SANTA CRUZ - A lead organizer of the protest at the county courthouse urged county supervisors Tuesday to stay out of the fray and allow demonstrators to make their case against the city's homeless policies.

"I hope you'll encourage the sheriff not to get involved," said attorney Ed Frey, addressing the Board of Supervisors at its weekly meeting. "These folks are not guilty of any crimes."

The duration of the protest, which began July Fourth and has continued 24 hours a day since, has led to complaints about bad behavior and unhealthy conditions at the County Government building, and many employees and visitors have begun advocating for police action.

Last weekend, sheriff's deputies spoke with demonstrators, who now number in the dozens and have set up several make-shift campsites at the courthouse, but deputies have made no demands nor issued any citations.

"The issue seems to be with the city of Santa Cruz," said county Supervisor John Leopold. "To me it's clear that the protesters want to invite confrontation in order to make their position to the (Santa Cruz) City Council. The question is are we going to play into their strategy."

Leopold said he didn't know if and how the county would respond.

Some campers have said they want to be cited by police to invite a legal showdown. The demonstrations, organizers say, come in protest to the city's ban on camping in public.

"What we're after is just a safe place for people to sleep at night," said Frey. "The ranks of these folks (homeless) are growing every day."

The county courthouse falls within the city limits, and county officials say the city's camping ban can be enforced here.

Notes by Robert Norse:

The protest is described as "making a case against the city's homeless policies". In fact, the protest is about much more than that. There is no walk-in shelter available in the City at all. Police continue to harass and ticket innocent sleepers in other locations who have no shelter options at the whim of the officer or complaining private person.

PeaceCamp2010 serves as a safe sleeping zone for 40-60 people each night form whom the city has no alternatives. The City has 1500-2000 homeless people from whom less than 5% have access to city shelter (on some future night). None of these facts makes it into the article.

The supposed "complaints about bad behavior and unhealthy conditions" resulting in alleged "advocating for police action" by "many employees and visitors" are nowhere documented or itemized.

The Sentinel writer whether intentionally or not seems to be setting the stage for police action based on vague and unsubstantiated concerns. He could instead specify the particular complaints, citations, arrests, etc., but nowhere does so.

A similar attack on the 2007 City Hall "Homies for the Homeless" protest was used to cover an illegal police dispersal of the protest encampment (see "Striking Back Against Sentinel/SCPD Smears and "Progressive" Silence on the Sleeping Ban" at ).

Supervisor Leopold also seems to be clueless about this issues, though as a longtime SCAN (Santa Cruz Action Network) insider, he must know better. SCAN has repeatedly opposed the City Sleeping Ban, though those elected with their endorsement almost invariably have supported it.