Monday, March 23, 2009

Native American Activist Smashes San Jose City Hall Statue of Christopher Columbus, Revered Mass Murderer

UPDATE: I wrote about Jim Cosner's one man attack on the Columbus statue at San Jose City Hall. Cosner was convicted and ordered to pay $65,000 to repair the $3000 statue. ---Becky

By Becky Johnson, based on San Jose Mercury News,
9 March 2001

San Jose, Ca.—Wielding a sledgehammer, justice activist James Cosner smashed a life-size statue of Christopher Columbus in front of dozens of witnesses at City Hall in San Jose, California on Thursday, March 8th. As the seven-types of marble chips flew from the blows, Cosner shouted Genocide! This man rode our backs! This man murdered us!

Most Americans do not know the murderous history of Christopher Columbus. Examining primary historical sources by Bartolome de las Casas, the biographer of ColumbusÂ’ son, Columbus made four voyages to the New World. He encountered the Arawaks, who occupied Haiti. An early census of the Arawak was 1.1 million, not counting children. According to a conservative estimate over 3 million Arawak lived on Haiti in pre-Columbian times. Columbus kidnapped , enslaved, and murdered the Arawak people. He ruled with severe discipline ordering the cutting off of ears or nose as punishment for minor crimes.

When the Arawaks fought back, Columbus used the excuse to wage war. On March 24th, 1495 Columbus set out to conquer the Arawaks. With 20 hunting dogs, horses, and guns Columbus set upon the Arawaks, tearing them up with dogs and mowing them down with volleys of bullets, and running them over with horses. Reporting back to Queen Isabel of Spain, Columbus boasted In the name of the holy trinity, we can send from here all the slaves that Brazil will hold. The Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food.

Seeking gold, he enslaved the remaining Arawaks to work the mines. Those who refused had their hands cut off. Conditions for the Arawak become so intolerable that as many as 100 at a time would commit suicide. Women were known to kill their newborn babies, rather than have them raised in such hideous circumstances. Columbus would reward his officers with women to rape. Girls 10 to 12 were especially desired for rape.

When Columbus son took over in 1505, he continued the slaughter. Only some 12,000 remained by 1516. By 1555 not a single Arawak remained. Haiti remains one of the primary instances of genocide in human history to be followed by more instances of genocide in Puerto Rico and Cuba. The presence of the statue prominently placed in City Hall in San Jose has been reviled by native Americans as a sick reminder of the ruthless slaughter and conquest of indigenous people in the New World.

Having smuggled the sledgehammer into City Hall, Cosner struck the marble statue breaking off the arm, both legs, and cracking pits into the face. He cracked off the top of the scroll held by Columbus, so that the torso only remained standing by the flowing waves of the marble cape, which was still connected to the pedestal.

One passerby, Jaime Nava approached Cosner and tried to talk him into stopping. As Nava tried to calm Cosner, plainclothes officer Chris Galios, Mayor Ron Gonzales' bodyguard, arrived and tried to persuade Cosner to stop. But it was only when three uniformed officers came through the front door with their guns drawn that Cosner ceased.

Nava used his body to shield Cosner, who had backed against a wall. Officers then handcuffed Cosner, who told them: ``I'm not fighting. I'm very calm. I'm very calm.'' San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzalez vowed to restore the statue, which will then be moved in front of the new City Hall when it opens downtown.

Cosner, a native American who has been active in protests against the injustice committed against the homeless in Santa Cruz under the Sleeping Ban, in the struggle to free Mumia Abu Jamal, and against the bombing in Yugoslavia. In 1996, he was one of six people who locked down at City Hall to protest the anti-homeless Sleeping Ban in Santa Cruz. In 1999 he was arrested in Rep. Sam FarrÂ’s office to protest the civilian bombing of Yugoslavia.

He was arrested at another protest on May 22nd in front of the McPherson Center where a Democratic Party fundraiser was held, supporting ex-President ClintonÂ’s Bomb Belgrade campaign. He, along with Steve Argue, became one of the Santa Cruz 5, arrested for resisting a police disruption of a legitimate political protest. Later in 1999, he attended the protests in Seattle against the WTO. Cosner remains in the Santa Clara County Jail, booked on suspicion of vandalism, making terrorist threats and destruction of a civic monument. His bail, originally set at $4,000 has been raised to $50,000.

As of Monday 3:30 PM, a female deputy at the jail who identified herself only as #132 refused to answer why the bail cost was raised, what the current bail was, and what the current charges were. She did state that Cosner was being arraigned and that his files would return by 2 a.m. Tuesday. She acknowledged that she did have current information on the computer, but declined to release that information. Informed sources confirmed later that Cosner was taken to court on Monday afternoon, not charged, and scheduled for arraignment on Thursday afternoon (1-5 PM).

Sources for historical information on ColumbusÂ’s genocidal policies: History of the Indies by Bartolome de las Casas translated by Andree M. Collard [1971]; Select Letters of Christopher Columbus translated and edited by R. H. Major [1847]; A PeopleÂ’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn [1980]; The Log of Christopher ColumbusÂ’s First Voyage to America in the Year 1492, as copied out in brief by las Casas [1989]; all from Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen [1995]

Sources for the Cosner information: San Jose Mercury News 3-9 & 3-10

From: Jim Vivian
To: Jim Vivian *
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2001 02:42:55 -0800





MONDAY, MARCH 19th (Press Conference 12:30pm, Bail Hearing 1:30pm

Courtroom TBA)
Santa Clara County Superior Court, 200 West Hedding, San José, CA
(between 1st St. and Guadalupe Highway 87)
needed: character reference letters
Info: (831) 423-HUFF or (408) 562-2556,

Santa Cruz, city key for Palestinian Ambassador arouses storm

This is a Sentinel article about a small delegation that went to see Mayor Cynthia Mathews after she awarded the key to the City to Afif Safieh, the PLO ambassador who had called Israel "a belligerent player in the region" and at the event said that "Hezbollah is an amateur at terrorism compared to Israel." Note that Shanna calls me a "Jewish leader." I am neither. She printed a retraction the next day. ---Becky

by Shanna McCord
Santa Cruz Sentinel
August 30, 2006

Santa Cruz local Jewish leaders, upset with Mayor Cynthia Mathews for giving the Palestinian Ambassador a key to the city last month, want the mayor to publicly apologize for the symbolic gesture. Mathews said she has no plans to do so.

Mathews introduced Palestinian Ambassador Afif Safieh to an audience at the Veterans Memorial Building, and said Tuesday that the city key was part of `a ceremonial welcome.` At the time she called it a rare honor.

Safieh, invited by the Resource Center for Nonviolence, spoke in Santa Cruz about failed diplomacy in the Middle East and laced his speech with remarks such as `Hezbollah is an amateur in terrorism compared with Israel,` a quote repeated in a Sentinel article after the event.

`I was disturbed that the ambassador was quoted in the Sentinel as saying that Hezbollah were minor terrorists compared to Israel while Hezbollah was launching thousands of rockets purposely against civilian targets in Israel,` Rabbi Rick Litvak of Temple Beth El said Tuesday. `With statements like this, I felt this was not the kind of person we should be honoring.`

Litvak and other Jewish leaders - Ilan Benjamin, Becky Johnson, Gil Stein and Susan Karon - met with Mathews Aug. 16 at City Hall to express their disappointment and seek an apology.

Mathews said Tuesday it was a private meeting to explain that presenting Safieh a key to the city was a decision she made on her own as mayor, not requiring City Council approval.

The gesture, she said, was not meant to take sides or endorse Palestinian politics, but rather to show support for Safieh`s desire for peace and a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians over Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

`I acted on Safieh`s work to encourage communication and peaceful resolution to the conflict,` Mathews said Tuesday, `which is something I think we would all like to see.`

She said she did not plan to offer an apology, and that the same gesture would be made for a visiting Israeli dignitary.

As vice mayor in 1996, Mathews gave keys to the city to author Howard Zinn; Dr. Quentin Young, a Chicago physician and advocate for a single-payer national health insurance; and pediatrician Dr. Thomas Berry Brazelton.

Litvak and other Israel supporters followed their meeting with Mathews with a letter Aug. 18 that incorrectly identified Safieh as a representative of the militant Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority.

The letter strongly encouraged Mathews to submit a letter to the editor to the Sentinel apologizing and clarifying that she acted as an individual and not on behalf of the city when she bestowed the key.

Safieh is a longtime member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, formerly led by the late Yasser Arafat, which was defeated in recent elections. But Litvak and other Israel supporters say the Palestinian Liberation Organization is made up of various groups, including the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, whose members would like to `wipe Israel off the map of the world.`

`Both entities represent violence and terror,` Litvak said. `We still believe a key to the city for Safieh does not advance the cause of peace.`

Scott Kennedy, a member of the Resource Center for Nonviolence and a former city mayor, wrote to Litvak saying that understanding the distinction between Safieh`s position with the PLO and the violence carried out by Hamas is critical to ending the decades-long fighting.

`Those Palestinian parties that are prepared to live alongside Israel reflect a majority opinion of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, of Jewish people in Israel, of the U.S. public in general, and of American Jews,` Kennedy wrote. `Ambassador Afif Safieh has consistently, outspokenly and sincerely supported a two-state solution for more than two decades.`

Contact Shanna McCord at

Honest Reporting: Readers Round-up Jan 14 2003

UPDATE MARCH 23 2009: This was the article which caused the rift between George Cadman at Free Radio Santa Cruz and myself. I had written a different article criticizing both Adam Shapiro of the ISM and Alison Weir of "If Americans Knew..." on Cadman's radio show. I sent my article around to different sites and Honest Reporting picked it up. They rewrote it, added in new information including the phone number and e-mail for the radio station and credited me as the source. The entry caused a flood of e-mails and phone calls to FRSC, one of which was thought to be threatening. I defended my writing by saying that I have a right to write a review of another programmers show. Some accused me of trying to get the FCC to shut down the station which was definitely not true. --Becky


found at:

===== (5) BASHING IN SANTA CRUZ =====

When it comes to Palestinians, some people in Santa Cruz, California, can't bend over far enough to defend them. On January 5, Free Radio Santa Cruz 96.3FM broadcast an interview with Alison Weir and Adam Shapiro. Weir is the founder of If Americans Knew, an anti-Israel group, and Shapiro is an American Jew who gained notoriety last spring by sneaking into Arafat's Ramallah compound for breakfast -- just a few weeks before Shapiro married his Palestinian girlfriend.

