by Alia Wilson
August 7, 2010
found online at: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_15704659
SANTA CRUZ - Deputies rousted Peace Camp 2010 just after midnight Saturday and according to homeless activists arrested five people and handed out multiple misdemeanor citations.
Up to 60 people have been camping out in front of the county government building since July Fourth protesting the city's camping ban, which prohibits sleeping on public or private property from 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. Saturday's Sheriff's visit marks the third time deputies have been to the camp late at night to document the names and the number of people there, taking photos and video.
Sgt. Roy Morales of the Sheriff's Office returned a phone call Saturday morning to say he was aware some arrests were made but had no information on how many people were arrested or what they were arrested for. He said he thought they would issue a press release later in the evening.
"We cited some people and took a few to jail," Morales said "but I don't know how many."
Around 12:15 a.m., deputies woke up the nearly 40 people sleeping outside the courthouse to inform them they were in violation of the state's anti-lodging law California Penal Code section 647 section e, according to Peace Camp co-founder Becky Johnson. The law states it is illegal for anyone to lodge in any building, structure, vehicle, or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner.
"They went very methodically from person to person waking everyone up, photographing them and asking for their names and IDs," Johnson said. "I don't know who invoked this section of the penal system. We're looking at 20-25 cases of 647e potentially in the Santa Cruz County court system."
According to Johnson, deputies first came to the Peace Camp to hand out a flier that stated: "You are lodging here without permission of the owner or the person entitled to control this property therefore you are not entitled to be here."
The flier says nothing about violating the city's camping ban. Citing the state's lodging code is a tactic not previously deployed by law enforcement.
"I have not heard of anyone being cited for that in this area for several years," Johnson said.
About an hour later, deputies returned and cited those still there alerting them if they did not leave, they would be arrested. Those who did not leave were arrested a short time later, Johnson said. That amounted to five arrests, by her count, one for refusing to sign the citation and another for an outstanding warrant for petty theft.
Johnson, who was at the courthouse camp for a couple of hours this morning, said there were about a dozen people there who planned to stay and sleep and "fully expect the sheriff to come back and fully expect to be arrested."
Johnson said she was surprised that law enforcement was using the state penal code to break up the camp because the misdemeanor charges will require public defenders be assigned to the indigent homeless folks who were cited and potentially result in jury trials.
All photos by Bill Lovejoy at the Santa Cruz SENTINEL Aug 7 2010