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Selective Enforcement Downtown

Selective enforcement of the Downtown Ordinances that discriminate against the poor was an issue brought to the Citizens Police Review Board on October 14th. The expanded text below of a street flyer itemizes some recent instances of this invidious practice.
Fight the New Crackdown!
No War Against the Poor in Santa Cruz !
No War Against the Poor in Iraq !

Come to Merry Monday (4 PM Cooper & Pacific) for Food,
Fun, & Fightback! Reclaim the Streets of Santa Cruz!

In June Santa Cruz City Council said: “Enforce All Laws” Against the Poor.
In July We got the “No Sitting, No Bubbles, No Bums” Downtown Ordinances.

In the September & October...
Sgt. “Butchie” Baker’s Bumbuster Squad harassed three homeless for shopping cart use in one day. They used the carts to transport their possessions in a town where no storage lockers are available at the Homeless Services Center and renting bicycle lockers for this purpose is not allowed. On Tuesday October 22nd, he gratuitiously ticketed a homeless activist at City Council for “dog off a leash” (for a dog on a leash)

Officer Phelps confiscated two “Downtown for All” signs while ignoring an illegal Democratic Party sign across the street on September 30th at the weekly “Merry Monday”
Downtown-For-All celebration. When asked to give a reason publicly, he refused and continued to “surveille” the political gathering. As of 10-26, the stolen signs have not been returned. Police frequently ignore illegally-placed DP signs and tables illegally placed, while ticketing the poor for “sign touching the sidewalk”.

Baker’s Blueshirts have swept the sidewalk of poor people on the Cinema 9 side of Pacific Avenue. They harassed “Visions of a Hamburger” local Cup ‘o Change Craig in front of the Cinema 9, first with a Sleeping Ban warrant, then driving him away from his curbside perch near the theater using the new 14’ “no homeless sitting or solicitation” Reilly-Porter law. But commercial signs on side street sidewalks have been ignored.

Disabled homeless local Steve Elliot, who used to sit or stand silently near the Cinema 9 with a sparechange sign, was ordered away on threat of $162 ticket. Until
January, street performers, musicians, and political activists have a more extended zone, but Elliot’s toy synthesizer musical instrument and Craig’s drums were dismissed as “not real instruments” in the police drive to split performers & activists from poor people peacefully, silently soliciting to meet their needs. Elliot now supplies his own chair and sits in one of the few legal spaces--in front of O'Neill's Surf Shop (beyond the 14' forbidden zone), exposed and alone (since it's also illegal to sit with a companion). 95% of the sidewalk is barred to the poor under Downtown Ordinances, that are regularly violated and require selective enforcement.

Police gave out early a dozen “defacing the sidewalk” tickets for chalking erasable anti-war and homeless civil rights messages on the public sidewalk with Sidewalk
Chalk (sold downtown). The City spent at least several thousand dollars trying peace activist Becky Johnson (trial for two more tickets: late November) & artist Tim Rinker with the City Attorney, his wife, two police officers, & 3 other paid officials attending the sentencing hearing (Sentence: $162 fine, converted to 23 hours of community service). Children, Farmers Market business folks, politically-correct Peace activists at Water-and-Pacific and other “protected” classes have been selectively ignored.

Blocking the Sidewalk Tickets were given out en masse to youth seated or standing near the Costa Brava Restaurant, while congestion created by merchant sidewalk sales
stands was ignored. Crowds at the Cinema 9 that regularly block the way are ignored. The tickets were the latest in a long “hippie chase” that involved putting up the Forbidden Fence near New Leaf Market, removing benches in front of the Pacific Cookie Company and Borders, & passing the blatantly anti-homeless Downtown Ordinances.

8 Months of Harassment ended September 27th for activist Robert Norse on another "blocking the sidewalk ticket." Sgt. Baker, on complaint from Sushi Now! owner Matisse Selman, had Norse & Zoe Einbinder taken away in handcuffs from the New Leaf sidewalk in January for the groundless ” tickets--which do not require an arrest, simply a signed citation. Norse's citation was dismissed 8 months later. The City Attorney declined to return calls or give him guidelines on what constituted "blocking the sidewalk." Norse is suing the City in federal court.

