Monday, April 16, 2012

In memorium: Robert "Blindbear" Facer, Teepee visionary, Sleeping Ban opponent

 Personal reflections on Robert "Blind Bear" Facer by Becky Johnson
April 16, 2012

 Robert "Blindbear" Facer Jan 2010 photo by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Amish minister, traveler, and Sleeping Ban opponent, Robert "Blindbear" Facer passed today after a brief hospitalization in Monterey.  Facer was 58 years old.  I met Robert Facer a few years ago and he immediately impressed me as being a unique character on the streets of Santa Cruz.  While he did enjoy the herb of choice, he never drank alcohol, and was always clear-headed and purposeful.

I never saw him when he wasn't barefoot with a raggedy hat with a feather stuck in it.  As an Amish minister, he refused to use modern transportation and would have to plan days in advance to visit Capitola or elsewhere.  He told us he came to Santa Cruz by coming down the coast in a canoe he'd made by hand.  He constantly ran into problems with law enforcement as he continued to attempt to build an Amish temple on the flood plane of the San Lorenzo River out of driftwood, and other natural materials.  He came to HUFF meetings, and patiently waited his turn for his item to come up on our agenda. It was always the same item: a teepee.

 Robert "Blindbear" Facer's teepee springs up at the start of Occupy Santa Cruz in October 2011. Photo by Donna Deiss

While HUFF officially endorsed his mission to build a teepee in Santa Cruz, we had little hope it would spring into being for longer than a few hours at best.  But when Occupy Santa Cruz moved its encampment to the northern end of the benchlands along the San Lorenzo River, Robert Facer, along with helpers Gail Page and his attorney, Ed Frey  got consensus from OSC to build an "art project" and within hours, the full size teepee was erected.

Robert Facer himself painted a red cross on the teepee, which to most indicated a medical tent.  I'm not sure that's what HE meant.  He then allowed others to decorate the exterior, with one restriction: no words.  I expected Robert, a homeless man, to move in and take residence in the teepee, but he never did.

It became a shelter for those who arrived who had nothing at all. It was cool, even in the hot sun as it provided shade but adequate ventilation. And it was easily closed to keep it fairly warm and comfortable after dark.  Facer used 22 bamboo poles and covered the exterior with a lightweight plastic covering used by growers for greenhouse operations. The end came when police crushed the encampment on December 8th 2011 and police trashed the teepee and Zach Friend announced in the press they had removed "8 tons of garbage."

Officer Inouye issues a $425 citation to Facer who didn't sing a word. photo by Becky Johnson

I have very few photos of him, despite his obvious photographic appeal. As an Amish man, he believed that allowing his photograph to be taken was wrong.  He asked me to not photograph him, so, that every time I DID photograph him, I was filled with guilt.  Now each photo is precious.

Facer was involved in two court cases that I am familiar with. First, Attorney Ed Frey took his sleeping ban ticket to court, and once convicted for sleeping out of doors while keeping an eye on his canoe, Frey took Facer's case on appeal.  In part, Ed Frey started his Peace Camp 2010 because the court had inexplicably postponed Facer's appeal for five months.  Facer later lost the appeal because the court ruled he could have gone to a shelter, and therefore had no right to sleep in a public place.

Facer was also convicted for unreasonably disturbing noise when he very lightly played a small drum and didn't sing a word.  The Song Crime Massacre of 2010 had police citing 4 people, two who sang a few songs in the middle of the afternoon in the Free Speech Zone in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz. One woman who came down to see what the commotion was about, and Robert "Blindbear" Facer.

The photo I have is from when he was issued a $425 citation for not singing a word.  He was later convicted by Commission Kim Baskett for "conspiring" to disturb workers inside BSSC, a "crime" Baskett invented since there was no testimony given to support this claim.

I last got an e-mail from Robert Facer saying he was in Monterrey. He must have walked or canoed there. As an Amish person, Facer didn't believe in modern transportation. Ironically, he told us he can use cellphones and the internet. He always made us wonder.  This morning, Ronee Curry posted the sad message that Robert has passed. Our community is lessened by his loss, less colorful, less thoughtful, and has one less warrior fighting for justice.

God Bless you, Robert Facer, and goodbye, my friend. And thanks to you for your visionary Teepee, your message of compassion for each human being, and all of the wisdom you brought to us.

1 comment:

  1. I was very moved by your words about Robert Facer.. To me he will always be "Bruce". I knew him in the 70's in Seward. Yes always spiritual and always barefoot! He had a "compound" out on Nash Rd. for a long time with the 7 Stations of the Cross. It eventually burnt down from the Eternal Flame he had going with propane. I never knew what brought him to Seward or about his life before he arrived there. Bruce was just "there". He is missed by many. I think he would be surprised at how many lives he touched.


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