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24 Hour Vigil for Peace

24 Hour Vigil for Peace

Santa Cruz Homeless & Non-homeless
Unite Against the War in Iraq

March 25, 2003
by Becky Johnson

Santa Cruz, Ca. --- Even before the bombs began to fall in Baghdad, a small
band of people, both homeless and non-homeless, began the 24-hour Vigil to End Two
Wars. The war against Iraq loomed, but the war against Santa Cruz' homeless people was
ongoing. HUFF activists and others set out to show the emergency of the time with
candles, cookies, and coffee at Cooper St. and Pacific Ave. to distribute literature,
band together for comfort, and to demonstrate that not everyone in America was gung ho on
a war with Iraq.


One of the offerings of the Vigil was the Peace Scroll which lay unfurled to
a blank spot, and colorful markers and crayons invited all members of the community to
write a message of peace on the scroll. "What are you going to do with the scroll
when its done?," one man asked who had stopped by to talk with vigilers. We told him
we were going to videotape it, then have fifty people carry it all through town
Chinese paper dragon-style and then roll it up and mail it to George W. Bush.

"I'll supply the vaseline," he offered.


"T.J." in his long coat, bandana around his head, and his piercing blue
eyes, set his own vigiling record of over 40 hours in a row at the Vigil and without sleep.
He remains a one of the main forces at the vigil. Gabe, a high school student, considers the
vigil to be his primary focus right now. Shelsea Hodges, who's original impetus began the
Vigil, is a UCSC student and also working with Standing United for Peace. "Dopey" who's
intelligence belies his assummed moniker, shaved his head into a blue
mowhawk as part of "Mohawks for Peace".

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 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 Santa Cruz 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 Ji,
a new vigil supporter wearing a long robe with two large crystals suspended from his


At the stroke of midnight on March 11th, the demonstrators at the
Vigil Against Two Wars, began their event, Sex for Peace. Inspired by
groups of mostly young males who continually drove by the Vigil at unsafe speeds
shouting something like "F__K peace!!", vigilers were inspired to schedule a
very special round of civil disobedience for the cause of world peace.

"A piece for peace!" vigil-goer, Yani proclaimed. Throughout the day,
vigilers invited people to return at midnight and have Sex for Peace. "Bring the sexual
partner of your choosing and come to Cooper St. and Pacific Ave. at midnight!" announced
Robert Norse of HUFF. Most members of the public seemed keen on the event.

One man, who admitted sadly that he had no sexual partner, offered to attend
and provide backup if asked.

Two minutes to midnight, Sgt. Pruger and five other police officers arrived
in four police cars, temporarily interrupting some heavy necking for peace.
Officer Kline , when informed that the SCPD had arrived just in time for the
"Sex for Peace" event, advised vigil organizers that the indecent exposure ordinance
would be enforced. "Its a misdemeanor, and I highly recommend against it," warned
Officer Kline.

The organizers explained that sometimes at demonstrations, people do commit
civil disobedience for the cause of the greater good. Police officers then
examined the two non-commercial display devices for conformity to the 6 foot by
3 foot by 6 foot rules that limited the size of a table. Police left satisfied for the moment.

One very dedicated couple disappeared beneath the HUFF protest table, and
vigilers placed several protest signs around the table. They proceeded to give it
their all for the greater good of mankind. Such was their dedication and perseverance, that
long after 1PM they were still actively pursuing the cause of peace. "Take that Ashcroft!"
the dedicated peace worker mumbled from beneath the table. One elderly onlooker commented
"When they say 'Make Love, Nor War', they ain't kiddin'."


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. Later, one vigil supporter drew the attention of six police officers for chalking
"No War" next to his car on the street as well as a $162 citation. He used the opportunity
to loudly educate the public about police selective enforcement against peace and homeless

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 next 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 They continued to vigil below the World War I monument minus a table, minus
chairs, and minus all but a few signs given Officer Wendy Bynes confusing instructions
over what a legal non-commercial display consisted of versus an illegal one.


On March 20th, the night the bombing started, nearly a dozen homeless and
non-homeless people gathered at the Town Clock with candles, signs, and drums.
The Vigil Against Two Wars simply became the 24-Hour Vigil for Peace. The news
of the bombing was sobering. Even the police attitude seemed to change. Vigilers
stayed and 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


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. One homeless woman at the Vigil told HUFF "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."

Olivia Brownrabbit, a Native American Vigil organizer, was assaulted by a
man who witnesses described as "deranged." He attacked her as she swept with a
broom, knocked her down on the sidewalk, and resulted in a trip to Dominican 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.
"They turn on the victims; they target us."


Dopey set up some madrone branches with yarn strung between them. Over the
yarn he hung bunches of wisteria and roses. As he and other vigilers hung more
flowers, yarn, and branches, the Running Peace Fence was built. Not only was
it a delight to see, it wafted a floral fragrance as a backdrop to the Collateral Damage statue monument
which vigilers had decorated with candles and flowers as well. Officer Tomacelli did not
agree. "It's an illegal structure," she announced and insisted it be removed "..because you
can't have a structure on public property without a permit." As a non-commercial
display, Dopey's Running Peace Fence did not conform to the 6 foot by 3 foot by six foot
display device limitations set forth by city ordinance.
"But its art!" Dopey wailed. Tomacelli returned with Officer Phelps and two
other CSO officers to demand the yarn covered flowers be removed.

HUFF noted that "No display of flowers without a permit" needed to be added
to the other forbidden activities the police had already insisted on, such as the
"No tarot card reading without a permit" $162 citation issued by Officer Brandt to Jason
Paschal, a black homeless man who Brandt observed receiving a dollar following giving a tarot
card reading. Within the last year, Paschal had been targeted for possessing
hypodermic needles (he's a diabetic) and asking for a donation (panhandling within 3'
of a person) as well as forced to move his "spiritual reading" off of the flat concrete
water pipe box onto a table of his own making (no non-commercial displays on public property).

And just down the street from Paschal the Vigil continued to create a
"liberated zone" in spite of gentrifcation laws against blowing bubbles, playing hacky-sack,
tossing a frisbee, playing hopscotch, or bouncing a ball. Olivia Brownrabbit's modus operandi
was "to kill 'em with kindness", she said, "though when I first came down and started
taking police badge numbers, cause they were harassing the kids, police took my property
four times in three hours, saying it was 'unattended.' On the eight-block walk to and
from the police station, I met lots of supporters."
At presstime, City police had announced the concrete triangle around the town clock,
a traditional vigiling place, was a park with closing hours 1AM to 6AM moving the protestors to the
sidewalk and presenting 5 vigilers with $162 camping tickets for being asleep. In Baghdad,
a fresh round of bombs fell.

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