Selective Enforcement of Amplified Sound laws have silenced street musicians and drummers, but (last January) allowed the Redevelopment Agency at the Hosts Center to blast out classical music over New Leaf Market as a crowd-dispersing measure & allowed Ali Baba of Ali Baba’s Cafe (repeatedly) to play his own loud music while silencing, arresting, & occasionally assaulting street musicians around his kiosk.

“Sitting on a Planter wall”, Sitting on the Sidewalk in front of Cafes, Sitting on Benches with a Musical Instrument have all been differentially enforced, based on the whims of the police & merchants. Musicians & homeless people have been driven away.

"Displaying merchandise" tickets have been used to denude the downtown of street musicians offering recordings of their music for donation. But merchant display signs placed on the sidewalk are not ticketed.

“Driving While Black or Brown” Several official complaints have already been filed about Officer Wendy Bynes for stopping darker skinned drivers for playing their radios too
loud. Nearby witnesses said there was no disturbance and the stops seemed inexplicable to them and probably racially motivated. The victims claimed as much.

“Excessive Noise” Tickets are threatened or used to expel musicians from anonymous complainants; loud motorcyclists are rarely cited. Sgt. Baker maintains what seems an especially friendly relationship with some of the bikers, a stark contrast to his abusive and hostile treatment of bicyclists like Jen Curry and Sean Duncan last year.

“Sitting on the Sidewalk within 14’ of a...building entrance, telephone, or drinking fountain” is used to harass by both Hosts & Police. A disabled man, Richard Parsons, awaits $162 fine at trial (Nov 6, 10:30 AM Dept. 1) for lying on the sidewalk while at a public
demonstration. Baker’s Bumbusters swooped down on him as he rested there briefly. Until activists intervened, he was not allowed to even sit down. Lying on a bench during the day is a $162 crime for a sleeping homeless man in a park--ticketed without warning.

Repeated and sometimes Brutal Harassment of Peaceful Skateboarders is selectively enforced against youth. On Sunday Oct 20th, police reportedly violent slammed a young man face first into the street in front of Starbucks. Witnesses are wanted.

City Redevelopment Agency & other bureaucratrs plan to destroy more public space by fencing off planter seating areas in front of Costa Brava and Cooperhouse. Downtown-For-All is still awaiting a response from Vice-Mayor Reilly (420-5022) on what is going on here.

City Manager Dick Wilson is dedicating more money to the people-hostile SCPD budget while whining about Utility Tax Repeal. The budget cuts which then come he will direct to social services rather than the bloated police budget or the salaries of department heads like himself who get $150,000+ per year.

Peace Friday 5 PM Friday Oct. 28th, Ocean & Water Sts.
CALL 423-HUFF or 476-6112 to report Police Potshots at the Poor

Vote NO on Recycled Reruns Rotkin, Matthews, & Fitzmaurice...

Vote YES on Argue & Levitt for Santa Cruz City Council !

New Comments are disabled, please visit


A Question

If Robert Norse writes a diatribe and nobody comments, is he still wrong?


Hey "FED UP" didn't your mother ever teach you any manners? You make a rude comment and hide behind a false name. Robert is a hard working activist for the people. Who are you?

Response to Peace

Mr. Argue, yes, my mother raised me to have manners and to be courteous. I was also raised to be respectful but have learned that respect is earned and should not necessarily be extended to everyone. I choose to not disclose my name because I prefer to not be on the receiving end of any so called "direct action" from the local minions from hell,i.e. hosings, vandalism, or whatever else pops into their addled minds. Robert Norse has not earned nor does he deserve any respect from anyone in this community. He is malicious and pathological. You choose to characterize his behavior as being that of a "hard working activist for the people". I choose to characterize his behavior as the mixture of a truly strange hobby and the impulses of a genuinely deranged, unprincipled, manipulative and undisciplined fanatic. You don't approve of me being rude to Robert, well, that's too bad. I don't approve of his or, for that matter, your statements, characterizations and behavior about and toward our city representatives, staff, social workers, police, etc. You folks are not nice. Why in the world would you expect anyone to respond to you in any other fashion?

