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24 Hour Vigil 4 Peace @ Town Clock attacked/harrassed

At the Town Clock, vigilers light candles, hold signs, and sleep against the war in Iraq round the clock. Townspeople, students, tourists, and homeless people all demonstrate against an unjust war. But Lt. Patty Sapone has given the Vigil an ultimatum. "Sleep here tonight and you will be cited."
24 Hour Vigil for Peace
at Town Clock suffers attack/police harassment

March 22, 2003
by Becky Johnson



Santa Cruz, Ca. --- After over a week at three different locations on Pacific Ave., the Vigil against 2 Wars has morphed into the 24 Hour Vigil for Peace at the Town Clock. Throughout the day and night, vigilers hold
signs, share food, and light candles as passing motorists honk their horns in support, or on occasion, shout obscenities or throw water bottles at the protesters.

The 24-hour Vigil against 2 Wars had focused on preventing the war in Iraq, and on the ongoing war against the poor locally which is played out by police using selective enforcement to harass those they feel "don't belong"
or who are "causing problems." The City Council's sleeping, sitting, and begging bans as well as its newer Downtown Ordinances which ban "unattended backpacks" and require "1 hr. move alongs" for political tablers have been
used to harass and "move along" homeless and poor people. "We have just as much right to public spaces as anyone else," said Babba "G", a new vigil supporter wearing a long robe and two chrystals suspended from his neck.

The history of Vigil Against Two Wars has been marked by key incidents of police harassment. The Vigil began on March 7th at Cooper and Pacific. In the first few days, police issued five tickets for chalking peace symbols
and slogans on the sidewalk. On March 13, Officer Wendy Bynes intimidated the vigilers into disassembling their table and removing most of their literature by threatening to selectively enforce the 1 hr. move along law, give $162 tickets, and confiscate property. At their next location in front of Border's Book Store, vigilers called police when two drunks assaulted the protest. Police responded by holding the whole protest at gunpoint and then pressured the protesters to move on.

At their location--in the plaza near Jamba Juice--they were physically assaulted twice by Lulu's Carpenter's owner Manifree Srinath after they announced a boycott of the coffee shop in response to Srinath's verbal abuse and refusal to serve "your kind". Vigilers ask the public to respect the boycott and/or ask the owner and workers to change their policy. The vigil then moved to its current location--at the Town Clock.

On Thursday night, nearly a dozen homeless and non-homeless people slept around the base of the Town Clock breaking both the Sleeping Ban MC 6.36.010 (a) and being in a "park" after closing hours. The City Council declared the Clock area a park in 1991 to disperse earlier round-the-clock
protesters.

Yet on Friday morning at 8:00 AM a SCPD officer gently kicked people awake and announced "No sleeping after 8AM." While this order from the woman in blue might make common sense, it is not the law. The law forbids sleeping between the hours of 11PM and 8:30AM anywhere out of doors or in a vehicle.

"The Armory is closed for the weekend," announced Homeless Services Center worker Linda Bradley, earlier this week which leaves space for less than 60 of Santa Cruz's 1500-2000 homeless people. "It closes for good on April 15th." Bradley also put out the call for more churches to sign up to be part of the ISSP program since a lot of churches have dropped off lately.

"We really need more churches to sign up," she said.

Some who sleep in their own legally parked vehicles have faced windshield smashings and heavy vandalism in the last week--according to two reports from the Lighthouse Field area. "I come here, not only because I oppose the war, but because I feel safer here, even with the occasional hoots and jeers from the pro-war people," said one homeless woman.

Olivia Brownrabbit, a Native American organizer, added that the billions being spent on the war with Iraq are billions not being spent on affordable housing and services for homeless people here in the States. Saturday morning, Brownrabbit was assaulted by a man who witnessed described as "deranged." He attacked her as she swept with a broom, knocked her down on the sidewalk, and resulted in a trip to Domincan Hospital for 11 stitches.

Lt. Patty Sapone of the SCPD in the course of taking the report of the assault and supervising the arrest of the suspect, announced that "If people are sleeping here again tonight, they will be ticketed."

"This is what they do every time we call them, " remarked Shelsea Hodge, a UCSC activist from Standing United for Peace. "They turn on the victims; they target us."

HUFF supporters are asking for other peace vigilers to come down with hot coffee, blankets, sleeping bags, cameras, tape recorders, videocameras and legal support to show their opposition to both the war in Iraq and the war against homeless people right here on the streets of
Santa Cruz.


For more information: Call the HUFFline at (831) 423-HUFF
 
 


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Comments

Protests in S.C

As a staunch opponent to war, I respect the right of protest for all of you, but also feel that the protesters and tag-alongs often create substantial problems to local merchants. Santa Cruz is not a city of mass capitalism, wal-mart, and tht like. In an already suffering economy, protesters and the "homeless"(not those truly without homes, but those who prefer to hang out in the street) are increasingly antagonistic to places of business. This is not a political statement, this is simply helping to wreak havoc on those who are trying to make a living in the town. I'm sure that many of you have noticed the empty storefronts lately. It's not because the big companies are struggling, it is because the "little guy" is being pushed out, and is unable to make ends meet. I feel that many times, the actions of some protesters and "homeless" contributes to this. I feel that the clock tower is an appropriate place for the protests, and am in full support of the demonstrations. I do wish, however, that you all may cease the boycott of LuLu carpenters, and focus your energy on the pertinent issue, the slaughter of Iraqis for oil. Common courtesy works wonders with all, and I'm sure had you used the opportunity to frequent the coffee shop in a respectable manner, with means to pay (no one really accepts checks anymore, and there are multiple atm's on Pacific ave.) you easily could have won the approval of the merchant. After all, they are there to make a living, just as the rest of us who are employed in downtown Santa Cruz.
Hoping for Peace,
A concerned citizen of Santa Cruz
 

Optimistic Might Not Be So Sunny If He Were Coffee-

Has Optimistic spoken to the parties in this dispute? Whatever the financial dispute, Manthri Srinath's behavior seemed indefensible to me (if it was as was reported). He declined to tell me (or others who were more middle-class looking than I) an account of what happened. According to the victims and witnesses, Srinath deliberately walked across Pacific Avenue and assaulted a protester with hot coffee==throwing it all over him and his sign.

This was after he verbally abused the two protester/customers trying to buy food and spilled coffee on one of them. He also reportedly stated "we don't want your kind in here".

Perhaps Optimistic could offer to mediate this dispute rather than dismiss one side of it so cavalierly. The police obviously didn't take this view as they accepted Banyan's citizen arrest of Srinath for battery (the coffee throwing outside).

It would be helpful if restaurants and coffee shops downtown adopted a mediation agreement to deal with situations like this. Georgiana's (the cafe that was next to the Bookshop Santa Cruz) successfully mediated problems with a homeless customer. Of course, that was in 1995 before the 1994 Downtown Ordinances became set in stone and preferential selective enforcement by the SCPD became City Council's chosen policy.

Obviously it's going to take protest, pressure, lawsuits, and public opinion to change things now.

Optimistic, step up to the plate!
 

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