Astonishingly, the Santa Cruz broadcast happened 7 hours after the horrific double-suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Neither of the guests mentioned the massacre, though they spent much of their time bashing Israel. "When people say Israel has a right to exist, it means Israel has a right to discriminate," Weir declared.

The show's host, George Cadman, asked, "Well, isn't Israel justified in having all these military arms? Aren't they surrounded by Arab nations who are hostile to them?"

Weir's answer: "They would not need such a strong military if they gave human rights to everyone." She then explained that Arab countries have no desire to attack Israel, and that with one exception, Israel attacked first in the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973.

Weir says that in Israel "There is an enormous apartheid system." Yet she doesn't explain that Israel has an 18 percent Arab population who enjoy religious freedoms and full citizenship rights -- as well as 12 members of Knesset.

Just like apartheid? Really.

Comments to:
Phone: (831) 427-4523

Thanks to Becky Johnson for the alert.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SEIU Union Holds Heated Debate Over the Sleeping Ban in Santa Cruz

"There is a law that makes sleeping illegal. There is a law that makes covering up against the elements at night illegal. This smacks of the old South, racism and a community in denial about the human rights violations going on to a certain class of people."

by Becky Johnson

Originally published in August 2005

MARCH 22 2009 UPDATE: This article can be viewed where it was originally published at:
Since this article came out, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found a similar law in Los Angeles illegal due to "cruel and inhuman punishment." The crux of their decision rested on outlawing sleep in a situation where inadequate shelter exists. As of today, the Sleeping Ban is still in place and supported by the entire City Council. The HRO is still holding meetings. But they are now held at Taqueria Vallerta downtown at 2PM every Saturday. ---Becky

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Five years ago, the Santa Cruz City Council struggled with ending the sleeping ban that criminalizes sleep for homeless people, but they fell short of that goal. Instead of ending the sleeping ban, they settled for lower fines and fewer hours of community service required for hapless sleepers caught catching forty winks within the city limits.

Since then, City officials have acted to prevent the unhoused from residing in vehicles or even parking them, whether they were sleeping in them or not, in vast swaths of the city. Arrests under the sleeping ban are markedly up from just a few years ago, and there is nary a councilmember who is moved to do anything about it.

Yet a small group of determined activists are pushing forward in their efforts to end the ban, driven not by a groundswell of support, nor by political expediency, but just by a gut feeling that as long as homeless people can't sleep at night, no one else can truly rest.

When Human Rights Organization (HRO) member Bernard Klitzner approached Tim Ahern of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), he found they were in sync on this issue.
Ahern is part of a struggle by In-Home Health Care workers with a union that is satisfied with negotiating less than a living wage which leaves the threat of homelessness looming for SEIU homecare workers. Once homeless, even if still employed, SEIU workers fall victim to the sleeping ban. Ahern's union voted to abolish the sleeping ban sections of the Santa Cruz camping ordinance which prohibits all sleep on any public property from 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. -- even in a licensed vehicle.

HRO organizer Bob Patton said, "Our intent is to alert the community as to how devastating these laws are to the homeless person and how against the Bill of Rights they are. As far as we are concerned, these laws are against human rights,"

In that spirit, Ahern vowed to take the issue before the SEIU membership and asked Klitzner to organize some speakers. At their first meeting, a healthy debate emerged and some wanted to immediately endorse ending the sleeping ban on the spot in executive session. But since Jeff Smedburg and other union leaders were still smarting from having endorsed the ill-fated Santa Cruz Coast Hotel Project in a similar executive session, and without consulting the full membership, they balked at proceeding without a formal forum being held.

On July 13, 30 SEIU members and some members of the public attended a forum held at the Union Hall in Santa Cruz. HRO organizer Bob Patton was worried when he arrived and found that SEIU leaders had scheduled the presenters from the HRO in a debate style and facing opponents. Worse, the signs in front of each group referred to repealing the camping ordinance and not the sleeping ban. A park ranger and a Parks and Recreation worker volunteered to take the position of the City of Santa Cruz in opposition to ending the sleeping ban.

"We had five specific points we wanted to present and have them endorse," said Patton. "By the time it came to July 13th, things had gotten bastardized and turned around. Our five points were gone and it was a debate about repealing the camping ordinance. We had to explain ourselves over and over again that that was not our issue."

The five points advocated by the Human Rights Organization were first articulated in a letter to the Santa Cruz City Council by local civil rights attorney Kate Wells in December 2004. They are:
1. Suspend winter citations for sleeping, use of blankets and camping.
2. Dismiss all present and past citations.
3. Set up a minimum of 40 car parking spaces which allow sleeping at night.
4. Set up emergency campgrounds in parklands for homeless people.
5. Mandate additional training and direction to the police department.

"The union has members within it who are homeless from time to time," Patton said. "Our initial response when we went to the executive meeting in May was that they were quite enthusiastic to our proposal."

But it was a different audience at the July 13th debate. Several Parks and Recreation officers and maintenance workers arrived with photos of garbage piles and buckets of hypodermic needles. Parks and Recreation worker Andrew told the audience that "only one in a thousand can be helped." He added, "They leave needles in the children's playground; they defecate in the children's playground. We hauled five tons of garbage out of Moore creek. I just talked to a councilmember before this meeting. He told me that there is adequate shelter for those who want to use it."

Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin -- a supporter of the sleeping ban -- acknowledges that homeless shelter is inadequate, and glaringly so, 8 months of the year.

"Please do not pass this, not for the sake of the union members, but the sake of our community," Andrew urged the SEIU membership. He then denounced the homeless residents of Santa Cruz in the most pejorative terms, stating, "They are not city residents, they are not county residents, they are not even from our state. They come here for cheap drugs and generous social services. It's not all of them. That would be unfair. There are families out there that need our help."

Many SEIU members also expressed apprehension about an "influx of homeless" and the loss of a valuable "police tool" for questioning vagrants were the sleeping ban to be lifted.

Opponents of the ban replied that the entire homeless community could not be denied their need to sleep at night because of the bad behavior of a few. "They were a bit too enthusiastic about their invasive enforcement tools," Patton said later. "The Needs Assessment Survey of 2000 showed that 71 percent of our homeless population last had housing in Santa Cruz County. There are laws and regulations that deal with specific acts such as littering, trespassing, etc. that can be used. I was frightened at the animosity and the outright disdain for the homeless expressed by the rangers."

At the meeting, SEIU member Anna Brooks declared that she "knew all about the camping enforcement." She claimed that ticketing is rare, only done on complaint, after a warning has been given, and only as a last resort. Brooks unsuccessfully sued Klitzner, Norse, and the author of this article in 2000 for harassment, but the suit itself effectively derailed a lobbying campaign against the sleeping ban by the mayor's office at the time. As one of the presenters, I commented that the complaint-driven ticketing only occurs in residential areas, whereas citations issued out in the parklands (the majority of tickets issued in Santa Cruz) are issued in the absence of any complaint.

Parks and Recreation maintenance worker John Gilbert tried to see both sides of the issue while addressing the impact of illegal camping on Parks and Rec facilities. "I understand that people need to have a place to live," he said. "I understand that not all the campers trash the place. One of the problems of having camping -- a constant presence -- is that stuff isn't necessarily used in the manner in which it was designed. You go and clean up the bathrooms in the morning, where scores of people have come out of the woods to bathe and use the facilities, and there is a big mess one hour after it opens."

HRO presenter Ray Glock-Grueneich warned the audience that the current ordinance was a "false solution to the current problem. The kids who want to be in your face are from the suburbs and are not the ones they run out of the bushes."

Since the current law makes sleeping illegal from 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m., it attempts to reverse the sleep cycle in homeless people. One wonders at a city mandate which, if followed, leaves people disoriented and less functional. "One of the techniques that the military have used in Guantanamo was to reverse the sleeping hours," Glock-Grueneich said. "There is a debate about whether this is torture or not. You find that when the sleeping hours are involuntarily reversed, you cannot function to the same degree."

He suggested that we only have two choices in a city that is not ready to address the sleeping ban: "Get enlightened leadership from places like the unions. Or you use coercion. Get lawyers and file a civil rights lawsuit." He asserted that the sleeping ban is unconstitutional when applied to poor people who have no place else to sleep because shelters are full. "That's why we have Eichorn which provides for the defense of necessity. But there's a catch. The defense of necessity requires the burden of proof to be on the defendant to prove their case. A defendant has to hire an attorney. So a defendant has to come up with thousands of dollars for an attorney when they didn't have the $50 for a motel room."

The SEIU conferred in closed session. John Gilbert reported the results. "We decided to not vote on it. The issue was not tabled. It was removed from consideration." He said that many anticipated a bitter fight if the SEIU went forward. Many asked why this issue should be voted on right now. Gilbert left one note of hope. "The door is not closed to a more concrete proposal," he said.

Bob Patton described his own bottom line. "I keep coming back to -- and I can hardly believe I am saying it -- there is a law against sleeping in Santa Cruz. There is a law that makes sleeping illegal. There is a law that makes covering up against the elements at night illegal.
"This smacks of the old South, racism and a community in denial about the human rights violations going on to a certain class of people. And the destruction that these laws cause, not just to these individuals, but to our civil society itself. We are a community with responsibilities. Like it or not, we are responsible for the damage we are doing to this class of people. These laws are not the answer."

The Human Rights Organization meets weekly at 115 Coral St. in Santa Cruz inside the Homeless Services Center dining room from 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. All are welcome.

Designed Out of Existence:

Or why the Santa Cruz
Medical Marijuana ordinance
doesn't work

by Becky Johnson
22 Jun 2004


While I predicted that no marijuana distribution center would open under this ordinance, five years after it was passed, Lisa Molyneaux of Boulder Creek, Ca. successfully opened Greenway. She had to receive a variance to open it in the location in Harvey West Industrial Park which is too near a park, according to this ordinance. About a year later, another distribution center also opened. HUFF has passed a resolution to reduce the distance buffer from parks, schools, micro-breweries, etc. from 600 feet to 300 ft., allow one dispensary to open in the downtown area, and remove the requirement that all staff must be patients themselves.

