Santa Cruz Anti-Homeless Curfew on Riverbank; John Dine Killing FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 12 Dec 1997 09:58:45 -0800 (PST)


FWD from Robert Norse at "Bathrobespierre" <norse@netcom.com>

Parks for those who have Plenty; Recreation for the Rich:
Parks and Recreations Nighttime Riverbank Curfew for the Homeless
Expanded Remarks from a Speech Made to Santa Cruz City Council 12/9/97 by
Robert Norse

        Our City Parks and Recreation Commission does not have a happy
record regarding actions that affect Santa CruzUs 500-1500 homeless
people.
        Parks and Recreation moved to close the parks at sunset in the
mid-80s in a blatant attack on the poor.   It refused to recommend an
hour a week of shower time for the homeless at Harvey West Park
facilities (1989) four years before the  Homeless Community Resource
Center opened with daytime showers.  P & R took special enthusiasm in
harassment ticketing of homeless protesters at the Town Clock after the
Iraqi war in 1991 and then acted to close down the Clock area at night,
creating an artificial park there so that it could close off more
public space to the poor.
        In 1997, P & R regularly harasses and seeks out homeless sleepers
in the large green Pogonip area--one of the few places where homeless
people can hide from the City's anti-homeless sleeping ban.  Under the
leadership of Jim Lebansraum Lang--whose word is usually law--Parks and
Re unanimously voted to ask the Santa Cruz City Council to further reduce
public space and expand police power by making the entire area adjacent
to the San Lorenzo River, which runs through the heart of Santa Cruz a
no-go zone at night.
        The Parks and Recreation with Lang cheerfully justifying and
explaining all the way, removed benches from the downtown area without
public hearings, apparently at the request of merchants who increasingly
dictate what happens in the public spaces outside their stores and
disperse the "unsightly".

        Now Lebansraum  Lang is saying to the homeless and to the
community, Rgive up your basic right to walk, associate, and enjoy the
area next to the San Lorenzo River at night all the way from highway one
to the ocean (one mile).   The justification: a handful of complaints
from a few neighbors and some political muscle from Erik Larsen, an
ambitious City Council pretender, who wants to close down the entire
riverfront to score some political points and show some political muscle.
        This same City Council has made sleep a crime for the poor in
Santa Cruz. It will not allow the poor to sleep in their vehicles in
industrial areas, as Eugene, Oregon, has done.  It will not open up a
parking structure with a bathroom at night--proposed as long ago as 1985
by conservative Council member, Arnie Levine.  It spend hundreds of
thousands to finance a showboat halfway-house/prison-style program for
40, but will not reopen a campground that served hundreds and is sorely
needed.

        This same Kennedy-Rotkin Council has now voted to save the
riverbank from "crime" by fencing it off at night.  It will protect the
levy by destroying it as a usable area at night; it will deal with the
occasional crimes there by making the act of being there a crime.  Are
all our liberties and public areas to become prey to the Drug War
mentality that trades basic rights to maintain bad laws?
        Merchant ultimatums have already put the homeless and the poor in
peril in public spaces downtown.  This Council surrendered to that
ultimatum back in 1994 when it made sitting on the sidewalk illegal.  It
bent over for LangUs decision to remove benches up and down the mall at
the whim of merchants in defiance of the needs of elders, the disabled,
the poor, and the young--all to eliminate "undesirables" from hanging
out.   ( and new removals-without-a-hearing at Cathcart and Pacific are
now reportedly scheduled).  Must the entire population at night surrender
traditional American freedoms because Lang gives the word when
politicians, merchants, or a few property owners whisper in his ear?
        Loitering laws were thrown out by the California and U.S. Supreme
Courts in California in the early 1980s.  In their place, we have this
genteel and delicately phrased Rhours of operationS resolutions, which
extends the "don't sit on the sidewalks" mentality to the entire San
Lorenzo area.  I spoke with Long shortly before this meeting and he
advised me that it would still be legal for homeless and poor people to
walk up and down the levy at night.
        Unwittingly he tells us what the CityUs policy will be for the
poor--most of whom have no legal place to sleep at night and are facing
$162 sleeping tickets already.  The new policy will be "keep walking".
"Keep walking or go to jail" is now to be our enlightened policy?  Lang's
rangers and the police already drive the poor out from under the eaves of
buildings into the rain, from under bridges where they huddle to sleep,
from the glorious open-space greenbelt areas that upper middle-class
environmentalists defend for their own (weekend) uses.

