Sunday, May 27, 2012

Homelessness Is Not A Crime, a Lemaster/Pleich Opinion Editorial

For A Healthy Community ~~
Homeless People Must Not 
Become Our Scapegoats

by Linda Ellen Lemaster and Steve Pleich

posted:   05/27/2012 01:30:41 AM PDT

No words can describe the depth of sadness we feel as a community over the recent and shocking murder of Shannon Collins, which took place midday in a Santa Cruz neighborhood. How can we best -- while sharing our grief and despite our differences -- respond to such a senseless tragedy in ways that reflect the true measure of our community? 

In solidarity with our neighbors, we are speaking from our heartfelt concern about a generally anti-homeless policy package that now would attach itself to our grief, to our collective fears and to our rightful rage.

At this time when our community is most in need of strong, creative, compassionate leadership, an ad hoc committee of three Santa Cruz City Council members presents a slate of new policies and regulations that echo the fear and anger many in our community share. Taken together, their package affords none of the depth of reason and cooperation we sorely need in this dark hour. These proposals would prove, by turns, to be harmful, impractical and arguably unlawful.

Let's not make already dicey tensions morph into a greater conflict. Rather, let's work more closely with our neighbors, all: housed, homeless, transitioning, students, even our guests. Restoring and creating a better community can include every one of us, and we can develop policies that could actually generate greater safety and human dignity -- we all, including homeless human beings, deserve this.

We can lead with compassion and hang onto the notion that every human being deserves dignity. We are offering community engagement rather than a widened divide. Civic safety must include everyone. Make no mistake about who we are calling homeless. We have learned through careful studies, professional surveys every other year, and one-to-one interviews, that 67 percent of the people who are homeless on our streets either grew up here, or were formerly established residents in Santa Cruz. Nationally, adult homeless men, both by personal choice and by exclusive policies, are dying 25-35 years prematurely. Working together, we can help change this grim picture, at least locally.

If the city of Santa Cruz needs to suppress needed emergency sheltering for which it shares responsibility, or to divert city funding to manipulate trafficking of homeless people through our city as if they were of a subclass, or even a subspecies, it behooves everyone, including the city attorney, to create a less reactive and way more inclusive approach beforehand.

We feel the agenda of this ad hoc group promises limited safety while ensuring greater fear, an expanded underground economy that will touch us all, and increased criminalization of uprooted folks that will waste even more court, jail and other staffing resources. Collaborating with the county's mental health resources is already legally required of the city and focused civic leadership is long overdue, as is restoring funds for an existing homeless resource officer within the Santa Cruz Police Department.

"We all know that there are problems with the system, that there is a large transient population in our city, and that Santa Cruz has its issues," shared Ken Vinson in a courageous public statement right after his wife and best friend was suddenly, tragically, killed. "But I want to be very clear about one thing: none of these things caused this horrific crime. A single individual did. ...

"This crime could have occurred in any city in any state across our union. It is an utter, unfathomable tragedy that it occurred here, and to such a beautiful, young woman. But I implore you: Do not blame the system. Do not blame an entire population. And most of all, do not blame Santa Cruz."

We agree. If we permit our civic leaders to promote greater bigotry and to further scapegoat homeless people, we will again see increased "troll busting." There are better solutions, many already in the works, more needing community collaborators; community-based solutions which protect everyone's human dignity and don't further trample human and civil rights.

Linda's Hearth note:  
This Op Ed essay was published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Sunday May 27, 2010.  Steve Pleich is director of Homeless Persons Legal Assistance Project and Linda Ellen Lemaster facilitates Housing NOW! in Santa Cruz.  Both are active in community groups engaged with ending or easing homelessness, including the Interfaith network and Homeless Action Partnership.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rally on behalf of Santa Cruz Eleven, pictures: see more at Indybay Santa Cruz

A few glimpses of the Rally on behalf of the Santa Cruz Eleven
photos from Indybay Santa Cruz, by Bradley Allen

As you can see, there were many MORE THAN forty people at this Rally. the daily paper claimed 40. That's me, left just past flags/furled up banners, with hat and maroon hatband, beside Becky Johnson in shades and her blue shirt. Steve Pleich, red shirt, middle-ground of pic, pointing. Left very front, Brown Berets begin the March to Support the Santa Cruz Eleven.

see, to get informed, keep up, or to help out

TENT MOB in Santa Cruz Friday May 25: Three Hour Camp-In starts at 4 pm

TENT MOB! Yes We Can! -- 
from OSC's Denica and Brent

    • 4:00pm until 7:00pm
  • In celebration of our highly successful past tent camp community and courthouse steps Occudome Plaza, we will again be erecting tents.

