Editorial by Becky Johnson
July 18, 2010
Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Many people know that I have taken sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and often oppose the point of view expressed by the Resource Center for Nonviolence. The co-coordinator for its Mideast program is Scott Kennedy, a former mayor of Santa Cruz. On July 16th, Kennedy wrote to Robert Norse and myself and asked that his letter not be published. Because of his request, I will only address the points he made without publishing his entire letter per his request.
Kennedy, who has decidedly leftist credentials, has been far more right-wing when it comes to managing homeless issues. When on the council and while serving as mayor, Kennedy supported the Sleeping Ban and the Blanket Ban. Kennedy acted in concert with current Mayor, Mike Rotkin back in 1995 to forcibly shut down the Coral Street Open Air Shelter displacing the remaining 35 people to go live under bridges and in the bushes. Kennedy pushed to expand the sitting ban from 6' to 14', even on sidewalks that are less than 14' wide. And Kennedy has tangled with HUFF before.
In 2004, Scott Kennedy ordered Robert Norse arrested for whispering in the ear of a man attending a City Council meeting. Norse was arrested for "disrupting a public meeting" despite that the official city council recording of the "disruption" was completely inaudible. Norse was never prosecuted. Norse briefly added Kennedy to his federal lawsuit against the City for a false arrest in 2002. That case, minus the Kennedy portion, is currently being considered by an en banc panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case has already cost the City over $100,000 to defend the City councilmembers and counting. If Norse wins, the City will be forced to pay much more.
Kennedy ridicules us for choosing the Courthouse steps which, although located within the City limits, are managed by the County of Santa Cruz and county ordinances apply. Our Sleep-in has managed to find the one piece of land within the City limits where the Sleeping Ban does not apply. That, in essence, makes it an oasis from Santa Cruz' Sleeping Ban.
I suppose his argument makes sense if we were TRYING to get arrested for sleeping. The opposite is true. We don't want anyone arrested or even disturbed for sleeping. Our Sleep-in is AGAINST the Sleeping Ban, and those tickets do eventually wind up being adjudicated in that very same courthouse.
In his letter, Kennedy writes that his Palestinian intern would " be far more interested in seeing illegal settlements located themselves in the USA than in his homeland."
Is Kennedy saying that the homeless of Santa Cruz who have no legal place to sleep at night are similar to Orthodox Jews in the West Bank who have staked out homes on their ancestral lands despite a Palestinian government which is hostile to such settlements?
Well, most of those experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz last had housing in Santa Cruz County. So it IS their homeland. Are they allowed to live in their own homeland? Not according to Kennedy and the current City Council. Kennedy is against allowing his own economic refugees the right to sleep at night, or to cover themselves with blankets in order to keep warm, and considers a peaceable assembly of the dispossessed akin to "an illegal settlement." Maybe the shoe does fit.
The other point Kennedy makes in his unpublished correspondence is this:
establishes an expectation that many reasonable people think is beyond possible achievement. "
This is Kennedy warning us against trying to achieve too much. And to do so, he has to mis-characterize our demands as "demanding the lifting of the Camping Ban." Kennedy is counting on his middle-class supporters finding the idea of a tent city abhorrent. When on the West Bank, Kennedy points to tent cities as evidence of Israeli malfeasance. But locally, when in power, he sends in his own jackboots to shut them down and banishes the inhabitants to a shadowy existence where sitting on a sidewalk only 13' from a building is a crime and to close your eyes at night to sleep is against the law.
When in Gaza, Kennedy rails against Israeli bulldozers used to destroy homes.
When in Santa Cruz, Kennedy has no problem bulldozing red-tagged properties and then bills the property owner for the expense of the demolition. When in Israel, Kennedy denounces "apartheid" but when at home, Kennedy supports a war on the poor that provides shelter to 6% (in summer) and criminalizes the rest when they try to sleep at night discreetly in public places.
The Resource Center for Nonviolence sponsored a blanket drive in 2002 to send to relieve Afghan refugees fleeing American troops in snowy mountain passes. Those same blankets, if used by a homeless man in Santa Cruz could rate them a $97 citation with the blanket seized as "evidence" of the "crime" of keeping warm. Kennedy has made no move in 20 years to suspend or repeal the Sleeping Ban or the Blanket Ban, the subsections of the Camping Ban which constitute a human rights violation of the order that local attorney, Ed Frey, HUFF, concerned citizens, and about 25 homeless people continue our Sleep-in for Justice on the courthouse steps. We just completed our 12th night and no one is talking of quitting.
This is what we are seeking:
The suspension of ticketing under MC 6.36.010 section a, also known as the Sleeping Ban, MC 6.36.010 section b, also known as the Blanket Ban as cruel and unusual punishment serving no public benefit.
Some of the residents of Peace Camp 2010 think we should add yet another demand: amnesty for past tickets. I support that as well.