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An Open Letter to the Santa Cruz Community

...
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SANTA CRUZ COMMUNITY

Attached below is a news article with an example of how the so-called
"Downtown Ordinances" could be used in our own fair city to complicate the
lives of protesters and prevent them from engaging in commonly accepted acts
of protest.

The Peace Protest at Ocean and Water, for example, or the protest in front
of Adolf's last week, could both easily have been enforced out of existence
for blocking the sidewalk, having signs that touch the ground, anyone who
sat on the curb could be ticketed, etc.

Anyone who doesn't believe this could happen, read the following article
about how a similar ordinance in Portland was recently used against an
anti-logging protest -- good-bye overnight vigils, or any protest long
enough to make your feet sore.

To City Council folk and media: the differential nature of enforcement
between the Downtown For All rally and the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition rally
(both of which I attend) highlights how these ordinances are inherently
abusive and selectively enforced. Can you imagine the police seizing the
signs the peace protestors leave leaned up against posts, or ticketing
people because they have props and signs that touch the ground, or telling
people sitting on a curb to get up or move? All these things have happened
at the DTFA rally, while I've been speaking, even. There is far more space
for pedestrians to pass through the audiene at our rally, than there ever is
at Ocean and Water, but you never see cops at the latter event. DTFA
participants regularly see five or six police officers gathered near our
rally, and at least two police officers continuously monitor our event. The
differential can be nothing but political.

Last week, the police seized two signs that had been set in a planter, while
ignoring a sign leaned up against a planter, touching the ground, by a
Democratic Party voter registration worker. The police officer declined to
explain the discrepancy or enforce the laws equally (not that we wanted the
Democratic party worker ticketed).

Every single week, some token act of enforcement (token to all but the
person getting the ticket or getting tossed in jail) is made against
participants in the Downtown For All protest. The evidence is
incontrovertible that the police are selectively targeting political protest
and protestors - is this acceptable to Santa Cruz citizens? Why have Santa
Cruz media not addressed this issue? Why have no City Council members
inquired about this?

I look forward to a response from my City Council representatives. I urge
the rest of you to contact them and ask these same questions. Your
politically inconvenient rally or protest could be next.

Regards,
Thomas Leavitt
-----------------------------

SIT DOWN AND TAKE A LOAD OFF

Demonstrators Want To Reclaim Sidewalks

by Jaymee R. Cuti Sept. 26-Oct 2, 2002

Angry about a pending pro-logging bill in Congress, 10 protesters had
planned to set up an overnight vigil at Sen. Ron Wyden's Portland office
last Sunday. But shortly after parking themselves on the sidewalk adjacent
to his office, five squad cars arrived and one officer instructed them to
get off their asses in 30 seconds or face arrest. According to protesters,
the officer cited new rules under the city's sit/lie ordinance. Although
they were fairly certain about their constitutional right to gather
peacefully, the protesters decided not to push their luck.

Instead they took their beef--this time over the sit/lie ordinance--directly
to City Hall, last Wednesday. Amended a month ago, City Code Title 14 now
includes guidelines that requires six to eight feet of "passable" space
around people sitting or lying on public's sidewalks. Failure to comply may
result in fines or arrest.

Sunday's environmental protest was the first known time that police have
used the new sit/lie rules to bust up a political protest. (In spite of the
alleged harassment, Commander Rosie Sizer assured that both permitted
and non-permitted political events are exempt from the ordinance.)

The sit/lie ordinance has offended a wide-ranging group of people, from the
environmentalists chased away by police to the city's homeless, who fear
being hustled along by cops. At noon on Wednesday, more than 150 people
from these diverse groups joined in front of City Hall to protest Mayor
Katz's decision to enforce the ordinance. Young street punks, elderly,
homeless, and college preppies stood in front of City Hall and chanted
anti-sit/lie cadences.