Despite City Measure C passing in 1994, despite State Prop 215 passing in 1996, Despite a local medical marijuana ordinance passed in 2000, and besides a 9th circuit court decision that found that the drug laws are not meant to apply to medical uses for cannabis, no distribution center has been open in the City of Santa Cruz since 2000. Critics say the law is fatally flawed and must be reformed before any distribution centers can open. This article explains why.

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- It is 2004, eight years after the passage of Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Compassionate use Act. An elderly woman walks with a cane down near the levee. She carries cash with her. Her hip joint aches with every movement, her knees also pain her and both her ankles are swollen. She meets her connection and they both look furtively around before they exchange cash for a small plastic baggy of the only medication she has found that helps her to endure her pain without knocking her into a stuporous non-productive state.

Why can't this woman go into a clinic or health care center and pick up her medication? Why must she sneak around furtively in some back alley getting questionable quality cannabis when the citizens of Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly (73% in favor) of legalizing the use of medical marijuana?

In 2000, Both WAMM( Women and Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana) and the Santa Cruz Cannabis Pharmaceuticals were operating with nearly an open-door policy in the downtown area of Santa Cruz. An earlier club, the Santa Cruz Cannabis Buyers Club had operated since 1994 under a city advisory measure which allowed the use under a medical necessity defense, and as an experiment to see if people could benefit from the use of marijuana for a variety of medical conditions. The City of Santa Cruz, along with San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Jose had all publicly declared their open support for the possession , use, and presumably distribution of medical marijuana to those who say they are helped by it. Mike and Valerie Corral are from the Santa Cruz area. WAMM serves 250 patients but has a waiting list five time that long. Certainly Santa Cruz is a very marijuana friendly area politically.


All this came to a screeching halt when, not the Feds, but the progressive liberal city councilmembers passed an Municipal Ordinance Chapt. 6.90 to regulate the dispensing of medical marijuana to patients. Upon passage, the Santa Cruz Cannabis Pharmaceuticals had to close their location in a business district on Seabright Ave.

They relocated to another location, only to have the Santa Cruz City Council meet again, and on the word of City Councilmember Michael Hernandez, declared the new location illegal as the non-profit organization a block away was "intended to be a school." The Club never opened and those involved lost thousands of dollars they had invested. WAMM continued to operate, but outside of the City Limits. WAMM never got a use permit from the City . No new dispensary has opened since.

So what was in this ordinance anyway?

Lots and lots of restrictions. Rather than conform with the spirit of Proposition 215 which treats medical marijuana users as patients treating illnesses, the ordinance was written with a decidedly criminal law stance. The dispensary could not be located where other pharmacists, clinics, and professional offices are located. The dispensary must be in the industrial zone of the city or in its agrarian outskirts. All staff members are required by law to be medical marijuana patients, but they are prohibited from taking their medication while on the premises.

They are prohibited by the ordinance from making a profit (though may charge to cover reasonable expenses) and must regularly submit their books to inspection by the authorities to ensure no one is profiting. (a side note: Valerie Corral has never presented her books to any public authority to obtain their permission to continue operation). The facility may not open near a school. It may not open near a micro-brewery either. "Why is that?" mused Mike Torpey of Santa Cruz. "They don't they want the competition?"

When Kate Wells, the attorney for the Santa Cruz Cannabis Pharmaceuticals went to the planning board, they insisted on 14 sets of architectural drawings of their plans to remodel a former restaurant for a dispensary. To open, a dispensary must get permission from the planning department and the zoning department as well as conform to the city ordinance restrictions.

One provision even allowed for any neighbor's objection to prevent the issuance of a use permit. With the costs of renting a place with first, last, and security deposits, remodeling and designing for wheelchair access, the risk of complying with all the myriad restrictions only to have them nixed by a NIMBYesque neighbor at the finish line greatly reduces the viability of such an enterprise succeeding before it ever opens.

"It sounds like the police department wrote this rather than a medical adviser," said Kate Wells, now in retirement from the medical marijuana business. "The whole tone of the ordinance treats the person like a criminal suspect rather than what he really is, a sick person taking a medication that gives him/her relief."

She points out there is provision which requires the proprietor to prevent loitering within 50 feet of the premises. "How am I going to do that?" she asks. "Am I supposed to go up to some guy and tell him he can't stand on a public sidewalk 50 feet away from the borders of my business?"

We are all used to laws which prevent discrimination against clients. But this law extends to the members in order "to assure that association members, be they qualified patients, primary caregivers or cultivators, are not discriminated against, and do not themselves discriminate, on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, height, weight or physical characteristic." So if one client called another client a "fatso" the use permit could be yanked?

The ordinance also requires that the association not discriminate against those who have no means to pay. What other private business or service REQUIRES that the service be provided free of charge to those who can't afford it?

Any member of the organization is prohibited from obtaining service from any other provider-regardless of whether they are traveling or the kind of assistance they need is not provided by the local organization. This is unnecessary micro-management that cannot be enforced by the provider organization. But a violation can result in the use permit being revoked. "As an attorney, and having consulted with another attorney who specializes in obtaining permits through planning and zoning departments, I would advise against any client of mine investing in opening a medical marijuana dispensary in the City of Santa Cruz because the financial risks are too great, and the assurances of continued operation are not there." She says that parts of the language are too fuzzy and vague for them to mean anything. "Basically they could turn you down just because they don't like you."

She speaks from personal experience here.


Perhaps the biggest problem is that it's impossible to obtain the permit before seeking a site. To obtain the permit, you need to have already secured the site. To secure the site, you would need to have already made a substantial investment. "No one is going to be able to make that kind of financial investment, jump through all those hoops, if the balance rests on getting the okay of some cranky neighbor."

City Attorney John Barisone who drafted the ordinance during Mayor Keith Sugar's tenure often bends to the will of what the police want. In 2000, that would have been Police Chief Steve Belcher. Smart money says it was Belcher who pushed for many of the restrictions in a backroom setting where all other marijuana advocates were excluded. Corral later profusely thanked the council for passing the ordinance. Kate Wells had a different take. "I think the worst part of the ordinance is the way it treats people. They are not treating medical marijuana users like sick patients receiving treatments. Instead they are still treating them like criminals."

"People who are obtaining marijuana due to their severe pain or other debilitating condition should not be further victimized by the city by being made to lurk in the dark in industrial areas to get their medicine. They should be able to walk into the facility, head held high, with no sign of shame or embarrassment. The city sets the tone for the community and the city ordinance enables those bigots who oppose medical marijuana to feel comfortable in their bigotry. The ordinance actually invites these bigots to come forward and complain. If the city made it clear that it would stand behind the providers and the patients, these bigots would not have any voice."

The ordinance also requires that "to facilitate the lawful and reasonable law enforcement investigations called for by this section, the medical marijuana provider association shall provide the city's police department with a twenty-four-hour contact phone number which can be called to verify the status of the person under investigation." So the provider must pay for a 24-hr on call staffer who has been cleared to be privy to confidential records but must reveal them to any police officer who wishes to call night or day.

Will anyone jump through this many hoops and open a distribution center in Santa Cruz? Don't hold your breath.

Banished from Bookshop Santa Cruz

March 22, 2008 Update

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Here's the deal. I wrote an e-mail to then Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty to complain about his polices on homelessness. More specifically I complained that the Santa Cruz Police Department Press Relations designee, Zach Friend, had said malicious and unfounded statements regarding the behavior of those involved with HUFF's "Homies for the Homeless" protest at City Hall in August of 2007. The reason I wrote Vice-Mayor Coonerty instead of Mayor Emily Reilly is that Ryan had volunteered to be the point person on the City Council to deal with issues involving homelessness.

A very damaging article had appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel regarding our 6-day protest/sleepover at City Hall the day before. In that article, Friend had accused homeless protestors with vandalism, harassing a female nighttime janitor, openly using drugs, smearing feces on the bathroom wall in the mens room, and of having sex in a recycling area. 6 citations were issued at the protest. They were ALL for illegal sleeping and none for drug violations, harassment, or lewd behavior. Robert Norse immediately filed a public records request for all records, memos, citations, complaints, or witnesses to any and all violations named by SCPD PR rep. Zach Friend. The request turned up nothing. Friend simply said he'd gotten the information in anectdotal conversations he'd had with City Council office personel. No formal complaints had been filed. No witnesses had come forward. That is when I wrote the following e-mail:


From: Becky Johnson [mailto:becky_johnson222 [at]]
Sent: Sat 8/25/2007 7:56 AM
To: Ryan Coonerty
Cc: huffsantacruz [at]
Subject: Your policies treat homeless people like "vagrant beggar scum"

Aug 25, 2007

Dear Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty,

This is a comment from one of your constituents who, like you, support arresting homeless people for the acts of sleeping at night and for covering up with blankets. You, and your police spokesman, Zach Friend, are demonstrating bigotry, hostility, dehumanization, demonization, and are inspiring vigilante justice against those folks who, because they lost their housing, are on the streets. You might not use the same language as this anonymous poster, but your policies are the same. The Sleeping Ban is illegal under the Jones Decision of the 9th Circuit Court. It is cruel and unusual punishment to deny a person who is unfortunate enough to have lost their housing the ability to sleep at night or to stay warm with a blanket. Note that the last line of his message summarizes the exact police policy for the City of Santa Cruz.

You are no better than this constituent of yours.


Becky Johnson of HUFF
309 Cedar St. PMB 14B
Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060
(831) 479-9291
becky_johnson222 [at]


KICK THEM OUT OF SC 8/19/2007 9:51 AM

These vile pieces of garbage that are taking over the city need to be shown the town line. We need someone in office whose sole platform is to rid SC of every vagrant beggar scum.

It's unreal they call these subhumans "activists" in the article. They are nothing more than professional bum, homeless by choice pieces of crap.

The other amazing this is that this "city" let the festering pustules stay at city hall for the time they did. They should have been ticketed within 5 minutes of setting up camp, asked to leave immediately after being ticketed and if they refused gotten a billy club to the head and a one way ticket to jail.

