Sunday, January 3, 2016

Santa Cruz Police Block Individuals Documenting Arrest at Freedom Sleepers Protest

The Freedom Sleepers encountered the first real rain of the season at their latest community sleepout held at Santa Cruz City Hall on November 24. Since July 4, a group of unhoused and housed activists, many of whom call themselves "Freedom Sleepers" have slept at Santa Cruz City hall every week to protest local laws that criminalize homelessness and the act of sleep. The next sleepout is planned for tonight, December 1, again at Santa Cruz City Hall.

SCPD arrests a person sleeping at City Hall

Due to the extreme weather on November 24, the majority of those attending the protest chose locations to sleep that were sheltered from the rain and wind. After the evening's city council meeting had concluded, one individual lay in a blanket in the walkway that leads to the main office in the city hall complex, which has a roof and is covered. The walkway also leads to council chambers, which is the location where the city council's agendas are posted for public display.

The individual, who appeared to be sleeping, was contacted by two First Alarm security guards shortly after the city council meeting adjourned. The security guards did not understand that City Hall was open past 10 pm when there was a city council meeting in session, and one of the guards, Christian Foguet, became angry with protesters when they approached the sleeping man to support him.

Council Member Micah Posner addressed the security guards, in an attempt to calm tensions between them and the mixed group of community members present, and the guards left the area.

At 12:30 am, which was about an hour after the security guards left, a dozen or more officers with the Santa Cruz Police Department arrived to confront the one sleeping individual.

Deciding to arrest the person, one officer poked at the sleeper and then used their foot to nudge at the person, who was wrapped up in their blanket.

After peeling the blanket off of the individual, the officer rolled the person on their side and handcuffed them.

At one point, police could be heard discussing an idea to line up in order to block the view of the arrest from the public, but after a brief attempt to do so, it was apparent there were not enough officers assembled to successfully do so.

Officers as a group then walked the individual in handcuffs to a patrol vehicle.

As the person was being moved into the vehicle, one police officer constantly shined a light into the lens of this reporter's camera, and then physically blocked it with a flat hand gesture.

Two other community members who were filming the arrest also reported that this same officer had shined a bright light at them in order to block them from video recording the arrest with their cell phones.

When SCPD Sergeant David Forbus, who appeared to be leading the police raid on the protest, was asked to stop the officer from shining his light and blocking the camera, Forbus refused.

After the police left, most of the Freedom Sleepers slept until the morning, but some stayed up all night due to the rain.

Police did not return to the protest again until just after 6:30 am, when one officer cleared people out of the landscaping area next to the library saying they had received a complaint that people were "camping" there. The Library's roof extends far enough to create a narrow dry area next to the building, and people had sought shelter there.

Another view of police blocking this reporter's camera (contributed video):

First Alarm guards make first contact with the sleeper

Police arrive and begin to take the blanket away

Santa Cruz City Hall

During the City Council meeting the Freedom Sleepers set up in the hallways

The Freedom Sleepers set up a modest food table, which included dog food for pets

Some Freedom Sleepers slept in the dry area next to the Library

A person covered with a blanket sat upright like this for some time next to the Library

First Alarm guard Christian Foguet gets aggressive with community members, Council Member Posner steps in and tells him to call the police:

Christian Foguet

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