    We will show up on Friday May 25 at 4 pm and begin erecting our tent village. We will play music, dance and have fun with each other. The drive-time traffic will take note of our new Occupy Village.
    The first definition of the term "occupy" in Webster's dictionary is "to engage the attention or energies of,"

    Then... we will take our tents down.
    We may not be able to stage a longterm camp but we can hold it for a couple of hours "hit n' run" guerilla style.

    ∆∆∆ ♥ On Friday, May 25th, come to Santa Cruz Courthouse Steps -- with your tent if you have one!! From 4PM — 7PM We will have a solidarity event with the Ad Busters May 18th "Laugh Riots"! Come to GA for further planning before Friday the 25th - Wednesdays @ 6PM — the Santa Cruz Courthouse and Sundays @ 2PM — the Santa Cruz Post Office. ♥ ∆∆∆

Linda's Hearth note:
The picture above is from November 2012, and it features Robert Facer's Teepee, which seemed to invite others into the San Lorenzo Park benchlands in City of Santa Cruz, near Occupy Santa Cruz and the County Courthouse on Water St. 

Facer, who was a catalyst alongside Ed Frey in Peacecamp2010 which is now being followed by the 'Legal Lodging War' still unfolding in court, died two weeks ago in Monterey. He participated with both Santa Cruz and Monterey Occupiers. 

RIP Robert, we miss you.

I do not hawe any tent, had given away both tent and sleep-bag last October '12. But I intend to be there Friday anyway. 

Those little dome shaped pup tents have become as much an Icon of the Occupy Movement around the world in the same way ha shopping carts invoke displaced homeless folks in America. 

Join us if you can!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Goodbye Robert Facer, Monterey Herald newspaper

A life spent with nature ends

'Spaceman Bruce' took final kayak trip to Monterey

Monterey Herald, Staff Writer

Click photo to enlarge
A sea otter leads the way as Robert Bruce Facer paddles... (ERIKA MCPHEE-SHAW/Special to The Herald)
Robert Bruce Facer walked through life one barefoot step at a time, entirely at his own pace.
That life ended after 65 years on April 15 in Monterey, the final stop of a journey worthy of poets and mythologists.
Facer was a raggedy man who was homeless by choice, not circumstance. His floppy hat, tattered clothes and ever-shoeless feet attracted strange looks wherever he wandered — and it's hard to imagine anyone ever wandered farther. Between 1984 and 2012, Facer traveled more than 4,000 miles, from Alaska to Monterey, exclusively by foot and kayak. He lived a humble but amazing life, leaving in his wake a lot more friends and admirers than he probably realized.
"I wouldn't describe him as a unique child — not at all. I'd say he was very run-of-the-mill," says his sister, Mary Beth Nowinski, who lives in Maryland. "He began to change, I think, in the '60s, when young people were experimenting and dropping out. That's when he started making different choices in his life."
The son of a U.S. Navy pilot, Facer graduated from high school in Hawaii, then spent a short time at Claremont College before wanderlust took him to Seward, Alaska, two hours north of Anchorage by car.
Facer became so enamoured with nature in Alaska that he tore down a wall of his home — the entire wall — to allow wildlife to roam through.
He became a fixture and well-known character in the small community, where people called him "Spaceman Bruce" and local
police often arrested him for his own well-being for refusing to wear shoes in temperatures that often dropped below zero.