WE the people need to make it so uncomfortable for every vagrant in SC that they flee for somewhere else.


----- Original Message -----
From: Ryan Coonerty
To: Becky Johnson
Cc: huffsantacruz [at]
Sent: Sunday, August 26, 2007 10:32 AM
Subject: RE: Your policies treat homeless people like "vagrant beggar scum"

Dear Becky,

I find it hard to believe that you could seriously consider comparing my position on homelessness to the hateful comments below. In my time on the council, I have consistently supported increased funding for social services (even in difficult economic times). In my family's business, as your literature points out, we go far beyond any other business downtown in providing bathrooms and a place to sleep for the homeless population, not to mention donations to the Homeless Garden Project, the Homeless Services Center, etc. I volunteer once a month to bring food to the shelter through the Mazon Project at the Temple.

While I fully support your and HUFF's right to First Amendment activity in the community and in front of Bookshop, you should know some of the possible impacts. Since your protest has begun, our bathrooms have been repeatedly vandalized, including shoving clothes down the toilets, smearing excrement on the walls, and cutting the straps from the baby changing table. As you know, maintaining these bathrooms is difficult and expensive and increasing the costs will likely lead to the business having to close them. While I don't think you or HUFF is directly responsible for these acts, I do believe that by connecting my sister's business (I work 20 hours a week there and receive a small salary) to my council acts, you create a climate where people think an act against the bookshop is a political act.

Because of this, I want to make clear that you and Bernard (Robert already is) are permanently banned from stepping foot in Bookshop Santa Cruz. If I, my sister or one of our managers see you enter the store, we will have you arrested.


Ryan Coonerty

PS If you reprint this letter, have the courage to reprint it in full.

Ryan Coonerty
Vice Mayor
City of Santa Cruz


Ryan Coonerty thinks that volunteerism, some dollars for social services and token examples of "allowing" a few homeless people to sleep on BSSC doorstep in violation of the Sleeping Ban (which is being ruthlessly enforced citywide against literally thousands of people) gives him a free pass for these anti-homeless policies and practices. He is responsible for SCPD's Zach Friend's smear job against the Homies for the Homeless protest at City Hall. He should either refute Friend's claims or investigate them. His silence is complicity.

But, in fact, he chooses to add new claims ---that vandalism done to his sister's(!!) bathrooms (shoving clothes down the toilets, smearing excrement on the walls, and cutting the straps from the baby changing table) is somehow HUFF-inspired.

What is more true is that if the Coonerty's and other city leaders would open up enough bathrooms for the people here who need them, their store wouldn't be so impacted.

HUFF has never advocated nor incited others to commit either violence or vandalism against any individual, business, or institution. We condemn those who have done so, and are unaware of any act of violence committed against Bookshop Santa Cruz by any of our members. HUFF has always used open lobbying, protest, and nonviolent civil disobedience as methods to achieve our ends. Coonerty's solution? To ban Robert Norse, Bernard Klitzner, and myself from using his "sister's" restroom. (Can a part-time employee do this without cause? hmmm)

Zach Friend called a hopscotch board "vandalism". He and City Staff cooked up the feces-smearing incident that no one at the protest saw. They cooked up the "sexual harassment" claim and the "sex in the recycling area" and the generic "drugs" claim for the use of medical marijuana on the same steps where earlier the City had overseen bags of medical marijuana dispensed to patients. No citations were issued for public defecation, lewd behavior, harasment, vandalism or illegal drug use. Yet Coonerty let the comments stand.

The City has surveillance cameras at City Hall which the protesters knew about and left undisturbed. These claims by SCPD seem highly suspect and are bound to incite an anti-homeless backlash as we saw in the Sentinel comments on the article containing Zach Friend's charges. Homeless people will be harmed by those who take it on themselves to "rid" Santa Cruz of a class of people they characterize as "subhuman."

The final line in the anti-homeless bigot's post said this: "WE the people need to make it so uncomfortable for every vagrant in SC that they flee for somewhere else."

Isn't this exactly what Ryan Coonerty's Sleeping Ban is meant to do? --- Becky Johnson of HUFF


I attempted to reach the Vice-Mayor by phone at his home (which he gave out as a publicly accessible number) at 831-429-8939, but failed to be able to do so. He has not returned phone calls from me for the last few weeks. I urge people to NOT vandalize the bathroom facilities he keeps open for the community, if anyone angry at Coonerty's support for the Sleeping Ban is doing that.

Why Jewish claims to the Holy Land are superior to Palestinian claims

Photo of Israel's Declaration of Independence May 14, 1948

by Becky Johnson
June 6, 2009

Based on a conversation with "Marc" that occurred on March 9, 2009 on the TOPIX forum hosted by the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

Complete discussion can be found at the following address:

Many are familiar with the Palestinian refugee problem and the contentious issue of the so-called "Palestinian right of return." Some say that Israelis are "more indigenous" or more directly related to ancient Jews than Palestinians. But aren't Arab Muslims, some of them at least, traceable to Biblical stories of Isaac and Ishmael? Don't reasonable people accept and recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate claims to the land and it will have to be shared?

A small portion of Israel's Jews today can trace their lineage in the area back 3,300 years. These are called the Mizrayim. Yes, both Arab Muslims living in on the West Bank and in Gaza have legitimate claims to the land on which they reside, but the Jewish claim to the land is superior for the following reasons:

1. Jewish history predates Arab/Muslim history
2. Only the Jews built a nation throughout the whole span of history
3. Jewish artifacts document that long history
4. Jewish texts document that long history
5. The Jewish expulsion from Israel (in 135 C.E.)was not legal
6. Arab/Muslim "ownership" was by bloody conquest, was brief, built nothing
7. Neither the Greeks, nor the Turks, nor the Brits built a nation in Israel
8. Zionist immigration built the modern state
9. The British Balfour Declaration declared Jewish settlement in Palestine to be the law 1917
9. The UN GA ratified Jews returning to Israel
10. Israel has taken its place with the membership of nations
11. Israel is the location of the Jews most holy site
12. Jewish religious text say that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people
13. There are 22 other Arab/Muslim countries. There is only ONE Jewish nation. there is no need to form ANOTHER Arab/Muslim nation so that Arab/Muslims can have citizenship, much less out of the TINY Jewish one.

The answer is political and not military. When the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, agree to borders, agree to honor Israel's sovereignty, agree to not take up arms against Israel, there will be peace. Israel cannot make peace. Only the Palestinians can do that. In the meantime, Israel is a thriving nation and isn't going anywhere no matter what the Palestinians decide.

The "Right to Return" is neither a right nor are the Palestinians who now live in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria even from Israel. Most were born where they are. Those who qualified to go back, did. Israel has already "returned" 170,000 through normal immigration processes. Many bypassed the Israeli authorities and returned themselves through illegal immigration resulting in a tripling of the Palestinian population of the W.Bank since 1967. The "Right to Return" is just another bogus argument in a long string of bogus arguments to try to delegitimize Israel. The whole concept should be trash-canned.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Most Asked Questions about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Most Asked Questions about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Becky Johnson & Lee Kaplan
August 12, 2002

found at:

Didn't Israel drive out 600,000 Palestinians at gunpoint in 1948 and take their land?

Most Arabs who left Israel did so under the orders of the Arab leader, the Grand Mufti, to withdraw and let the Arab armies "drive the Jews into the sea," which they attempted in 1948. However Israel won that war. Not all of the Arabs left, and Israel is now 18% Arab. These Arabs have full citizenship rights, can own property, vote, and have 14 representatives in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.

I've heard that some Israelis say there is no such thing as Palestinians. How can they say that?

Up until the 1967 war, the Arabs living in Israel did not even call themselves Palestinians -- twenty years after the founding of the modern state of Israel. The name Palestine came from the Romans who destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. To humiliate the Jews, the Romans renamed the land Palestine after their mortal enemies, the Philistines. The modern land of Palestine was given that name by the British when they took control over from the crumbling Ottoman Empire. In British Palestine, both Jews and Arabs were Palestinians.

(See "What is a Palestinian?" at Masada 2000)

Why doesn't Israel just give back the West Bank to the Palestinians? Then there will be peace.

In 1948, Israel's Arab neighbors tried to destroy the State of Israel. They rejected a Palestinian State, which the UN offered them at the same time as when Israel was founded. Prior to 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan. Currently Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel. The West Bank, which Jews call Judea and Samaria, is part of the ancient kingdom of Israel, and has been home to Arabs and Jews for thousands of years. Arafat himself said he will take back Israel in its entirety, if he has to do it all at once or piece by piece.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is looking for any excuse to invade and shoot Palestinians. Why did the Israeli people even elect him?

The directives given the IDF are strictly against the taking of innocent civilian life. Sharon withdrew ELEVEN times from the West Bank to effect a cease-fire. Each time Israel was attacked by suicide bombers. The Palestinian Authority failed to arrest them And instead paid their families awards. They even named streets after them as "martyrs". How can anyone take an enemy seriously that encourages the terror attacks? In 2000, President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak tried to offer the Palestinians a state, which included 95% of the West Bank. Arafat rejected the offer and launched the latest intifada or uprising. The sniper killings and suicide bombings are the method used to attack Israeli citizens. The Israeli people, who were angered when Arafat rejected Barak's offer, elected the hard-liner Sharon by a la! ndslide. Sharon has prevented more terror attacks than he has instigated. To blame him for the terror attacks is like blaming a woman for being raped.

Why are there so many more dead Palestinians than dead Israelis? Doesn't this prove that Israel is the aggressor here?

Several reasons combine to explain the differential death toll. First, the numbers are skewed. The Palestinians count the suicide bombers as "civilian casualties". They also count terrorists killed in shootouts with the police or IDF. Fact is, if civilians were only counted, Israeli casualties would be higher. Snipers who open fire on civilians are immediately hunted down and arrested, but many fight until they are shot. A big factor appears to be Palestinian gunmen who hide themselves in populated areas, which causes a high civilian death toll when the IDF tries to shoot back at them. The IDF has a policy of a measured response to a terrorist attack. These reprisals rarely involve death or injury. Also, given the P.A.'s problems with math, such as claiming 1,500 killed in Jenin when it was 52, their calculations are highly suspect. Israel has 10,000 people who are invalids, in comas or scarred in other ways for life.

