August 8, 2010
Report by Azenith Smith of KION
found online at: http://www.kionrightnow.com/global/story.asp?s=12945748
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - The homeless camp in Santa Cruz is still going on, despite arrests over the weekend. Protesters aren't letting up without a fight and the Sheriff's Department is cracking down.
Sheriff deputies arrested people for violating a state code, California Penal Code section 647e, that makes it illegal to lodge on private or public property without permission from the owner.
Christine Nibheolain was one of the two arrested last night.
"I've never been arrested before," says Nibheolain, "I've never been in trouble before. I figure if I'm going to get arrested, it might as well be for something I believe in."
Nibheolain spent eight hours in jail. The Ireland native joined the homeless camp four days ago, since she says, the shelters are full.
"I'd rather be here illegal and under the lights and know that I'm safe," says Nibheolain.
Like the rest of the homeless camp, she's out there to protest the city's camping ban. It makes it against the law to sleep on public or private property from 11 p.m. to 8-30 a.m.
"I was pretty sure when I came to America that sleeping under the stars at night," says Nibheolain. " wasn't going to be a huge problem and I wouldn't be breaking a law for doing it."
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department say, they started making arrests after getting dozens of complaints from county staff and visitors.
"Complaining about human feces, the trash, public inebriation, loose dogs, foul language, we've had reports of people finding needles," says Lt. Gretchen Hurley.
And they don't plan to stop anytime soon.
"If there's continued violation, there will be continued enforcement," says Hurley.
Camp Organizer Becky Johnson says more arrests could potentially put a stop their protest.
"It's possible that we might decide to end this particular effort and move onto another strategy, and continue our pressure tactics on the city of Santa Cruz," says Johnson.
But, Nibheolain doesn't plan to quit. Despite the arrest, she plans to be out there again.
"It's more likely I'll be here, but I won't be sleeping," says Nibheolain. "But I'll be here for a couple hours."
Central Coast News spoke with Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin who says, he was surprised the Sheriff's office took so long to arrest people, and he's glad that they have finally taken action to remove what he says is a nuisance to the community.