        This proposal was reportedly brought to Parks and Recreation by
the ambitious would-be City Council candidate Erik Larsen, whom our very
own banner-of-beggars, Councilmember Scott Kennedy is reportedly grooming
for next autumn.  Having gentrified Beach Flats with iron fences and
increased rents, are Larsen and Kennedy are now to score more political
points with this "get out by sunset" policy?   If he claims to be
speaking for the local Resource Center for Non-Violence, which some call
ruefully the Resource Center for Scott Kennedy, let the Resource Center
openly acknowledge they support this blatantly anti-homeless measure.
        This nighttime curfew for grown men and women is being presented
without clear documentation that (a) there is a crime wave at the river,
(b) that a curfew would have any impact on that crime wave there, or (c)
any general public support for the curfew.  It is being justified as a
RtoolS for the policeS to remove poor people drinking near the river.
        Lang admits he has gotten only 4 or 5 letters and half a dozen
complaints.  How many hundreds if not thousands of people, folks who live
here and folks who visit, will this new curfew impact?  It is wrong.  All
of Police Chief Belcher's baseless fearmongering about rapes and murders
cannot hide the fact that this is simply an act of political thuggery.
A runaway Council majority, elected on a Progressive platform has
arrogantly taken upon itself the right to ignore the wishes of most Santa
Cruzans as it did with the Homeless Garden Project and the election of
Celia Scott as mayor.

Flyer by HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom)  408-423-4833
12/12/97


Curfew and Coverup: City Council Closes Out the Year In Style
Speech to Santa Cruz City Council by Robert Norse 12/9/97

        City Council made it official this afternoon: So-called "gang
problemss" along the levy necessitate the police state or wartime device
of a nighttime curfew for adults.   Police Chief Belcher is now fondly
known as "Bumblaster" Belcher for his speedy exoneration of the killer of
John Dine.  Belcher gave creaky support to "Close Down the Riverbank to
Catch the Criminals" mastermind, Jim Lang, our eternal Parks and
Recreation director.  Belcher gave us the creaky fabrication that we
allowed the same gang who tried to throttle Celia Scott to pass a
peacetime curfew: that we are in the grip of a San Lorenzo River
crimewave requiring wholesale suspension of our civil liberties,
unquestioning trust in our police chief, and immediate action with little
debate.

        Henceforth it will be illegal to take a moonlight stroll along
the San Lorenzo River.  Homeless sleepers will be illegal, as ever, but
now if they sit, stand, or loiter, they can be  harassed, ticketed and
arrested.  And anyone else the police choose to harass who wander into
the forbidden zone.  Curfews and--of course--police shooting down an
unarmed hippie.  Does this sound like Santa Cruz that you know?

        It gets worse.  Yesterday the Citizens Police Review Board heard
and ignored a dozen or more speakers who sought an early independent
investigation into the Happy John Dine slaying.  That killing, as many
are probably already aware, has been quickly dismissed by Police Chief
Belcher and D.A. Art Danner as "justifiable homicide" in the teeth of
every single non-police witness.   Two of those witnesses--Stacey
Buckelew and Mike Schultz--described what they saw with their own eyes as
"murder" to the Board last night.  If any non-police officer had done the
shooting and two sane and sober witnesses testified that it was
unprovoked murder, would the investigation have been closed 8 days after
it began?

        Would Lt. Sepone be saying (as she did on Community Television
earlier today) that she had no problem with Officers Carey and Over
peeling out backwards at a high rate of speed almost mowing down 3
pedestrians and leaving a tread mark 30U long on leaving the Catalyst the
night of the killing?  That she "didn't want to second guess" officers
who didn't call for backup, and jumping out of their car with guns drawn
instead of approaching cautiously as any reasonable people would?

        Without going into the two witnesses who claimed the cops took
the gun from Happy John's pockets after the killing, would you regard as
credible a Catalyst bouncer, who was reportedly a friend of Carey's?
Would you regard as unbiased a man who had previously had hostile run ins
with Happy John, not just away from the Catalyst but away from the
sidewalk in front of the Catalyst?

        Last night our Police Board didn't even bother to vote on an
early Independent Investigation--the reason everyone came to the
meeting.  Or on public hearings--which everyone but the Board wanted.
Apparently the gunning down of an unarmed hippie doesn't merit an
emergency meeting either last month or this month.  the message is clear:
stall and placate and take off for the Xmas holidays. The most serious
police killing of an unarmed man in Santa Cruz in a decade.  What are we
left with:  the killer of Happy John Dine on the official payroll,
exonerated, armed, and on the street.

        If we all we can get are curfews and coverups, it is no wonder
that the Council won't lift a finger to support basic rights for the
homeless.  Tomorrow is UN Declaration of Human Rights Day.  It is still
illegal for the homeless to sleep outside in Santa Cruz and the man whose
vote on City Council makes it so (Mike Rotkin), is still heralded as a
champion of Human Rights and invited as a testimonial speaker on human
rights issues .   Merry Christmas.


Flyer by HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom)  408-423-HUFF

News Flash: On December 10 under pressure from Santa Cruzans for Full
Disclosure and the new Mayor, the District Attorney's Office and the
Police Chief finally released a partial copy of the John Dine killing
investigation including important witness interviews and the transcripts
of statements from the two police officers and their bring-along witness
Ben Newman.
        A preliminary survey of the witness reports reveals that no one,
other than these three involved parties saw a gun in John Dine's hand or
a gun pointed at the police.  Even the reactionary pro-police Santa Cruz
County Sentinel has called for an independent investigation by the
Citizens Police Review Board.

                        ---Robert Norse "Bathrobespierre" <norse@netcom.com>

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