In the mid-1980s he told friends he planned to venture south, to California. By then, Facer was referring to himself as an Amish minister, and, in accordance with the religious convictions of the Amish, he no longer traveled by any kind of motorized vehicle — cars, planes, trains or mechanically powered boats. So he walked.
"He walked into the interior of Alaska and the Yukon Territory without shoes in the depth of winter," writes Steve Conway, a friend from Seward, on a website dedicated to Facer's memory. "He also said he would not use any bridges to cross a river. He planned to (ford) every stream and river."
Facer traveled more than 500 miles by foot to the Canadian border, where, because of a marijuana conviction, lack of money and no identification, he was turned away. So he walked back to Alaska, where he found work on the Exxon Valdez cleanup. He spent those earnings on a kayak for another journey to the U.S. mainland by water.
Facer's 4,000-mile journey by foot and kayak took 19 years — a series of 200- to 350-mile treks, with season-long camping and fishing breaks when the weather was intolerable. His primary food was salmon, berries and whatever he could get from the wild.
Though he traveled almost entirely alone, paranoia was his companion as he kayaked into Canada, where he feared being arrested by the Canadian Coast Guard or Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He eventually paddled into Washington, where he began to suffer from a congenital heart condition that he treated with herbs and diet.
Facer nearly drowned when his kayak became swamped as he crossed the mouth of the Columbia River. He barely made it to shore on the Oregon side, then walked the shoreline to the southern part of the state, where he found another kayak.
When that boat broke apart in California, the sojourner built himself a third vessel from fiberglass, Styrofoam, PVC pipe and metal — parts he'd found in Sebastopol — and took to the water again.
"The first time I ever saw him was in Berkeley, near People's Park, where I was working with an outreach team," says homeless advocate Ronee Curry of Aptos, who became one of Facer's closest friends. "He was so unique-looking that I reached out and grabbed him by the arm. That freaked him out, but I just wanted to know who he was."
They chatted. He reluctantly permitted her to take his picture. In 2007 he paddled from Marin County to Santa Cruz and wandered into an Episcopal church, where he asked to use a bathroom. Curry happened to be running a youth coffeehouse there at the time, and recruited him to help out in the kitchen.
"I found him to be a very articulate person, but he didn't think the way we think. He looked at life in a very different way from the rest of us," she says.
Acceptance came reluctantly from the Episcopalian community, she says, and Facer, feeling rejected, disappeared. Curry says she went before the church vestry on Facer's behalf.
"They really weren't used to having homeless people around, especially somebody as different as Robert," she says. "But after that, they actually went out and found him, brought him back, gave him keys and allowed him to hang out at the church."
On Easter 2011, he allowed himself to be baptized in the church, though Curry theorizes he did it more for the church than out of a desire to become Episcopalian. "He was a person who just wanted to be liked," she says. "He'd do things to please other people, not for himself."
Facer's relationship with the church was a major inspiration for a nightly dinner there that nowadays feeds 180 homeless people every night, she says.
Known in Santa Cruz as "Blind Bear" or "Featherhat," Facer became regular among the locals who gather downtown to participate in a drum circle. He moved into the Occupy Santa Cruz camp, constructing a large teepee among the tents that he christened as a Mosaic temple. Though he never slept there himself, Facer selflessly offered the structure to others in need of shelter. But when the Occupiers began to clash with authorities, and his teepee was destroyed, he went back to the water.
His attempt to paddle from Santa Cruz to Monterey last October was detoured when high winds blew him ashore in Moss Landing. Alarmed by his unusual appearance, locals called the police.
"The cops came, spoke to him for a few minutes and allowed him to dock there," Curry says. "They recognized that he was such a gentle person and let him stay."
He moved again in February, this time paddling across the bay into Monterey Harbor, where harbor personnel were equally accommodating.
"Robert was a free spirit, a breed of a different sort," says Scott Pryor, marine operations supervisor at Monterey Harbor. "He was a very pleasant person to talk to — a very quiet, humble, soft-spoken man who didn't drink, didn't do drugs, didn't bother a soul."
Facer was permitted to park his dilapidated, homemade kayak in the harbor. He preferred to sleep on the beach. He spent his days walking barefoot around Monterey, toting 93 pounds of belongings, sunbathing on the beach, sometimes bodysurfing in the freezing water wearing only shorts.
On April 14, certified nursing assistant Debbie Pryor, Scott's wife, noticed him hunched over on a bench near the wharf.
"He looked like he wasn't feeling very well, so I stopped to talk to him," she says. "He said, 'I think I'm having a heart attack.'"
Pryor called 911, but Facer, consistent with his Amish beliefs, was reluctant to go to the hospital, especially via ambulance. Eventually he relented and was taken to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, where he died the following day.
"I was at his bedside when he passed away," Curry says. "They gave him the option of surgery — a heart valve was malfunctioning, causing his lungs to fill up — but he said he didn't want to be cut open like a fish."
Before he died, he gave Curry his hat. She also kept some of his ashes — the rest was sent to his family — along with his 93 pounds of belongings.
In addition to his sister, Mary Beth, Facer is survived by his 92-year-old father, Gordon, and another sister, Patricia Icke, who lives in Virginia.