Wait a minute! Israel has a heavily armed state-of-the-art military and the Palestinians only have rocks and a few old guns. Shouldn't our sympathies be with the Palestinians who only want their freedom from oppression and the opportunity for self-rule?

The Palestinians are using more than rocks, although stonings can be very violent too, causing death and serious injury. They have Qasem rockets. They have grenades. They have M-16's and Kalashnikovs [Ed.: Russian made assault rifles]. Arafat demanded weapons claiming he needed an armed police force to keep order. Those guns, provided by none other than Israel, have been linked with numerous terrorist attacks. Many weapons have been smuggled in from Egypt as well. The Palestinian police ARE the terrorists such as Fatah and Al Aksa. Currently the Palestinians, have self-rule under the Oslo accords yet persist in attacking Israel.

Don't the Israelis build roads and freeways that bypass Palestinian villages and they aren't allowed to use them?

They do bypass them. They were built because when Israelis drive by them they are shot at or have rocks thrown at them. Boulders dropped from heights above the roads have killed some. If the Israelis built freeways on Arab land, they'd complain the Israelis were taking Arab land or that they were damaging the environment.

Every time a Palestinian wants to go somewhere they have to go thru an Israeli checkpoint. Isn't this humiliating for the Palestinian people?

Humiliating? US citizens have to wait two hours at checkpoints at the airport. It's called security against terrorism. Suicide bombers kill Arabs too.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) regularly prevents ambulances from picking up sick and wounded people. Isn't this a crime against humanity?

They don't prevent medical care. However, time and time again the Arabs have transported bombs and terrorists in ambulances so now they must be thoroughly checked. Israel gives free medical care to many Palestinians. In Jenin last April, the IDF supplied blood to the hospital for wounded Palestinians. But the blood was rejected because the Palestinians would not use Jewish blood. So the IDF using military transports brought in blood from Jordan.

The Israelis have stopped the Palestinians from normal commerce, from employment, and now they are suffering from food shortages. How can they justify this?

Commerce and employment were higher when Israel controlled the area. In nine years with billions of dollars in aid the PA has failed even to feed its people. PA warlords under Arafat control UN food allotments and even sell it on the black market. It has been the terrorist attacks that have made business as usual impossible and have hurt the Palestinian economy.

When the Israelis say that the Arabs only wish to drive them into the sea, aren't they just being paranoid and using this excuse to justify their aggressions against the Palestinians?

5.5 million Jews. 250 million Arabs. Missiles with germ and radiological warheads on Israel's northern frontier controlled by Hizbollah. 21 terrorist attacks a day against common Israelis. The Arabs said "into the sea" in 1948 and even after Oslo. This is paranoid???

Didn't the International Conference in Durban, South Africa condemn Israel as a racist state?

The conference was made up of Arab dictatorships pushing their own agenda. The US and most of Europe boycotted the vote.

The Palestinians and the Jews have been fighting for thousands of years. Aren't they equally responsible for the violence?

They have not been fighting for thousands of years. The Arabs persecuted Jews. The difference is the Arabs won't tolerate a Jewish presence in the Muslim Middle East -- period. The Jews offer to negotiate peace but the Arabs are really just negotiating the end of Israel.

The suicide bombings are terrible, but aren't they done by a small handful of extremists? Isn't it wrong to condemn all the Palestinian people for the acts of a few?

Evidence shows that as many as twelve extremist groups conduct terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. Hamas, Hezbollah, The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and Fatah are a few of them. In many cases, the same individuals who are security for the Palestinian Authority conduct the terrorist attacks. Opinion polls among the Palestinian population reveal 90% approve of the suicide bombings. Thousands dance in the streets when a lethal suicide bombing is executed. The few who would work for peace run the risk of being arrested or lynched for being a collaborator with Israel. Historically, the Arabs persecuted Jews. The idea of wearing a yellow star as the mark of Jew was begun by the Arabs and copied by the Nazis. Just a note..the Arabs even have suicide bomber trading cards now like we have baseball! cards.

Why does Israel practice collective punishment against the Palestinian people?

Israel does not practice collective punishment. The security checkpoints are there solely to prevent more suicide bombings and attacks. During a reprisal, such as the bombing of a house from which sniper shots have been fired, a warning is given and THAT HOUSE is destroyed. Likewise, wanted criminals are found and executed since it is impossible to hold them accountable in a court of law under Arafat's regime. Often it is easy to determine the culprit. The Palestinians carry them on their shoulders in the street, put up posters praising them, and name streets after them. Contrast this with the almost daily attacks on Israeli civilians making all citizens fearful of going shopping for groceries, riding a bus, or stopping in for a piece of pizza.

I know that the Israelis don't want to deal with Prime Minister Yassir Arafat, but didn't the majority of the Palestinian people elect him?

Arafat ran the same type of Arab election as Saddam Hussein or Bashir Assad. He ran against one candidate, an 85 year-old woman who told everyone to vote for Arafat. When he first took control of the territories he murdered all the Arabs who administered the territories under Israel as "collaborators" in a sports stadium. Even Hitler and Stalin could claim to be democratically elected leaders the same as Arafat. But were they? The PA suspended all elections until President Bush said a "reformed" leadership was needed. Arafat's "reform" does not include his stepping down. He has postponed elections twice and now says not for a year until he can once again control the outcome.

Aren't the Jewish settlers on the West Bank just an excuse for Sharon to invade the Palestinian areas? And given how much opposition the Palestinians have to building homes on the West Bank, isn't Sharon just encouraging more suicide bombings?

Many Jews, especially the Orthodox Jews, believe the land of Judea and Samaria to be divinely given to the Jewish people. However, the Jewish settlements are on 1.7% of the West Bank. While home-building by Jews is often given as a reason for conducting more suicide bombing attacks (sadly documented in video tapes made by the teenage bombers shortly before they conducted an attack), does this sound even slightly reasonable? To commit suicide and mass murder to protest the building of homes by people of another religion? The settlements have residents who own homes and businesses as well. Why can't they stay as part of a state of Palestine and be Palestinian citizens as part of a peace settlement? The reason is the Ar! abs who accuse democratic Israel of racism repeatedly say NO JEWS may live anywhere in Palestine.

The conflict between the Muslims and the Jews is religous at its core. Isn't it really an insoluble issue marked by religious intolerance on both sides?

While there are sects of Islam which use passages in the Koran to justify the killing of infidels, there are also passages in the Koran which forbid suicide. Other passages teach that lands given by the Lord to other peoples are given for a reason known only to God. Likewise, religious Jews, who remain fixed on prophesies of the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, the return of the Jewish people to the State of Israel, and the coming of the messiah are not likely to give in to Arab pressure to leave their holy sites. For the Arabs it is a tribal affair of honor and vengeance. Racism is at its core. Racism is a sickness and sicknesses can be cured. Israel seriously wants peace with the Arabs, but not at the expense of her existence being whittled away bit by bit through terrorism until she is destroyed. The healing will come when the world focuses its energies on helping the Arab world to come out of generations of tribal warfare, the subjugation of women, illiteracy and feudal kingdoms. These are the conditions, which spawn hatred of the Jews, which is only slightly more vehement than their hatred of the Christians.

For sources and additional information please visit: Masada 2000 or MidEast Truth or National Unity Coalition for Israel or Israel Behind the News.

Becky Johnson can be contacted at; Lee Kaplan can be contacted at

(This article can be reprinted at no cost by not for profit organizations that work for social justice.)

The Least, the Last, and the Lost

The Least, the Last, and the Lost

George W. Bush's record on homelessness and homeless policy in America

by Becky Johnson

February 2005

found at:

On January 20, 2005, President George W. Bush took the oath of office for his second term. The theme of his inaugural speech was freedom. Freedom from tyranny. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from want. Freedom from government interference.

Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, took the podium and read the benediction which included a blessing for "The Least, the Last, and the Lost."

Who are the least of Americans, if not homeless people? They are refugees in their own land. How has the first four years of the Bush administration affected homeless people?

According to the Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, after examining recent information from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 34.9 million people in the United States who go hungry or are food insecure - an increase of 3.9 million people since 1999.

About 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless, 39 percent of whom are children. Families with children are among the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.

The National Coalition for the Homeless conducted a survey of cities across the nation this past year and found that "100 percent of communities surveyed lack enough shelter beds to meet demand and housing costs are out of reach for many, including the working poor."

One in seven Americans - a total of 45 million people, including 8.4 million children - lack health insurance. In addition, the cost of the ten most-used prescription drugs has increased nearly 9 percent in 2003, outpacing inflation.

More than 1 in 10 Americans live in poverty.

Bush's homeless policies

During his campaign for a second term, George W. Bush claimed that it is not the role of government to provide food, shelter, and health care. Instead, he sai,d we are to rely on the Armies of Compassion to come forward and provide those kinds of services.

Government subsidies to offset homelessness have been waning. When the Section 8 program was created in 1976, 400,000 vouchers were provided, allowing families to spend less than 30 percent of their income on rent. By 2003 a mere 34,000 new vouchers were provided to families.

And President Bush plans even more cuts. Bush's 2005 budget would cut $1.6 billion from the Section 8 voucher program, potentially edging 250,000 households out of the program - 12.5 percent of those currently participating.

Bush and poverty in America

In the United States, 35.8 million people - 12.5 percent of the population - live below the federal poverty line. An estimated 4.3 million people slipped into poverty between 2000 and 2003. Currently, 12.9 million children live in poverty.

For welfare moms, Bush is seeking reauthorization of the 1996 Welfare Reform law, making this law even more hard-edged and punitive by adding new provisions which would no longer count education as a work activity, and increasing the required number of work hours per week to 40. As usual, the "work" of caring for her own children doesn't count in the Bush administration.

In 2006, the Bush administration plans to cut $177 million from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program - forcing an estimated 187,287 mothers out of the program.

Does Section 8 funding really help people stay out of homelessness? Six national homeless organizations agree that a study of homeless families who received Section 8 housing assistance in nine cities found that over 85 percent of beneficiaries remained permanently housed 18 months later. Even homeless people with serious mental illnesses, who experience the most complex social and medical circumstances, can succeed.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that in the last year, requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 17 percent and requests for emergency shelter assistance have increased by an average of 13 percent in the 25 cities surveyed.

