in front of Santa Cruz County Courthouse
In response to (the Sentinel's) July 8 "Misguided Mission" editorial, I initiated the "Peace Camp 2010" night-time-only sleep-in 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every night at the courthouse grounds because the Superior Court postponed Robert Facer's three-judge appeal hearing from June to September. I am Mr. Facer's lawyer, and have watched justice be delayed over and over, in this case and others.
More than a year ago, a Santa Cruz policeman, who testified that he had been sent forth in the night by his supervisor because of "complaints from the business owners," shook Mr. Facer awake in the middle of the night, told him to sign a promise to appear or be hauled off to jail, then, after the signature, told him to leave the area and take his belongings with him. He was innocent, because there were no shelter spaces available that night.
A few nights later the same thing happened, and once again, he was innocent. The trial judge found him guilty in both cases, though, because she disliked his attitude toward using publicly provided shelters. When he arrived in Santa Cruz a few years ago, he tried many times to obtain shelter space, but he faced one hurdle after another, and finally gave up trying. Instead, he slept in his own hand-hewn outrigger whenever he could, and on the two nights when he was cited, he was sleeping on the Santa Cruz main beach to guard the anchored craft from a repeat of the kind of vandalism it had recently suffered. In all other cases, the judge
But here's the funny part: Even when she dismisses a case, the system punishes the innocent sleeper: the peace officer breaches the peace by shaking the sleeper awake and threatening jail, depriving him of sleep and health sleep deprivation attacks one's health.
And that's not the end of the punishment: the accused must run three separate errands: to court, where the judge instructs him to obtain proof there was no shelter space; to the shelter center for the no-space affidavit; then, back to court for the official dismissal by the judge.
If the government respected the dignity of each individual, the Police Department would be instructed to merely telephone the Homeless Services Center each night to find out whether there were any shelter spaces available, and when the usual answer comes no spaces, set aside the impulse to please the business owners. Only then will we avoid the pre-judgment punishing of the innocent sleeper.
Our federal and state constitutions prohibit this unreasonable invasion of privacy, this cruel punishment, this perversion of the due process of law.
If we need further guidance, we can look to the first clause of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world ..."
We set our protest at the courthouse, for one simple reason: That is the only place left where freedom, justice and peace in the world can start.
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Linda's Hearth note: I really like Mr. Frey's reply reposted here, written in response to a Santa Cruz Sentinel editoral. photos © Laughing Arts Pharm, by Linda Ellen Lemaster. Top picture: information table sponsored by Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom. Bottom pic: the porta-potty, flanked by our huge bronze County seal with it's California brown bear, viewer's left, and the parking prohibitions signage, right.
Ed Frey is the attorney for Robert Facer. More information: www.EdFreyIndependentForCongress.org