Dennis Taylor can be reached at 646-4344 or

Friday, May 4, 2012

Four of Santa Cruz Eleven Freed at Pre Trial Hearing, District Attorney threatens to Refile Charges Against These Innocent Occupiers

This editorial on behalf of the Santa Cruz Eleven, in response to the GOOD TIMES' May Day Update written by John Malkin. Malkin and I are allies. When it existed, we both attended City of Santa Cruz's  Civilian Police Review Board meetings. At the first day of the Pre Trial Hearing he reports in this week's GOOD TIMES, I was fortunate to be sitting next to Malkin, coveting his shorthand ability. 

I tried to attach this editorial below his recent GT article, but the digital censor said it was "too short." So am posting it below. The GOOD TIMES article posted at Linda's Hearth just prior to editorial.

D.A. Obscures the Crimes and Threatens Four Indicted Defendants Despite Judge Burdick's Release During Pre Trial

by Linda Ellen Lemaster
for Linda's Hearth

Santa Cruz County
Board of Supervisors
701 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz, CA  95060

Dear Chairperson and Members:

I believe Santa Cruz County District Attorney's office has been out of line in their broad sweeping approach to the break-in -- considering California's budget woes (shutting down schools, whole cities, and even the courts' "furlough Friday" cuts) -- there is NO legitimate excuse for what they are doing. They decided to indict innocent folks, pretending on behalf of "the People" that those particular eleven defendants have committed crimes, while squandering YOUR taxes and Superior Court resources on a grand scale, just to make a dog-n-pony show for citizens. It's a sham.

Maybe they CAN, indeed, further trash some of the people whom they're targeting for prosecution. And by sleight-of-word and obscuring what really went on, even get some convictions. But it will truly be a miscarriage of "justice" if that happens. It looks to me as tho' the DA and the City of Santa Cruz's police department are faking a big Passion Play (for what? headlines? revenge? diversion? getting their fingers on some Homeland Security inflation-dollars?) in order to distract the People from finding out what actually happened between November 30 and December 1, 2011.

Defendants are getting quashed like sitting ducks while whomever was behind the vacant Building Liberation at 75 River Street during a major windstorm outside isn't even being talked about. "Did you go by there?" does NOT translate into "We deem you guilty of felony tresspass because someone's got to pay and we have nothing real to pursue" Maybe this is simply a fear-driven, state-sanctioned attack on Occupy Santa Cruz, because there seems to be little to nothing going on with the prosecution's show that's focused on actual property/real estate crime. All this energy is focused on further debilitating and pauperizing bystanders for their hint of community-building or curiosity.

Last Monday outside the courthouse on Ocean Street, just minutes before Grant Wilson and three other of the defendants were due for Pre Trial Hearing, as reported above, Wilson spoke to a circle of over forty diverse supporters. This circle included former mayors, preachers, peaceniks like Sherry Conable, as well as a handful of Occupy Santa Cruz stalwarts.

His short comments to the circle were quite brief. One of Grant's comments was like, "Our lawyers have told us not to talk to each other; not to talk about this case at all in public; I shouldn't be standing here talking to you right now, but am grateful for your support." Grant Wilson, Franklin Alcantara, Edward Rector and Cameron Laurendau are being systematically isolated because of alleged crimes that, however they maybe came about, did not in any rational sense get committed by them. This is simply unjust. And it feels like McCarthyism.

Jury Nullification is worth considering, when the charges from the state are ridiculous in their application. Potential Jurors need to understand that if the laws don't work as utilized, they have a civic responsibility to call the system on it's shortsightedness. Segregating "verdict" from "sentence" does not release jurors from sharing responsibility for bad laws or for extreme sentencing. It is the conscience of even a single juror that can keep the excesses of systemwide competition and bravado, and politicized motives, from tanking the whole Superior Court system's attempts at justice.

Eleven scapegoats deserve an apology from the County. It is apparent the four released have already been put through a level of hell; the other seven are still getting the sticky stick treatment.

I would appreciate hearing our elected supervisors speaking up about where they stand in the face of such a rabid and disingenuous District Attorney position that costs so much and reaches so far beyond what pertains to protecting the People. If our County Government is so entrenched a part of this Leviathan we call State, that it can't correct it's overzealous missteps, then all I can say is, Thank God for Occupy.


