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39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

Protesters brave the storm to call an end to war. Santa Cruz joined other cities all along the coast on Highway One to call for an end to war.
Thanks to all the people who honked, waved and stood with us in the rain to call for an end to war! We figured there were at least 8 thousand cars seeing us on both sides of the jam packed Highway One as we stood on the Braciforte overpass! The police and highway patrol did their best to find a way to stop us with over 5 officers standing around calling headquarters and chatting with one another about our vibrant and noisey presence. Toward the end of the two hour protest the police decided that we were well within our 1st Amendment rights to stand with signs at the over pass.

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Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

This protest was repeated in Santa Cruz on Friday 2-25-05 at the Branciforte overpass at 5-6PM. This time around a CHP officer stopped by to ask us to remove the signs from view of the highway. She mentioned that we might be arrested if we did not comply. It took her until 6PM to consult with an attorney and come up with the exact code section we were violating, but it now appears that we will need a permit from Cal-Trans before the protest can be repeated yet again.

One could argue double standard aka Amy and Cassandra of Scotts Valley fame as there were plenty of protest signs visible all day long from overpasses during the last election, presumably without permits.

Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

Once upon a time, the highways were thick with commercial signage. People didn't like it, so "environmentalists" solved the problem by adding this law to the books.

Now this law is used against activists just standing on an overpass holding a sign.

Let this be a lesson. Whenever you solve a problem by giving a new power to the state, it will be used to attack innocent people if at all possible. That is what the storm troopers do!

Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

Hey all,

The law is ready for a challenge on this. Are Amy and Cassandra ready to take on another round in the courts? Sanford, Scruggs, Rice, et al, ready for round 2?

Read the ruling on CHP authority here:




Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

Why is this battle being fought again, when Amy and Cassandra already fought it and won?

What's the point of spending time, effort, and money to get police to stop interferring with protesters' rights when even if you win - after months of legal battle - as soon as we're back on the street again the cops pull some other twisted interpretation of an obscure law out of their hats and continue shutting us down and the whole process starts all over again?

Unless you can win some punishment for the specific police or department involved, they have no incentive to stop, and every reason to keep shutting you down, and tieing you up in court.

There has to be a better way. I thought Amy and Cassandra got this settled for us, but here we are back to square one again.


Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

It seems that the case law cited by "Take the CHP to Court!" is hardly decisive. If I were to believe that non-decision, it means that every demonstration on any street, not just overpasses, is potentially subject to the same restrictions and potential litigation under state law. The deciding factor seems to be to demonstrate, after the fact, just how much traffic congestion was actually caused by the demonstration. According to the exact words of the decision, I guess one could argue that the freeway overpasses themselves are not freeways and therefore not subject to Cal-Trans jurisdiction? Maybe. Certainly one would not be restricted in the same way from displaying a sign or signs held up along a frontage road, such as Soquel Avenue between the Soquel Exit and 41st Avenue? Also, bumper stickers and huge signs on busses and truck trailers are not restricted. That's it. Arrest Robert Norse for driving on highway 1 with a car covered with bumper stickers that has not been approved by Cal-Trans. I smell an as applied challenge. It would be expensive though.

Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

Does John T. or other Branciforte attendees have the specific code section that was used by the CHP to shut down the demo on 2/25? This is important, because if it's anything other than 2410, then I suggest that anyone arrested would be be able to succesfully use a defense that cites the precedent in the case referred to previously.

John T. is right in that the case is "hardly decisive". This is why I suggest that the law is ready for a challenge. It has not yet been decisively litigated. Of course, the outcome could be similar as in Amy and Cassandra's case; that the Legislature could just pass a law banning all forms of expression on overpasses. But even that could be challenged.

Another point John raises is the "amount of traffic congestion" caused by any specific demo. I would suggest that the timing of the protest (from 5-6:30p) already coincides with peak rush hour traffic, and the CHP would have a very high 'burden of proof' arguing that congestion was greater than it normally would have been without any sign holding. Of course, outside of peak traffic times this argument would not hold.

Final point is that jurisdiction in this instance lies not with CalTrans, but with the CHP, so this is significantly different than Amy and Cassandra's case, where banners were "attached" to the fencing and not merely held.

I suggest that the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition, Women In Black, et al, should consult with some attorneys before just giving up and going back to Ocean and Water. There are important issues at stake here and a case arising from it could have wide implications for future free speech expression.

Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

The code section that the Branciforte protestors were allegedly violating was "section 21350". I'm not sure but I believe they were referring to the CA vehicle code.

I agree that Cal-Trans may not have jurisdiction. The freeway overpasses could be like condominiums in that the community property begins at the outside wall of the condo, but the interior is the private property of the tennant. Simillarly, I am willing to bet that Cal-Trans has jurisdiction over the traffic signs mounted on the outsides of the overpasses, but does not have control over what happens on the public sidewalks that are part of the interior of the overpasses.

Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

The CHP officer was grasping at straws. This code section (see below) doesn't even come close to being relevant. It just gives statutory authority to the DOT. What would folks be charged with? Impersonating the DOT? 21350 seems totally bogus. Doesn't mean they couldn't come up with a more relevant code violation next time, though. Need to play this one smart. Someone at the scene should have a copy of the Vehicle Code, so folks know what they're dealing with if threatened again.


CA Vehicle Code
State Authority
21350. The Department of Transportation shall place and maintain, or cause to be placed and maintained, with respect to highways under its jurisdiction, appropriate signs, signals and other traffic control devices as required hereunder, and may place and maintain, or cause to be placed and maintained, such appropriate signs, signals or other traffic control devices as may be authorized hereunder, or as may be necessary properly to indicate and to carry out the provisions of this code, or to warn or guide traffic upon the highways. The Department of Transportation may, with the consent of the local authorities, also place and maintain, or cause to be placed and maintained, in or along city streets and county roads, appropriate signs, signals and other traffic control devices, or may perform, or cause to be performed, such other work on city streets and county roads, as may be necessary or desirable to control, or direct traffic, or to facilitate traffic flow, to or from or on state highways.
Amended Ch. 648, Stats. 1974. Effective January 1, 1975. Supersedes Ch. 545.

Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

copy of a letter sent to Nathan Benjamin, one of the attorneys who represented Amy Courtney and Cassandra Brown

this location is great for vigils - we want to stay there - will send updates when we have them!!

From: Sherry Conable <sherryc (at)>
Date: Tue Mar 1, 2005 9:17:06 AM US/Pacific
Subject: CHP officer & Branciforte demonstration

dear Nathan

I was part of a group that joined a protest on Feb. 19, called California 1 for Peace, that was coordinated in about 45 communities up and down the CA and Or coasts along Highway 1

we chose to vigil on the overpass above Hwy 1, where Branciforte Ave crosses the freeway - we hung some signs on the fencing with bungee cords, and held others

first, a CHP officer came along and reminded us that we had to take all our signs with us when we left - a little later, two SCPD officers showed up, insisting that we could hold signs, but could NOT attach them to the fencing - one even threatened me with a citation when I said I thought she was wrong - anyway, after two more SCPD officers arrived, plus a CHP officer, and about 35 minutes of consultation, they decided we were right, and that we were lawfully exercising our first amendment rights - the parting comment of Sergeant Warren Barry was "Being here is you first amendment right. Enjoy it to the fullest!"

he also gave us a copy of the sections of the law that state you may not hold a sign that resembles or replicates a traffic control device, or that in any way covers or interferes with any traffic signs, so that we would be aware of that (sections 21465, 21466, 21466.5, and 21467)

we returned again this past Friday to the same location from 5-6:30 PM - we have a weekly peace vigil at that time, and decided to move it to that location, since the slowed down rush hour traffic provides a great audience!

this time a new CHP officer showed up (sorry, I did not get her name) and as she drove up, on her loudspeaker, said that "this is a lawful order to remove your signs immediately"

she was pretty aggressive at first, but got more friendly as she saw we were not going to be easily intimidated! - we told her of the previous week and our contact with law officials, and I mentioned that I had been in touch with the Chief of Santa Cruz Police, and he knew we would be there

she insisted that we were creating a traffic hazard because people were looking at our signs and banners, and that she had the right to disband any traffic hazard at any time, and could remove our signs if she so chose - she also insisted that SCPD had no jurisdiction over that location

we had a number of different,conversations with her over the next ten minutes or so, and finally she went to her car, spent about half an hour, and then cited section 21350 of the vehicle code (see below), and told us the only way we could lawfully display a sign was to GET A PERMIT FROM CALTRANS!! - I do not see that in this particular section and the other sections do not prohibit what we were doing

can you give us your opinion on this?? - we have been vigiling at the corner of Ocean and Water Streets every Friday for three and a half years - there is also rush hour, tourist traffic there, and clearly folks do look at our signs!

we want to continue at the Branciforte location - do you think what we are doing is lawful?? - or that it should be?? - I am happy to get a ticket/arrested, as I think are a couple of others, in order to push the issue, but I think she was simply wrong!

your prompt reply would be most helpful!!!!


sherry conable

Local ACLU?

Nice work, Sherry. Laying out the history and the issues is an important public service.

I guess there's no chance that our own local bloated ACLU might lower their vision from fund-raising for national issues and actually move to protect the civil liberties of some local peace activists?

Folks might want to attend their Drug Policy forum Thursday night 7 PM at Holy Cross and encourage them to resist locally while blathering nationally.

