Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Homeless camping protest plans to 'sprout like magic mushrooms' at Santa Cruz City Hall

by Jennifer Squires

Aug 11 2010

Article found online at:

SANTA CRUZ - Demonstrators protesting the city's camping ban planned to shift their effort from the county courthouse steps to the City Hall lawn early Wednesday.

The so-called Peace Camp 2010 started July Fourth on the Santa Cruz County Superior Courthouse lawn, but after four consecutive nights of sheriff's deputies ticketing and arresting participants, the demonstration planned to relocate to city property around 3 a.m. Wednesday, demonstration leader Christopher Doyon, 45, reported.

"We are going to sleep and we are going to violate the sleeping ban in a very specific way," Doyon said.

He expected at least 10 participants and planned an early morning press conference.

A city ordinance prohibits camping between 11 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. Peace Camp participants aimed to attack that law, but their demonstration on a county-owned patch of grass in front of the court building caused confusion about what laws applied and which police agency should enforce them.

Sheriff Phil Wowak said that, although the city ordinance applies to the county land because it falls within the town limits of Santa Cruz, the municipal law is only enforceable by Santa Cruz city police.

In the past week, sheriff's deputies have cited more than 20 Peace Camp participants for violating a state anti-lodging law and several, including Doyon, have been jailed for refusing to leave the courthouse encampment.

Doyon said Peace Camp would "vanish like the fog in a breeze" from the courthouse steps and "sprout like magic mushrooms" at City Hall.

The renewed demonstration in front of City Hall will target the city ordinance. It also will be a sleep-only protest without people staying all day, making food and playing music. However, a small contingent will staff an informational table during daytime hours, he said.

The original Peace Camp demonstration drew criticism because it became an all-hours hangout with concerns about trash, human waste and drug use. This week, Wowak hired a private security guard to patrol the protest during the day.

Doyon said the change of venue in no way constitutes a concession by demonstrators, who are calling for the Santa Cruz City County to rescind the sleeping ban and forgive all camping tickets issued since 1978.

"I don't consider it a breakup at all. We're going to move," Doyon said.

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