Thursday, July 8, 2010
NIGHT FOUR: Peace Camp 2010
by Becky Johnson
July 8, 2010
from: Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom
Santa Cruz, Ca. -- They began arriving as the sun faded, some on bikes. Some carrying bedrolls. Most had backpacks. Prime sleeping areas next to the front doors promised a dry night with the protecting eaves, and thus, those spots were taken quickly. "What do you think the chances are that the cops will bust us tonight?" one man asked nervously, as he looked around for security cameras. "Zero," said Leigh, without any hesitation. "Unless the Deputies need to conduct a mutual aid service's call, there's no chance that they're going to cite us tonight."
Organizer, ED FREY, who had chosen the location, discovered very quickly that with the courthouse smack dab in the middle of the City of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz police had no authority to enforce their own law. And the Santa Cruz County Deputies have no corresponding laws criminalizing sleeping, covering with blankets, or even camping in that particular location---all of which would be illegal in any other part of the City.
HUFF has demanded the City suspend ticketing under the Sleeping and Blanket Bans or, barring that, set up a clean, safe, well-lighted place with plumbing facilities where it is legal to sleep in the City. For the moment at least, they have found the latter. While the Council has dug in to defend the Sleeping Ban, there is no doubt that Peace Camp 2010 has already accomplished one of its goals.
" So I guess we won, " mused FREY. Tuesday night, 21 souls slept openly and safely together. Tonight there were thirty. Five twenty-somethings wandered in past midnight. Two who arrived begged for a blanket, fearing having to spend the night without one. With cops seizing possessions regularly as "trash" there are never enough blankets to go around.
In news media reports, Vice -Mayor RYAN COONERTY has issued statements about how the City supports the bans which are needed "for safety reasons." Mayor MIKE ROTKIN defends the bans by claiming that the impressive sounding amount of money the council has spent on homeless services somehow justifies, as a matter of policy, waking up homeless people in the wee hours of the morning, detaining them, running warrant checks on them, and even sometimes, as Lt Steve Clark once did to ANTHONY PATANJO, seize the only blanket they have at 3 AM as "evidence" of sleeping, and then leave them shivering in the cold with a $97 ticket. If City Attorney JOHN BARISONE has his way, next year their will be jury trials for sleeping and keeping warm with a blanket and sentences of up to one year in jail for convictions.
"I've been atop many a bridge lately, " one man confided to me in low tones, "considering suicide. But this gives me hope." Supporter and Endorser, SARAH RINGLER came by with a large platter of Japanese fish pancakes and a bottle of soy sauce to go with. One by one each person took a single pancake and joyfully consumed the still warm food. None took seconds. There would not be enough for firsts for everyone as it was.
ED FREY is appealing the twin convictions for sleeping near the beach by ROBERT"BLINDBEAR" FACER, but the hearing has inexplicably been postponed until late September. "Homeless people can't wait until September to sleep, " declared ED who recently relocated to a residence inside the City in order to establish residency. A new race for City Council begins in early August.
At 11: 52PM the sprinklers switched on and, in seconds, two sleeping bodies quickly became soaked. Others rushed to pull their belongings out of the sudden downpour, but despite their quick reaction, both men shivered and groaned with everything they owned and the clothes they were wearing suddenly soaked.
As each new person arrives, there is cheer, relief, and for some, a look of redemption on their faces as they realize that they will be allowed to bed down, and sleep. The porto-pottie shines like a beacon of humanity, and those exiting it have a look of immense relief. Nervous neighbors grumble about "mountains of trash" and "poop and pee everywhere" but there really is none now. And when the Sheriff's deputies drive by and flash their lights, one gets this distinct feeling that they are there to PROTECT the sleepers from harm. Is this a change we can believe in?
DONATIONS NEEDED: flashlight, blankets, food of any kind, water bottles.
ED FREY can be contacted at his office in Soquel, Ca. at 831 479-8911