The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism reports that the root causes of homelessness are unemployment and low-paying jobs, coupled with high housing costs.

The Bush administration would have us believe that personal responsibility is the cause of homelessness. The claim is that homeless people become homeless because they made a bad decision at some point in their life, such as quitting school or quitting a job. But if that's true, then people in the United States steadily have been becoming more and more irresponsible since 1980.

Religion and homelessness

President Bush claims that he is guided by his faith in God. What do the major religions teach about taking care of the poor and homeless?

Christianity teaches us that wealth is not what you need to enter heaven. To enter heaven, you must be caring and share your riches with the poor and needy.

Jewish tradition teaches us to "speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy" (Proverbs 31:19). God commands us to "share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into your house" (Isaiah 58:7).

Islam teaches both charity and the responsibility for caring for one's own family members. One of Allah's blessings and a solution for economic disparity is the institution of Zakaat. Zakaat is a tax on the wealth of a Muslim which is distributed to the poor.

Allah says in the Holy Qur'an: "Take alms out of their wealth, so that thou mayest cleanse them and purify them thereby" (9:103). Thus Islam has made the giving of charity a purification for those with wealth and a means by which the wealthy may achieve nearness to Allah.

Cost of chronic homelessness

"Einstein said a sure sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping something different will happen," said Philip Mangano, President Bush's point man on homelessness, as he visited the Barbers Point Homeless Veterans Program at Kalaeloa, Hawaii.

In 2002, Bush appointed Mangano as executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the efforts of 20 government agencies. Mangano claims the president has spent more money on homelessness than any president in history.

Mangano reported that there are a disproportionate number of homeless veterans. He noted that one out of every four people who come out of prison has no place to go.

"Studies around the country have shown that it's more expensive to leave chronic homeless people out on the streets than it is to house them and provide the services they need," he said.

Mangano cited a study by the University of California at San Diego in the late 1990s that followed 15 chronic street people for 18 months. By the end of that time, the subjects had accumulated hundreds of trips to emergency wards in ambulances accompanied by emergency medical technicians in order to spend multiple days in the hospital. "Factoring in police interventions and periods of incarceration," Mangano said, "researchers concluded the 15 homeless people cost the city of San Diego $3 million. It was $200,000 per person.

"So what they thought was, 'Wait a minute - we could have placed these people in rented oceanside condos and provided all the services and servants they needed and it would have been less expensive.'

"But what aggravated them the most was, after spending $3 million in 18 months for 15 people, the homeless people were in the same position as they were at the start."

In 2002, the Bush administration launched an initiative to end chronic homelessness in 10 years. The National Coalition for the Homeless argued about the Bush initiative in a 2003 report: "Perhaps most troubling, is the complete absence of any discussion of poverty and the affordable housing crisis that underlie homelessness for all populations."

A plan to end homelessness

No plan to end homelessness could be effective without dedicating significant resources towards affordable housing production.

Those compassionate conservatives ought to take a look at the Bringing America Home Act, which was designed to comprehensively address homelessness by addressing the affordable housing crisis, inadequate access to health care, and the lack of livable incomes, while calling on localities to stop passing ordinances that criminalize the homeless. Funding for transitional housing for victims of domestic violence is included in the bill.

Homeless People Face a Ban on Existence

Homeless People Face a Ban on Existence

"I just want the right to exist without being hounded to death," Trebor said. "They did outpatient surgery - and the cops wouldn't leave me alone the night after the surgery."

by Becky Johnson

"Freedom of Speech." From "The Four Freedoms." Art by Art Hazelwood.

found at:

The death toll rises each day. More and more bodies are being found -- people whose lives were ended in a premature and unjust way. These are our own American citizens, who have, in many cases, lived full and productive lives before they were ripped away from their homes and families. Shipped to war in Iraq? Guess again.

The streets of America haven't had this many homeless people since the Great Depression. But for local cities, the only crisis is how to get homeless people to "just go somewhere else."

In Santa Cruz, the most flagrant and institutionalized example of this policy is known as the "Camping Ban," MC 6.36.010. Section (a) prohibits the act of sleeping between 11 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. anywhere outdoors or in a vehicle on both public and private property within the city limits. Activists call this the "Sleeping Ban." One aspect of enforcement of the Sleeping Ban is for police to show up late at night with flashlights, and then rock and bang on vehicles to wake up anyone who may be inside sleeping.

One disabled man, Trebor Ruomyes, who is legally disabled and on Social Security, lives in his van while waiting for his name to come up on a Section 8 subsidized housing list. His van, though registered and licensed, is showing signs of wear. He has all of his personal belongings inside, and he, himself, looks worn from the years and stress.

He wears a long, white beard, common among homeless men who both need the warmth and sun protection a beard provides, while not having access to bathrooms as regularly as housed people do. His body is slight, and he says he cannot keep any weight on.

All these factors have made him a mark for both police enforcement and for troll-busters. Police have called him a scary-looking speed freak. You would never guess, looking at him, that he worked as a civil engineer for 35 productive years.

"I've been hit every night," he said, "since I had surgery on my ear." He shows the bandages on his right ear where the doctors had peeled his ear open and removed three tumors. Trebor suffers from emphysema, hepatitis C, and a tumor on his kidney.

He is unable to work, but has found a good Samaritan who lets him park his van near his house at night. It hasn't kept the police from harassing him. Graffiti depicting a crude drawing of Trebor's van and the words, "Van Troll move on," have recently appeared on a sidewalk near where he parks.

"I just want the right to exist without being hounded to death," he said. "They did outpatient surgery - and the cops wouldn't leave me alone the night after the surgery."

Trebor no longer answers when his van is pounded on late at night. For the short run, this strategy has been working in that he has avoided getting a Sleeping Ban ticket. But he's not getting much sleep.

Sharon also lives in her vehicle. She had it parked at night in the designated parking lot of a fitness center that is open 24 hours a day, and where she is a member. It is on private property and she has never received a complaint from the management. Nevertheless, police still gave her a Sleeping Ban ticket.

Sharon is taking her ticket to court and fighting it pro per, acting as her own legal defense with the help of Jhon Golder, who is also vehicularly housed, and a three-year veteran of police harassment. "Because it's an infraction, she doesn't qualify for a public defender," explained Golder.

"We have filed a letter seeking informal discovery in her case and have refused to waive time," Golder reported at a recent meeting of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom). Golder figures that if Sharon subpoenas all records, tape recordings, notes, names and contact information for possible witnesses, it will make the usual rubber-stamp conviction that much more difficult for the police.

Kate Wells, a tireless Santa Cruz attorney who has represented homeless and poor people for many years, has been a strong opponent of the Sleeping Ban. In 1997, she challenged its constitutionality in the case of Dan Hopkins, a homeless defendant, in Santa Cruz Superior Court before Judge Tom Kelly.

Kelly ruled that the Sleeping Ban is constitutional "because they can sleep in the day." [See "Human Rights Activist Found Guilty of Sleeping," Street Spirit, August 1997.] Wells is preparing a lawsuit which will facially challenge the Sleeping Ban's constitutionality in federal court.

Current Mayor Mike Rotkin is one of the more vocal supporters of the Sleeping Ban. Enacted in 1978, one year before he took office for his first term, Rotkin voted in 1979 for the Sleeping Ban in a vote which modified the misdemeanor penalties. He has been a staunch supporter ever since, claiming that Santa Cruz would be overrun with homeless people from all over the country, if we were to legalize sleep.

One small group has had enough of this mistreatment of homeless people. The Human Rights Organization (HRO) was formed two years ago by ordinary citizens who were offended by the human rights abuse the Sleeping Ban represents.

Co-founder Bernard Klitzner, a mild-mannered accountant by day, is a tireless human rights worker in his spare time.

Bernard met with Ken Cole, the executive director of the Homeless Services Center (HSC) in Santa Cruz and was able to schedule a full-blown discussion of the Sleeping Ban by the HSC Board of Directors. At their January 20, 2005, meeting, Bernard Klitzner, HRO member Bob Patton, and Kate Wells attended and urged the HSC Board of Directors to take a stand on behalf of their clients.

Kate Wells and the Human Rights Organization asked the HSC Board of Directors to support a challenge to the Sleeping Ban in federal court - a strategy never tried before in Santa Cruz.
"The sleeping ban is draconian," she told them. "I'm embarrassed by it. We think of ourselves as a city of tolerance." She urged the HSC Board to "do what you can," to send the message that arresting people for sleeping or covering up with blankets is wrong-headed public policy.

HSC Board members considered Wells' letter to the Santa Cruz City Council in November 2004, in which she said: "Forcing homeless people to hide from law enforcement authorities denies them the relative safety of camping or sleeping together, discourages them from using police resources for protection, and makes it more risky for them to sleep near emergency services. Homeless women are at a greater risk of rape. As such, these laws constitute a barrier to safety and health care access. Last year more than 45 homeless people in the County died."

Wells' letter urged the City of Santa Cruz to change its policy of arresting homeless people for sleeping outdoors, or face a federal lawsuit.

"I can document that local shelter is inadequate," offered Ken Cole. The HSC commonly issues letters to homeless people cited under the Sleeping Ban to bring to court to prove they had no other choice but to sleep outdoors at night. Santa Cruz never has more than 140 shelter spaces for its 2000-plus homeless population.

Former Mayor Katherine Beiers, who is a member of the HSC Board of Directors, didn't feel the need to wait for a full resolution of the HSC Board.

"I certainly know it's not going anywhere with the City Council," Beiers said. "I always thought this has to be decided in the courts. As an individual, I will support Kate Wells (with her lawsuit)."

Former Mayor Don Lane, also a HSC Board member, urged the board to make a statement about either the Sleeping Ban or the criminalization of homelessness in general. He said, "We are the only game in town (providing homeless services). It's true. We have clients. If their needs include our speaking up about their rights, we should do that."

A month later, the HSC Board passed a resolution that did not name the Sleeping Ban specifically.

But for Bernard Klitzner, his work is nowhere near complete. The Sleeping Ban is still on the books and it is enforced every night of the year. He just can't let that situation continue. "It's unjust. It's totally unjust. Why it's so bad is that it is hidden. It's got to be taken down."

