Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Community Sleepout #45

The Freedom Sleepers organized their 45th community sleepout at Santa Cruz City Hall on May 17. The activists, some housed and some unhoused, have been organizing the sleepouts once a week since July 4 to protest local laws that criminalize homelessness.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Freedom Sleepers Continue to Sleep at Santa Cruz City Hall

The Freedom Sleepers continue to directly oppose local laws that criminalize homelessness in Santa Cruz. On May 10, they held their 44th community sleepout at City Hall. The activists, some housed and some unhoused, have been organizing the sleepouts once a week since July 4.

A Freedom Sleeper sleeps under the Food Not Bombs canopy in front of Santa Cruz City Hall in the early hours of May 11

Police sweeps of the sleepouts have resumed.

At the most recent sleepout on May 10-11, three Santa Cruz Police Department patrol vehicles arrived shortly before 4am. Officers woke up two people who were sleeping together just inside of City Hall's boundaries, and forced them to move along. The homeless couple simply re-located across the street and slept on the sidewalk in front of the public library. The three police officers also asked activists to move some of their equipment, which was on City Hall property, and then left to patrol the rest of City Hall.

Attendance at the sleepouts was thinly stretched during the winter months, but has been increasing as the weather becomes warmer, which may be the reason for the recent increase in police activity.

Depending on where they chose to sleep at City Hall, participants at the sleepouts have been violating the city's parks trespassing ordinance and/or the city's camping ban, as an intentional act of civil disobedience.

Some of those joining the sleepouts are not activists. They do so because they have nowhere else to go. Some join in order to sleep with a group of people, or to grab a bite to eat, which is often provided by volunteers with Food Not Bombs, among other sources. Many join the group and sleep with very limited bedding on the cold, hard sidewalk.

The city and the police have gone to great lengths to keep the City Hall complex clear of protesters during the sleepouts, which is why most of the activists presently involved have chosen to sleep in front, on the narrow public sidewalk.

The principle demand of the Freedom Sleepers has been for the repeal of the city's camping ban, which bans sleeping in public, with or without bedding, between the hours of 11pm and 8:30am. The camping ban also prohibits sleeping in cars.

Some participants stay the night at City Hall to protest specific aspects of the criminalizition of homelessness they have encountered personally.

One protest sign on display at the May 3 sleepout criticized the early morning homeless sweeps and forced wake-ups that are conducted daily on city properties by security guards with First Alarm. First Alarm arrives early each morning to clear out people sleeping at public parking lots, the Library, City Hall, and the Civic Auditorium.

Participation at the sleepouts has included many different activists working on a wide range of approaches to ending the criminalizition of homelessness. Over the course of the protests, many different plans have been discussed that propose increased access to public lands and facilities.

Most recently, the sleepouts have been the center of organizing around a campaign to open City Hall's public restroom as a 24 hour facility. Advocates have been circulating a petition to gather signatures in support of the proposal, in addition to reaching out to the city council.

Community Sleepout #44 on May 10-11

Community Sleepout #44

Community Sleepout #44

Community Sleepout #44

Community Sleepout #44. At 4am police arrive and move-along this sleeping couple

Community Sleepout #44

Community Sleepout #43 on May 3-4

Community Sleepout #43

Community Sleepout #42 on April 26-27

Community Sleepout #42

Community Sleepout #42

Community Sleepout #42

Community Sleepout #42

Community Sleepout #43

Community Sleepout #43

Community Sleepout #42

Thursday, May 5, 2016

May Day in Santa Cruz Sees Visits to the Boardwalk and New Leaf Market

International Workers Day was honored on May 1 in Santa Cruz with a march in support of two food justice issues of particular concern locally: the international boycott of Driscoll's, which is headquartered in Watsonville, and the fight to preserve the Beach Flats Community Garden.

Marching down Pacific Avenue

The march began at Santa Cruz City Hall and made its way to the downtown New Leaf Market, where a large group of demonstrators entered the popular natural foods store. Inside the market, a letter signed by community members was delivered to the business asking them to honor the Driscoll's boycott and to stop selling the brand's berries.

From New Leaf, community members marched to the Beach Flats Community, and then on to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where gardeners and community members delivered a letter to the Seaside Company asking that the business work with the city to preserve the entire Beach Flats Garden for the gardeners. On April 26, the Santa Cruz City Council formalized a lease agreement with the Santa Cruz Seaside Company that only preserves 60% of the garden for public use for three years.

After leaving the Seaside office, the march ran parallel to the Boardwalk down Beach Street to the wharf, before ultimately returning to the Beach Flats Garden for snacks. Jardíneros spoke at a number of locations along the march route, and in addition to the greater community, there was strong support from UC Santa Cruz students.

Gathering outside of New Leaf Market

Inside New Leaf

Marching next to the Beach Flats Garden

Marching to the Boardwalk and the Seaside Company office

An officer with the SCPD followed the group to the Boardwalk

Rallying in the Beach Flats before delivering the letter to the Seaside Company

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Delivering the letter to the Seaside Company

Inside the guest services office

Marching at the Boardwalk

Beach Street

Marching to the wharf

Speakers were heard on the wharf

The march returns to the Beach Flats Garden

Spring in the Beach Flats Garden

The newly configured Beach Flats Garden. The City of Santa Cruz bulldozed 40% of the garden and installed an orange fence to mark the area the Seaside Company (the owner of the property) intends to take back.