Re: 39 Cities on Calif. Coast Call for Peace

All the codes cited in sherry's posting above are reproduced below. They are not applicable. This issue was adjudicated in SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE NETWORK v. CHP where it states that:

--As noted, the CHP has terminated plaintiffs' activities on freeway overpasses under the purported authority of sections 21465 and 21467. The CHP officers who testified at trial stated they would continue to remove prohibited signs in view of freeway motorists under this authority, although the officers were less than clear concerning what is a prohibited sign. Plaintiffs assert these Vehicle Code sign statutes do not apply to their signs. After consideration of the statutes, their context within the Vehicle Code, and their legislative history, we agree with plaintiffs that sections 21465 and 21467 do not apply to their signs.--
--During trial, the CHP's expert on the Vehicle Code, Officer Scott Hall, who teaches the Vehicle Code at the Highway Patrol Academy and is authorized to speak authoritatively concerning the meaning of the Vehicle Code for the CHP, testified concerning the CHP's enforcement of section 21465. His testimony reveals that the CHP does not have a clear or articulable definition of the scope of section 21465.--
--The CHP's view is that bus advertising and bumper stickers do not violate section 21465. When asked why that is so, the officer replied: "You got me."--
--The plain meaning of "unofficial sign," taken out of the context of the statutory scheme relating to traffic signs, might suggest that the statute refers to any sign, traffic related or not, that was not placed there by the government. While the plain meaning, without consideration of the context, may lead to this interpretation, other canons of statutory interpretation preclude this interpretation.--
--It cannot be seriously argued that the Legislature intended to prohibit any unofficial sign in view of a roadway. This would include billboards, house numbers, bus advertising, bumper stickers, and a host of other signs that are everywhere to be found in view of roadways. The prohibition in section 21465 bears no contextual relation to state statutes and local ordinances concerning private signs.--
&, finally,
--Accordingly, the legislative history of section 21465 is consistent with what we have concluded is the statute's reasonable interpretation -- that is, that it applies only to traffic signs and was never intended to do more. Plaintiffs' signs cannot be characterized as traffic signs subject to prohibition under section 21465. They did not purport to be traffic signs. They did not imitate or resemble traffic signs. The signs did not attempt to direct the movement of traffic or hide from view any traffic sign. The CHP, relying only on sections 21465 and 21467, cannot prevent plaintiffs from displaying the signs.
Plaintiffs have presented an actual controversy concerning whether the CHP may interfere with plaintiffs' activities under the authority of sections 21465 and 21467. We conclude the CHP may not do so. Therefore, plaintiffs are entitled to declaratory relief on that issue.--

Isn't the law fun? Again, it seems to me that 2410 is the only section that applies, and that section can only be used on a case by case basis. CHP cannot issue a blanket prohibition on private signs held on overpasses. Apparently they have to make some sort of determination on the scene as to whether traffic flow is being impacted, and then issue a lawful order. If the sign holders come back in an hour, or a day, or a week, a new determination has to be made all over again regarding traffic flow at those new times. How that determination is made doesn't seem to be at all clear, and apparently is solely at the CHP officer's discretion.

This is why it seems to me that a legal challenge will be necessary to clarify the issue. Lawyers really need to step forward on this...


Unauthorized Traffic Devices
21465. No person shall place, maintain, or display upon, or in view of, any highway any unofficial sign, signal, device, or marking, or any sign, signal, device, or marking which purports to be or is an imitation of, or resembles, an official traffic control device or which attempts to direct the movement of traffic or which hides from view any official traffic control device.

Light Preventing Recognition of Official Traffic Control Device
21466. No person shall place or maintain or display upon or in view of any highway any light in such position as to prevent the driver of a vehicle from readily recognizing any official traffic control device.

Light Impairing Driver's Vision
21466.5. No person shall place or maintain or display, upon or in view of any highway, any light of any color of such brilliance as to impair the vision of drivers upon the highway. A light source shall be considered vision impairing when its brilliance exceeds the values listed below.
The brightness reading of an objectionable light source shall be measured with a 1 /2-degree photoelectric brightness meter placed at the driver's point of view. The maximum measured brightness of the light source within 10 degrees from the driver's normal line of sight shall not be more than 1,000 times the minimum measured brightness in the driver's field of view, except that when the minimum measured brightness in the field of view is 10 foot-lamberts or less, the measured brightness of the light source in foot-lambert shall not exceed 500 plus 100 times the angle, in degrees, between the driver's line of sight and the light source.
The provisions of this section shall not apply to railroads as defined in Section 229 of the Public Utilities Code.

Prohibited Signs and Devices
21467. Every prohibited sign, signal, device, or light is a public nuisance, and the Department of Transportation, members of the California Highway Patrol, and local authorities are hereby authorized and empowered without notice to remove the same, or cause the same to be removed, or the Director of Transportation, the commissioner, or local authorities may bring an action as provided by law to abate such nuisance.



For more updated info, check also "SC Peace Protesters Retreat from Overpass; CHP Wins, 1st Amendment Abandoned"


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