The Human Rights Organization holds weekly meetings in the dining room of the Homeless Services Center at 115 Coral St. in Santa Cruz, each Saturday between 1:45 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.

Robert Norse contributed to this article.

Freedom Man: All charges dropped against Jason Paschal

April 16, 2008


Santa Cruz, Ca. --- Outside the Elm St. Mission in Santa Cruz, the overtly racist term "nigger" is etched in stone, courtesy of the Santa Cruz Public Works Department and an unsecured piece of fresh concrete. "How long has that been there?" Jason Paschal asks two of his local friends. Neither of them know. "It shouldn't be there," he says. Jason, an African-American tarot card reader and street performer knows a thing or two about the word "nigger."

On July 15th, 2007, a man on a bicycle came up to street artist, Jason Paschal's protest table near O'Neill's Surf Shop on Pacific Avenue, said “O'Neill's been here longer than you have. Get the fuck out of Santa Cruz, Nigger!” and spat in his face. Paschal briefly pursued the man on foot, before placing a 911 call to report the assault. Police arrived and arrested Paschal instead. Nine months later, in Commissioner Stephen Siegel's court, all charges against Paschal were dropped.


Eyewitness Steve Harper, a homeless Vietnam Vet was interviewed by SCPD Vasquez at the scene. He was too far away to hear what was said. In his report, Vasquez wrote “Harper saw a bicylist ride up to Paschal and spit on him. Paschal was hit in the face with spit. The bicyclist then rode off and Paschal chased after him.”

Harper described the bicyclist as “a skinny, 6'02” white male with a Mohawk on a 21 speed bicycle.” Despite the vivid description, police were unable to locate the suspect.

Paschal was booked and released but the jail kept his insulin needles and insulin. His blood sugar levels were skyrocketing. And this was not the first time this had happened to him.

The next day, Jason himself located the suspect, Jeremy Burkett and his girlfriend on Pacific Ave. and placed another 911 call. Police arrived and were able to interview Jeremy Burkett. But he was not arrested or charged.

When police interviewed Jeremy Burkett, he admitted spitting in Paschal's direction. But no prosecution was recommended. Because 4 minutes prior to Paschal's 911 call, Bill Chapman, a shopper at O'Neill's had called police claiming Paschal “had been threatening people.” Later, SCPD Officer Vasquez interviewed Chapman and said “based on the details provided to me by Chapman, I determined that Paschal had been using offensive language that was likely to cause a physical, violent confrontation.” In his report he wrote “Paschal specifically called Chapman and his wife a “cunt.” This is odd because Chapman's wife was not accompanying her husband that day, and this appears to be the basis of the complaint. Paschal says “He came up, towering over my table, and said “What's YOUR problem?” I told him “Get the fuck away from my table, you pussy.”

Paschal was charged with two counts: Offensive words in a public place and failure to disperse. NONE of the eyewitnesses report that Paschal was asked to disperse and refused.

Chapman, interviewed by telephone on April 16, 2008 for this article, stated that on July 15th, 2008, he HAD seen spittle hit Paschal. He said “I don't think it made physical contact with skin.” When asked if that meant it had landed on Paschal's clothing he said “yes.” This directly contradicts his statement in Vasquez' police report, which says: “Chapman specifically stated that the unknown bicyclist had not spit on or near Paschal.”

Also in the report Chapman says he “did not believe that Paschal was physically threatening him.” When asked to explain the discrepancy, Chapman said “He was physically threatening the man on the bicycle. That's why I placed the 911 call. I was personally not bothered by Paschal's statements. But other people were.”

The other major point of dispute in this case is the language that Burkett used just before he spit either on or near Paschal. Chapman was standing near Jason's table and saw the altercation between Burkett and Paschal. In the police report, it says “Chapman stated that none of the people whom had been confronted by Paschal had used offensive or racial language.” Paschal says that Burkett spoke to him in pressured language and ended his statement with “Get the fuck out of Santa Cruz, Nigger!” All witnesses agree that he sped off on his bicycle when Jason gave chase.

The SCPD decided to investigate but chose to treat the case as two discreet events, despite that three 911 calls had been placed, all at the same location, and involving the same set of people and witnesses into both cases. Hence, Jason's Public Defenders were not looking at any reports of Jason as a victim of an assault, battery and possible hate crime. Nor could he get any records on that investigation via his Public Defender, Kristin Carter. The case, People vs. Jason Paschal, had became about the right to say “pussy” in a public place.


Paschal had been arrested on two charges: 415 (3) PC: Offensive words in a public place and 410 PC Neglect or refuse to disperse rioters although NONE of the eyewitnesses report that Paschal was asked to disperse and refused. At his first hearing, the DA offered to allow him to plead to an infraction with a one-year stay away order from Pacific Ave. Paschal insisted he was not guilty and demanded a jury trial. He urged Carter to obtain records on his complaint against Burkett, but Carter resisted. Paschal asked her to obtain the police reports. She didn't. Finally, Jason had her removed in a Marston hearing and Elizabeth Caballero was appointed to take over the case. In a sidebar, Judge Thomas Kelly told Caballero that Jason could plead guilty, or no lo contend re, but if he insisted on pleading “not guilty” and demanded a jury trial, he must submit to a mental competency hearing to see if he was fit to stand trial.

Paschal moved to Southern California where he set up his Tarot card reading table on Venice Beach with little interference from local police there. He continued coming back to Santa Cruz for multiple hearings.

Frustrated that his Public Defender, Elizabeth Caballero, was simply accepting Kelly's conditions without question, Paschal sought help from a lawyer in Southern California. A call was placed to the California Bar Association and they investigated. Kelly was reprimanded for ruling contrary to commonly recognized law and Paschal's case was removed from his docket. Apparently people have a RIGHT to plead not guilty and have a jury trial!! Although, Kelly was stripped of Paschal's case due to his extrajudicial ruling, he hasn't changed his ways. Currently Warren West, a long-time homeless man, is wading through hearing after hearing in Kelly's court. On Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 8:30AM in Department 1, West will again appear before Judge Thomas Kelly for a scheduled mental competency hearing since he too has insisted on pleading “not guilty” and has invoked his right to a jury trial.


Back in July of 2002, Jason Paschal, a tarot card reader, artist, and satirist began setting up his non-commercial display device (a card table) on Pacific Ave. in locations where such activity is permitted. He immediately troubled the merchants on Pacific Ave. who often called police to complain about him for a number of real and imagined concerns. Several times, police or merchants invoked "the Move-Along Law," MC 5.43.020(2) which compels “non-commercial display devices” to be moved along to over 100 feet away after 60 minutes. This law has been enforced very irregularly since its enactment under the administration of Mayor Emily Reilly. HUFF* has opposed the law as unconstitutional in that it limits freedom of speech, and is at risk for selective enforcement against unpopular activists or shabby individuals, while kempt, respectable groups or individuals would be left unmolested.


SCPD Sgt. Loran Baker threatened to cite Paschal for harmlessly setting up his rocks and crystals atop the concrete water box on the sidewalk. When Paschal returned to Pacific Ave. with his own table on July 30, 2002, Baker had him physically arrested and taken into custody for misdemeanor "possession of a milk crate."

During Baker's arrest of Paschal (who is a diabetic), they discovered his insulin needles and charged him with a 4140 BP ; possession of hypodermic needle/syringe and for a 11364 HS Possession of a controlled substance paraphernalia when he found his pipe. Paschal also had a small baggie of marijuana and a bottle of insulin with 5 doses remaining. Baker pulled the needles out of Jason's backpack, held them up above him to show to anyone passing nearby on the sidewalk and said "Is this what we want in our town?

Fearing an arrest for a pending warrant for a marijuana charge in New Hampshire from 1998, Paschal gave a false name. For this, he was tried, convicted, sentenced, and served 10 days in jail. In addition to suffering from diabetes, Paschal has a neurological disorder as well as epilepsy. All three conditions are helped by use of medical marijuana. So the narcotics paraphernalia and marijuana possession charges disappeared since they were entirely groundless in the first place.


On another occasion, Officer Willie Brandt gave him a ticket for giving a "Metaphysical reading without a license” when he performed a tarot card reading for a donation. The City of Santa Cruz does not issue Metaphysical Licenses! Those charges were eventually dropped “in the interest of justice.” Paschal is self-supporting and does not utilize traditional homeless services. He pays for his own food and shelter on a daily basis and does not consider himself homeless. He accepts donations for his psychic readings, and to date no client has filed a complaint against him for fraud.


This was Sgt. Loran "Butchie" Baker's mission: to run Jason Paschal out of town. Rather than apologizing to him for seizing his needles and insulin, and fully aware that Paschal was a legitimate medical marijuana user, Baker continued to press for a way to remove Paschal from downtown. Though frustrated that New Hampshire showed no interest in extradition, Baker again jailed Paschal on a 11357 (b) HS “ possession of less than an ounce of marijuana” on November 7th, 2002. The case was again dismissed.

New Hampshire was reluctant to send officers across the entire continent to pick up a parole violator who had already served 8 months in prison, 4 months in a halfway house, and had 8 months left to serve. All this for a single incident when as a teenager, he sold half an ounce of pot to an undercover agent. A person awaiting extradition can only be held for 30 days. So Baker held him for 30 days. But still, authorities there failed to performing an extradition. Paschal was again released.

But Baker did not give up. January 17, 2003 he had Jason arrested again for possession of marijuana. He continued to call multiple agencies in New Hampshire and demanded they come and pick up Paschal. They didn't. After 30 days, Paschal was released again.

On April 1, 2003, Baker jailed Paschal, this time for only the old warrant and put New Hampshire on his speed dialer. On May 3rd, Baker's campaign paid off. New Hampshire agreed to send federal marshals to transport Paschal back to serve the rest of his sentence for that half ounce of grass sold five years before.

