Thursday, August 12, 2010

City vows to enforce camping ban on protestors

"They chase us around, but there really is no place for us to go. They don't have shelter space for us," said Red, a participant in the protest. "They are prosecuting us for something we can't help. That's what the Jones decision was about."

One person was ticketed when a six-week protest of the Santa Cruz camping ban took up residence on the City Hall lawn.

The so-called Peace Camp 2010 changed tactics overnight when campers moved their demonstration from the county courthouse steps to the city property. Protest leader Christopher Doyon said they moved so they could better target the city ordinance that prohibits camping from
11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Officers will return nightly to ticket demonstrators, Deputy Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel said.

"We're not going to issue any warnings," Vogel said. "The people involved in this protest have been warned for the past six weeks."

The Peace Camp demonstration began July Fourth on a swath of county-owned land in front of the Santa Cruz County Superior Courthouse.

In 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Los Angeles ordinance criminalizing people who sleep on the streets when no shelter is available. The decision, issued in Jones v. City of Los Angeles, was later withdrawn as a result of a settlement with the city.

"The Eighth Amendment prohibits the City from punishing involuntary sitting, lying, or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles," wrote Judge Kim Wardlaw.

Although sleeping bans have been ruled unconstitutional and overturned in several California cities, including San Diego, Laguna Beach and Los Angeles, it is still enforced vigorously in Santa Cruz.

Read the Mercury News report here.


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