One Law for the Police; Another for the Public

However hostile "Fed Up" may be to me, I note s/he doesn't challenge any of the facts I've presented in the flyer above. If s/he has anything specific of substance to say, s/he has a chance to do it here.

Another egregious example of selective enforcement happened on Monday October 28th about 4 p.m. in front of Marini's Candies. Officer Jim Howes staffed a SCPD PR table that was less than 6' from the Marini's entrance (which gave out candy and little badges to kids). Nothing wrong with that, except the table was in violation of the Downtown Ordinances--the laws pushed by Chief Belcher and cooked up somewhere between Parks and Rec, Redevelopment, and the SCPD.

Homeless activist James Nay informed Howes and his fellows that the table was illegally placed, in violation of MC 5.43.020a ["no display device shall be placed...within six feet of any building entrance..."]. Howes and the other police officers there refused to move the table.
Nay then asked to fill out a citizen's arrest citation against Howes, other officers (eventually five or six gathered there) refused to fill it out, violating PC 142 which states in part: "Any peace officer who has the authority to receive or arrest a person charged with a criminal offense and willfully refuses to receive or arrest such person shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by
both such fine and imprisonment."

The confrontation went on for approximately half an hour, documented by an audio recording and a number of still photographs.

Nay's right to make a citizen's arrest is guaranteed under PC 837 which reads "A private person may arrest another... for a public offense committed or attempted in his
presence." This includes police officers. The "arrest" need not mean the officer is taken away in handcuffs, only that she or he is cited and given a court date where the matter can be resolved.

All the officers approached by Nay broke the law, those in charge of the table violated MC 5.43.020a. Those who refused to take his citizen's arrest against Howes and other officers violated PC 142.

The point of all this was that police somehow feel they are not only entitled to make laws that they can selectively enforce against "riffraff" that they don't like, but then when the same law is applied to them, they ignore it.

Several days later on Thursday October 31, Nay, I, and several others set up a HUFF table at exactly the same spot where the SCPD had their table. We too gave out literature, Halloween candy for kids, and little badges (Junior Benchguard badges that encouraged kids to protect the benches from being removed by prejudiced merchants and their bureaucrat friends).

Very shortly we were approached by three police officers CSO Hoy, Officer Albert, and Officer Terry who demanded we move the table. When we presented these officers with photographic evidence of the prior police table there and asked that Nay's citizens arrests be accepted and served on the suspect police officers, all three refused, saying they'd send over their sergeant (Jack MacPhillips) who never showed up.

These officers further showed who they felt their real bosses were. They immediately went into Marini's to see if Howes and the officers staffing the police table on Monday had "gotten permission" to violate MC 5.43.020a. Merchants, of course, can't give permission to anyone--police, customers, or relatives to violate municipal codes (even though merchants forced through these codes in hopes that police would selectively enforce them).

We informed the public of what was going on. Nay, not wanting to have to defend himself in court against a $162 ticket for doing exactly what the police were doing, moved the table. It's a stupid law, and police were violating it, but that wouldn't stop a judge from holding he was justified in violating it. Particularly the local commissioners who seem to show such routine deference to City Council wisdom and police practice.

That the police feel they are above the law in Santa Cruz
is nothing new. It's important for us to regain rights stolen under color of law by merchants. 95% of the sidewalk downtown (and in all business districts)has been stolen from the general public--but not the police or the merchants' friends apparently. We need to reclaim it.

It doesn't take many people to do that--peacefully and happily. With holiday shopping season coming up, these kinds of confrontations will soon have a larger audience. It may actually be during this key Thanksgiving to Xmas period that the Sleeping Ban and the Downtown Ordinances can be defeated as merchants realize that the price of these anti-homeless laws is just not worth the negative publicity and boycott activity that ensues.


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