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LOCAL News :: Resistance & Tactics

More Hassles Downtown

Two homeless men got three harassment tickets from Sgt. Loran "Butchie" Baker and his rookie companion. Eric's citation was for leaning against his backpack in a half-prone position ("lying on the sidewalk") and for "improperly" parking his bicycle with handlebars hanging over a planter ("conduct on public property"). Aka received a "littering" ticket for throwing dropping a banana peal in a planter. Sgt. Baker's history. Homeless vehicle sweeps planned.
The City's increased police harassment of young, poor, and counterculture people downtown has led to a rising level of friction and hostility. This evening (Tuesday evening June 27th between 7 PM and 8 PM) I came upon Sgt. Baker ticketing two men "Aka" and Eric. "Aka" received at ticket for dropping a banana peal into a planter, which he explained was a form of composting.

Eric got two citations. The "conduct on public property" $162 ticket was issued because his bicycle was lying with its handlebars over the edge of one of the low-lying planters in front of Border's Bookstore on Pacific Avenue. Eric said he twice moved his bicycle to try to meet Sgt. Baker's stipulations, explaining he couldn't use the bicycle rack, because he didn't have a bicycle lock, so had to keep it close to him.

Eric said he at first thought he'd satisfied Sgt. Baker, went back to leaning against his backpack on the sidewalk in a half-prone position. Shortly thereafter Baker loomed above him and informed him he was giving him several tickets--one for the bike, another for "laying on the sidewalk".

When Eric asked Baker to explain why he was being ticketed, Eric says, Baker refused to talk with him. The Sgt. send out to "monitor" the situation suggested that Eric "read the code section."

Eric said he received warning of neither ticket.
Eric asked to speak to a supervisor, and instead of sending Baker's superior, the SCPD apparently detailed a second sergeant. This man spent twn or fifteen minutes saying he could do nothing, that Eric could "take the matter to court", that he would have "a fair hearing", etc. etc.

Baker is currently the subject of two federal lawsuits for violation of civil rights--one at City Council for false arresting me for a silent "Heil, Mayor" salute. A second for arresting me for political tabling in front of New Leaf Market in January 2002.

Baker has also received local notoriety for surveilling "Merry Monday" and Food-Not-Bombs at Cooper and Pacific, for harassing homeless people with their dogs, for assaulting a female bicyclist, for arresting a homeless man for advising another man of his rights, for harassment of a disabled man for panhandling, and numerous other documented civil rights abuses.

After Baker was accused by nine women of sexual harassment in 1992 for inappropriate searches, the SCPD promoted him and had him declared "Officer of the Year." The D.A.'s office, the SCPD's IA, and another agency found that Baker had not committed criminal activity.

I and others began drawing the attention of passersby to the absurdly heavy police presence in front of Borders, which seemed designed to intimidate young and homeless people hanging out there.

For half an hour a crowd of concerned and curious spectateurs watched while we spoke out asking why more than $100/hour of city police time (two sergeants and a police officer) were standing around--long after the tickets were written. A squad car sat blocking one lane of traffic along Pacific with its yellow lights flashing to deal with the littering/lying on the sidewalk crisis.

The incident followed last week's $7200 railing-repositioning on the Walnut Avenue planter to eliminate 30 sitting spaces--apparently the brainchild of the Redevelopment Agency and the Pacific Trading Company. Baker's latest ticketing took place about 30 feet away from the planter--located in front of the Pacific Trading Company, Costa Brava, and Rosie McCann's.

The low-intensity war against the poor downtown seems to be in full swing. Five blocks up the street from Borders removal of homeless vehicles is on the City agenda. The targeted areas: Washington Street and on Center Street on both sides between Laurel and Pacific, as well as on Front St., South Side between Spurce and Pacific.
Strangely enough all these frontages are non-residential.

See related story: City Targets Homeless Vehicles for more info on this.

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