Marijuana plant at WAMM parade in Santa Cruz, Ca. 2005 Photo by Becky Johnson

Ironically, as Jason Paschal, a legitimate medical marijuana user sat in jail awaiting extradition to New Hampshire, a non-medical marijuana state, Mayor Emily Reilly and Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt held a press conference in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse to support a lawsuit by the Women and Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) against the Federal DEA seeking an end to raids on patients' gardens. New Hampshire Deputy's arrived and transported Paschal in chains back to a New Hampshire prison. On May 3rd, the day he arrived back in New Hampshire, the iconic granite "Old Man of the Mountain" stone face, memorialized on the NH state quarter, the State Emblem, and on the 1955 US 3-cent postage stamp, slid off the mountain forever.


During the four months he was incarcerated, a prison guard there witnessed a cop punch Paschal in the neck and call him a "nigger. " The guard reported the incident to the State Police who launched an investigation. As a result of the investigation, not only was the cop disciplined, but they also found that Paschal was currently serving what was to have been 180 days "in the hole" ( solitary confinement) in direct violation of the prisons' own regulations. He was released from New Hampshire 4 months early and paroled to his family home in Arkansas for the remainder of his four month sentence.


Over his mother's strong objections, Paschal, who sometimes portrayed himself as The Reverend Doctor Electronic Galaxy Jay returned to Santa Cruz and Pacific Avenue. Partly it was the life he had made for himself, and partly it was a feeling that he needed to right a terrible wrong that had been done to him.


One day, a female worker at Gelatomania came over to Jason's table. She told him that the police had come into their business and told all the staff there that Paschal was a pedophile and that they should watch their children around him. She said they had been going from business to business warning people about Paschal. Since then, Paschal has been regularly confronted in public by people who claim he is a "child rapist."

(A search performed at the Office of the Attorney General's "Megan's Law" website for the State of California for the name, Jason Paschal, returned no results.)


While his tarot card reading table was popular with some, others targeted him for taunts or abuse. When a man Paschal describes as a "Neo-Nazi Skinhead" sporting a shaved head and two tattoos of the SS on his arm, panhandled Jason for a dollar, he gave it to him. “But I told him "I thought you guys were too proud to panhandle. You're always talking about white pride." The man suddenly grew angry and threw rocks at Paschal who called police and filed a complaint. The next day, Jason sighted the man down near the riverbank and he again called police. They arrived and arrested the man, but no prosecution ensued. When Jason called back to see what progress had been made in the case, they said "we couldn't get in touch with you because you are homeless so all charges were dropped." Jason, who is housed, had a working cellphone the entire time and had never gotten a single call. He was furious that the police, who were so diligent in citing and arresting him, had only made a token effort to do a proper investigation when he was the victim of an assault.

Paschal went off. He marched down Pacific Ave. to the Downtown Information Center and loudly complained along the way about the racist police not assisting him when he had been attacked by white supremacist, Nazi skinheads. Several people called police to complain. Paschal eventually had a run-in with a young man who claimed his father was a police officer. That man later claimed that Jason had challenged him to a physical fight, but Paschal says it happened the other way around. "He challenged ME to a fight, and I refused," Paschal said.


Jason was charged with disturbing the peace. Attorney Anthony Bole who represented Paschal for the misdemeanor charge, told him a disturbing story. He had been approached by Judge Heather Morse who told Bole that she had been to lunch with Judge Robert Atack. Bole told Paschal that Judge Atack said he had seen Mr. Paschal's table with a sign that said “They don't want to keep Santa Cruz weird, they want to keep it white!” Then, Paschal, not knowing he was speaking to a judge, ended up calling him "A Mormon." Atack was so put off by the encounter that he told all the judges that if Paschal ever appeared before them, they should do what they can to punish him, or get him out of town because “we don't need people like him around here.” Bole counseled Paschal to plead to the deal offered as he was sure he couldn't get a fair trial in a Santa Cruz County Courthouse. Jason plead to an infraction "excessive noise" charge along with a one year stay-away order from Pacific Avenue. Reminiscent of Jim Crow days, Paschal was told he “could continue to frequent Pacific Avenue businesses but only through the back door.”

The ruling to ban Paschal was based on a single event, not a series of crimes as the public is led to believe is necessary to produce such orders. HUFF considers stay-away orders to be medieval, the equivalent of banishment, and used far too often with far too little provocation. They are also ripe for selective enforcement against activists and homeless people.

Banned from Pacific Avenue, he left the area and returned to Venice Beach where he continued reading tarot cards for tourists there. When the year long stay-away order had expired, Paschal returned to Pacific Avenue. But it wasn't to read tarot cards. Not this time.


On July 15, 2008 Paschal set up his table on Pacific Ave. across the street from the Cinema Nine. This was a day of protest. Having had it with the campaign of police, merchants, and the DA to banish him from the downtown,harass him, and fail to protect him as is their sword duty, Paschal planned to tell everyone who came by his table about the injustices he had suffered. He set up his table and told people not to shop on Pacific Avenue because the merchants "were a bunch of racists" and that it was bad karma to spend their money there. Paschal was not there to make friends.

The manager of O'Neill's Surf shop, Mark Mackay placed a call to the police about a man who was urging people not to shop on Pacific Avenue and accusing the merchants and the police of being "racist." The police arrived but did not cite or arrest Paschal. Instead, they told him they had received a complaint from O'Neill's Surf shop and he now had one hour before he must "move along."

Twenty minutes later, Jason moved his table to another location, this time about 20 feet away from the door of the O'Neill's Surf Shop. From a seated position behind his table, he urged people to not spend money at O'Neill's. This caused quite a commotion at O'Neill's where two male managers, customers, and passersby congregated by the door, watching as Paschal hawked at any person coming or going.

Some kids who had been inside O'Neill's came over to Paschal's table and placed some O'Neill's Sex Wax there. He yelled at them and told them to leave his table alone.

When Bill Chapman, a customer of O'Neill's walked out of the store with some bagged purchases in his hand, Paschal told him that buying from O'Neill's would lead to bad karma. Chapman walked over to Paschal's table and towered over him. “What did you say?” Chapman demanded. “Get the fuck away from me, you pussy!” Jason told him. At that point a tall, skinny white man with a 10 inch Mohawk hairdo on a bicycle circled around Jason's table. “He came up to me and said “O'Neill's has been here a lot longer than you. Get out of town, nigger!” In Vasquez' police report, Chapman says he spat nearby. However, interviewed by phone for this article, Chapman reported that Paschal had indeed been spit upon. In either case, Paschal was arrested and taken into custody. Again his needles and insulin were seized and not returned to him when he was released after booking, his blood sugar levels soaring.

Despite Harper's vivid description, police were unable to find the suspect. Jason did that himself the next day when he spied the man on Pacific Ave. walking with his girlfriend. Jason again called police and they eventually were able to track down her boyfriend to interview him.

Interviewed by police the next day, the spitter, Jeremy Burkett, denied both that he called Paschal “a nigger” or that he spat in Paschal's face. This completely contradicts Steve Harper's testimony, that Paschal had been hit in the face by Burkett's spit.

Sgt. Baker was assigned to investigate the merits of Paschal's case, that he was the victim of an assault, with extenuating circumstances which could amount to a racially -motivated hate crime. He reported “ I have had previous contact with Paschal and know he is regularly involved in disturbances Downtown. He has been arrested on numerous occasions for incidents where he challenges other to fight or actually gets involved in a fight.” Never mind that, with few exceptions, the arrests Baker made of Paschal turned out to be bogus.

Surprisingly, Baker did not find enough evidence to charge Burkett with a crime. He did state that “if spittle did actually strike Paschal, this may have constituted a misdemeanor battery per PC 242” and mysteriously considering Harper's testimony that “there is not a witness that corroborates either side of the issue.”


When Paschal's first Public Defender, Kristin Carter, didn't support his decision to refuse to plea to a lesser charge, Jason fired her in a Marston Hearing. He almost fired his second attorney as well. “I am NOT going to plead guilty to a lesser charge when I did nothing wrong. If I can't say “pussy” on a public street then I have no freedom of speech at all. My whole lifestyle is about freedom. I have the freedom to travel. I have the freedom to work or not to work every day.

I like my lifestyle. I meet a lot of beautiful people, I smoke only the best chronic, and I'm always hearing music. I work out of doors surrounded by beautiful crystals. I consider myself a mirror of society. And sometimes what I reflect is bad.

Some people in Santa Cruz don't want to hear the negative. They try to put the negative out of their lives and only emphasize the positive. That's how neurolinguistic programming works--all they want is to think about positive comments and they refuse to see the negative. It's what “The Secret” is about. How to get everything. But the downside is they can't look at suffering going on around them. They just can't see it. They are so positive all the time that they have actually become obnoxious to be around. I kind of have to tell them to come down to earth.

I come from a long line of fighters. I'm a warrior. I'm a spiritualist. I like to be confrontational sometimes... if the situation warrants it being confrontational.I'm a big man. I weigh almost 250 lbs. But I can't fight back physically. I have to use my words. Most of all, I cherish my freedom. I am well aware that this country started out as a Slave Nation. As far as I'm concerned, they should give the entire state of California to African Americans to atone for that.”


When asked if he felt vindicated that all charges against him have been dropped, Paschal said “no.” “Now I have to go after the DA and find out why they haven't prosecuted the man who assaulted me and called me “a nigger.” I have to file a complaint against Sgt. Baker for making false and prejudicial statements about me in his police report. I am considering suing several parties for false arrest, such as Chapman for telling dispatch that I had threatened him when he was only offended by my language. I feel O'Neill's played a role as well. They filed the complaint for the first “move-along” and may have instigated others as well. The whole Downtown Association bears the blame too.”

He wonders how long the word “nigger” has been etched into the sidewalk on Elm St. and how long it will take before Public Works removes it.

Becky Johnson can be contacted at

KEYWORDS: Stay-away orders, Move-along law, Jim Crow, Sgt.Loran Baker, Jason Paschal, Mayor Emily Reilly, Pacific Avenue, HUFF, Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom, O'Neill's Surfshop, Downtown Association, hate crime, homeless, Santa Cruz Police Department, Vietnam Vet, Mark Mackay, Bill Chapman, Steve Harper, Warren West, marijuana, Sex Wax, Becky Johnson.

This article can be reprinted for free by non-profits or not-for-profits which work for social justice.

Article by HUFF*

Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom

309 Cedar St. PMB 14B – Santa Cruz, CA. 95060 (831) 423-4833