications period was not forthcoming, they silently paraded past the Council and out the door. Snapped, <B>Vice-Mayor Mike Rotkin </B>"you donít have to take that kind of crap, remove them!" Kennedy then interrupted speaking Council members to give a general warning that the silent protest was "disruptive". In response, <B>Michael Parenti </B>turned to the Mayor and said distinctly, "No, itís not. Itís really not." </P>
<P>Gaping at this, Kennedy began a recitation of his interpretation of the Council "decorum" rules, but before he had gotten very far, the sign carriers had completed their single passage in front of the Council and left the room. Neither holding signs nor walking across the council chambers had formerly been a prohibited activity. HUFF activist <B>Becky Johnson </B>added, "We were careful not to cross while people were at the podium, that was the only ruling I knew about." Some minutes later Kennedy zeroed in on Norse for whispering to <B>Doug McGrath</B>. McGrath, a homeless activist who lives in his van had worked extensively with the <B><I>Homeless Issues Task Force </B></I>several years before. McGrath later explained "Robert quietly told me a television crew from Channel 46 wanted me outside to talk about how hard it was for us under the Sleeping Ban. There was no way he or I were being disruptive. There were several other louder exchanges going on in the audience. I later told
 Kennedy that what he had done was selective and discriminatory." </P>
<P>Others agreed that the brief exchange, inaudible on the tape of the City Council session, and quite normal at council meetings, was not disruptive. The whispered exchange, the prior procession, and a "why am I being evicted?" question from Norse, became Kennedyís "evidence" that Norse was disruptive. Under threat of expulsion, Norse left but shortly returned to wait to speak at Oral Communications. Kennedy then announced a new policy of "cumulative warnings" tallied from meeting to meeting, as well as a Ďblacklistí of nine people who had received warnings at the meeting although nearly twenty people had crossed the council chambers, some with signs and some without. He said his decision as chair to eject or arrest a member of the public, could be overturned by a majority vote on the council. He then ordered Norse arrested. </P>
<P>When Norse approached the podium to ask for a council vote in response to Kennedyís arrest order, Kennedy directed workers to "turn off the TV and the sound and recess while Mr. Norse is being arrested." As Norse was being forced out of the chamber by police, he asked the Council to vote to overturn the Mayorís order. "Will no member of the City Council uphold the right that the Mayor has stated?" </P>
<P>In the half-hour before Norseís arrest Kennedy had unloosed a volly of warnings at various members of the audience for such things as "having a sign in the audience", "walking in front of the City Council", "having a sign while walking in front of the City Council", and "conversing in City Council chambers". At one point, Kennedy read the entire "Rules of Decorum" aloud which prohibit "making personal, impertinent, or slanderous remarks, or becoming boisterous." Norse is currently challenging these decorum rules in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as unconstitutional for giving the Mayor too much power to selectively intimidate &amp; remove critics.</P>
<P>On orders from <B>Lt. Steve Clark</B>, Norse was held at the <B><I>Santa Cruz County Jail </B></I>for four hours rather than being immediately cited and released--the usual case in a citizenís arrest. He faces $1000 fine and up to six months in jail if convicted, and promises to subpoena Kennedy and other Council members to his trial, if the harassment charges are not dropped. He believes they will be. </P>
<P>While charged by past mayors with "disruption", Norse says he has never been tried, much less convicted, of this charge. "This removes me from City Council meetings and frightens others from coming. Being arrested for trying to speak at a public meeting is bad enough. Kennedyís Sleeping Ban is even more cruel: it arrests people for doing what they must do--sleep at night. Kennedy co-founded the local <B><I>Resource Center for Nonviolence </B></I>and has kind words for Palestinian rights and Bushís political prisoners. But for the homeless and their supporters in Santa Cruz--over whom he has some real power, he wields the Sleeping Ban. For critics at City Council, he piously wraps himself in the flag of "decorum rules."</P></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE></DIV></DIV>
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