Saturday, July 10, 2010

Homeless Break The Law In Santa Cruz To Make A Point

Posted: 10:04 pm PDT July 6, 2010Updated: 1:48 am PDT July 7, 2010

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- For the third night in a row, there are people breaking the law and camping out in front of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse. They are calling this a Peace Camp.

Protest organizer attorney Ed Frey said they are deliberately breaking the law. "It's in the city limits of the city of Santa Cruz, so it's definitely a violation of the city ordinance which is called the camping ban."

Santa Cruz's 40 year old camping ban makes it illegal for anyone to sleep out in the open in public places.

The demonstrators say they want the law scrapped or have the city create more shelters.

"I don't think it's right because you have to go somewhere. They have no where to sleep and they have to have somewhere to sleep," said Carolyn Delvecchio, who is homeless.

Frey organized the protest after a judge ruled a client of his violated the sleeping ban. He even brings a portable toilet and says they clean up the area before they leave at eight in the morning and don't interfere with courtroom operations.

"We assert the right to be free from cruel punishment under the California constitution and the Geneva convention. It is torture to deprive people of sleep," said Frey.

KTVU could not reach any city officials Tuesday night.

But the Santa Cruz Vice Mayor told the Sentinel newspaper: "If they think it's unconstitutional, they should challenge it. If they want to change the policy, they should have people run for city council. I don't think camping out is the most effective way to create the change they want."

"There's plenty of homeless places they can go. There's facilities that people will take them in," argued Ann Pfaff of Santa Cruz.

A census count listed some 200,000 homeless in Santa Cruz County but just 200 shelter beds available in the city of Santa Cruz.

One woman brought some potato salad for the campers. "There's so many people that need a place to sleep if there's a reasonable place for them to be seems to be reasonable to me," said Barbara Ginsberg of Santa Cruz.

A sheriff's department spokesman told KTVU while the campers are breaking the law, there have been no complaints and there is no need to do anything about it right now.

A similar demonstration three years ago lasted six days before police started confiscating belongings.

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