A baby carried a sign that read, "Our Feet Are Sore."
Activists are mad about the new rules, but they are equally frustrated by
the way it came about. In what many call a sneaky move, the mayor avoided
public input by revising existing enforcement guidelines. (To introduce a
new ordinance, the mayor must allow for public hearings, but revising an
existing ordinance does not require such procedures.) Moreover, Katz had
promised homeless advocates the opportunity to help sculpt the new rules and, for a
year, members from Sisters of the Road, a homeless program, had been invited
to watchdog the process. But Sisters was left out of much of that
process; they were not even told about the press conference when the new
sit/lie rules were unveiled.
Commissioner Erik Sten, who oversees the city's homeless programs, agrees
that the mayor went too far and does not support current sit/lie
enforcement.

"The idea of banning sitting is a bad idea to me," said Sten. "I don't think
it fits who we are." Sten admitted that he can see occasions when it is
reasonable to ask sidewalk drunks to move along, but he added that enforcement
requires common sense and discretion that the public is uncomfortable leaving up to police.
"I'm willing to say, 'let's keep the sidewalks clear in the shopping district,'
but it's crazy to say you can't sit as long as there's room enough for
people to get through," he said.

The protest heated up slightly when officers physically removed a man
blocking the front steps of City Hall. But tension diminished when Commander
Sizer called for his release.
 
 


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Comments

ordinances shmordinances

Please don't put your signs in the planters. Plants don't like their homes stirred up and trampled just like people don't. They don't have many advocates speaking up for them either. Try to be more courteous and allow people to pass by freely, even if they don't happen to agree with your message. If possible, see if you can muster up a smile, even for the cops. Whether or not it's ticketable, sitting on the curb looks very bad, and is not good protest etiquette. If you need a rest, go somewhere and sit down, there are zillions of places to do so including SL park. ordinances, shmordinances, just ignore em, and act responsibly.
 

Any rules of etiquette for cops?

Thanks to Truthlover for his helpful rules of etiquette.

Does he have some similar guidelines for police giving out $162 tickets for "chalking" (on the sidewalk with erasable chalk), "sitting on the cement edge of a planter", "blocking the sidewalk" (for talking to a friend), and jaywalking (for being Steve Argue, who is fighting his 4th jaywalking ticket in Dept. 1, Nov. 1st at 8:30 AM)?

His advice about ignoring the shmordinances is good, particularly if you're well-dressed, since police are far less likely to ticket you (or you to need to sit down or sparechange in the 95% of the sidewalks in business districts now forbidden for such purposes).

For the rest of us, there's always solidarity, raising our voices when anyone is harassed, and showing up on Merrie Mondays at 4 p.m. to Take Back the Downtown For All! (still meeting Wednesdays 7 p.m. at Wired Wash Cafe next to the Saturn, or call 476-6112).
 

More Tips

Your Welcome. More Tips? Sure.

I have the sneaky suspicion that cops might not read my tips here, anyways:

Cop Tips:

Tip#1: If a planter looks like a bench, it is a bench:
Tip#2: Leave Steve alone, he's got enough tickets already.
Tip#3: Don't allow Zoccoli's to block the sidewalk.(may require political bs)
Tip#4: Ticket tourists, the city can use the money.
Tip#5: Selectively enforce the ordinances: only ticket people who are really obnoxious and ignore warnings.


More Tips For Others:

Bring your own chalkboard, leave the sidewalk chalking for kids.

Spare change in the other 5%, after all, there is still enough room for every sparechanger downtown. If you don't think there is, go to the Downtown Commission meetings and let 'em know you want more spare-changing room.

If cops get creepy, make sure you fill out a complaint. If you're still not satisfied go to the CPRB meetings and complain there. Call Mark Halfmoon through the CPRB switchboard for more info at (831) 420-6295.

If a planter edge looks like a bench, sit on it, but don't sit when protesting.

I don't know how Steve has been managing to get so many jay-walking tickets, sounds like a selective-enforcement problem or maybe a vision problem. Tip #1, Don't jay-walk in front of cops. If you feel that cops are singling you out, go to the CPRB, see above for info.

Blocking the sidewalk while talking to your friend: Don't. Allow people to pass by freely, see smile recommendation.

Harassment: solidarity sounds good, raising voices sounds good, maybe even showing up on Merrie Mondays at 4 p.m. to Take Back the Downtown For All! (still meeting Wednesdays 7 p.m. at Wired Wash Cafe next to the Saturn, or call 476-6112).

But when your done taking it back don't forget to give it back to everyone (including the suits).
 

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