Linda Ellen Lemaster
Housing NOW! in Santa Cruz
P O Box 42, Davenport, CA 95017

Four Defendants from Santa Cruz Eleven Released by Judge Burdick at Pre Trial Hearing -- DA Threatens to Refile Trumped Up Charges Anyway

Occupy Update

news occupy

four of the 
Santa Cruz 

“I’m so happy,” declared Grant Wilson at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse the morning of Wednesday, April 25.  
Wilson and three co-defendants had just attended their second day of pre-trial hearings to face charges of trespassing, vandalism and felony conspiracy stemming from the Nov. 30, 2011 occupation of a vacant Downtown Santa Cruz bank. Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick told a courtroom full of supporters and observers that he was dismissing all charges against Wilson and the three co-defendants, Franklin Alcantara, Edward Rector and Cameron Laurendau. Witnesses inside the courtroom say that Burdick told the prosecution, “you paint with too broad a brush,” and that insufficient evidence had been presented to show that any of the four had intended to “commit trespass by design.”
“It was spectacular,” Wilson said. “The judge said that the assistant DA had not shown any evidence that any of us had committed any vandalism, or that any of us had been there other than [for] a short period of time in daylight hours on Nov. 30, when the building was first occupied.”

Becky Johnson, another one of the 11 people charged by the Santa Cruz District Attorney in this case, was on the scene and observed the dismissal. “Pinch me—this must be a dream,” she told GT just minutes after the charges were dismissed. “I’ve been watching these courtrooms for years and I haven’t seen anything like this. I would call it justice.”

Johnson is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 29. “I’m anticipating a motion to dismiss my charges before that date,” she said. “That could happen in light of today’s findings.”

Jamyrson Pittori, the attorney representing co-defendent Rector, says there simply wasn’t a case against the individuals in question. “When my client happened upon the scene on Nov. 30, the doors [of the bank building] were wide open, there were about a hundred people milling about,” Pittori says. “There were two police officers standing on the lawn not saying anything to anybody. There was amplified music coming out of the building. Who wouldn’t be curious? It looked like a lawful community event.”

Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Young said in court that she plans to re-file charges against Alcantara and Laurendau.

“I don’t see why,” Alcantara said after the hearing. “It’s going to waste a whole lot of taxpayers dollars.” He added that he might pursue a counter-lawsuit against the Santa Cruz Police Department and District Attorney. “I feel I’ve been selectively prosecuted because I’ve been out there throughout the whole [Occupy] movement,” he said.

Johnson agrees. “This particular case was scapegoating a bunch of activists,” she says. In an early April interview, ADA Young offered GT a different view. “What the current defendants would like you to think is that they’ve been picked on, they’ve been chosen because they’re community activists,” she said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

During the recent pre-trial hearings, the ADA presented a new estimate of damage incurred during the three-day occupation of the building, which is leased by Wells Fargo. Originally pegged to be $30,000, the amount is now said to be $22,000.

“I think Wells Fargo can absorb the $22,000,” said Pittori. “That would be a tax write off for them. But the thousands on top of thousands that we spend prosecuting innocent, curious people? There’s nowhere we can write that off.”

Judge Burdick also deemed testimony from David Gunter, the lead police investigator for the case, not to be credible after Gunter testified during one hearing that he hadn’t been at the occupied building on Dec. 2 and at a later hearing said he had.

For some of the co-defendants, the most unsettling thing about the case was the conspiracy charges.

“According to lawyers, conspiracy can have to do with anything before, during or after a supposed crime,” Wilson said. “If I meet with any of the other 11, it could be considered evidence that we were conspiring and committed a crime. It has a chilling and isolating influence.”

Pittori said that the ADA’s attempt to show conspiracy fell short. “The cases she did cite were murder cases where two co-defendants had active parts,” he said. ”You can’t stretch that to a trespass-vandalism case.”
According to ADA Young, the intent of the individual defendants is not what controls a charge.  “Everyone could come back after the fact and say, ‘I just wanted to give my support,’” she told GT in April. “What the law looks at is the conduct. Did you trespass in that building? That’s the touchstone.”

Outside of the courthouse, Wilson seemed pleased but not ready to celebrate. “I’m in the clearing but there are still woods around,” he said. “There are other people who are innocent, being accused of serious crimes. I encourage people to sign the online ACLU petition to drop all the charges.” As of press time, more than 1,000 people had signed the petition, which is titled “ACLU Statement of Support” and is found online at

“I hope justice prevails and truth is exposed,” Wilson added soberly.