Sheriff's deputies woke Ed Frey from sleep on the steps of the Santa Cruz court house on August 7, 2010, when Frey was protesting the City of Santa Cruz sleeping ban as part of the Peacecamp protests. They wound up arresting him for "Illegal Lodging" under California penal code 647 (e), a statute with ties to 19th century slavery laws in the state. Eventually, Fry was sentenced to six months in jail for sleeping that night, and after a denied appeal attempt, in a Santa Cruz court he was forced to report to jail on August 8 by visiting Monterey County Judge Robert Moody. Earlier this week Frey made arrangements to serve the time under work release/house arrest. and he will be able to continue his work as an attorney.
Frey stated he will continue to challenge California's lodging code, arguing it is unconstitutional because it outlaws sleep, a basic human need and right, and also because the legal definition of "lodging" contained within it is too vague.
Participants in the vigil for Frey included homeless activists, members of Occupy Santa Cruz, Occupy Monterey, and Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom (HUFF), in addition to six members of the Santa Cruz Eleven.
At the Vigil's scheduled start time of 6pm on August 7, demonstrators were immediately approached by a an officer from the Santa Cruz Sheriff's department, and those present were told that they would be allowed to use the area of the court house steps on Water Street until 9:30pm, though if anyone did not leave at that time, they would be cited and/or arrested for trespassing. According to a deputy, this decision to "allow" the demonstration to last until 9:30 was made by Lieutenant Robert Pursley, who is one of the leaders of the patrol division.
The new curfew imposed on the area in the last year by the county now lists the official hours of use of the area as 7am to 7pm. After the announcement, a sheriff then sat in his car on Water Street, close to the demonstration, for about 15 minutes before moving across the street to a location slightly further away, where he sat in his vehicle, which was pointed towards the court house, for the duration of another hour and a half at least.
At 7pm, the beat patrol security guards who patrol the government center, as well as San Lorenzo Park, told demonstrators they would have to leave. People informed security that a sheriff had extended the curfew to 9:30, and after some resistance, the security guards eventually left. Two Sheriff's deputies arrived 15 minutes later, and gave another announcement about the 9:30 cut off time, which was met with words of resistance from several demonstrators, prompting the authorities to quickly leave.
Ed Frey arrived a few minutes later carrying a pot of soup, and he was warmly greeted by the crowd. Later when Frey spoke, he thanked everyone for coming out and noted that he did not initiate or organize the vigil for him, but he appreciated it. He didn't speak about Peacecamp2010, or his current struggles against the lodging law; he chose instead to discuss what he views as the problem with democracy today: the inability for citizens to effectively communicate through the system. To combat this, Frey has developed the concept of "Full Spectrum Democracy", which features two principles duties he proposes be required for all office holders. The first duty would require that all communications regarding the operations of the government made by public office holders be made available to citizens as part of an archive of accessible information. The second duty would require, "every elected officeholder to appear on radio and television once every month across the table from a citizen (who’s been chosen by lottery from among all volunteers) for a thirty-minute conversation, and then another thirty-minute conversation with another citizen."
After Frey spoke, demonstrators held an informal discussion about how to conduct the remainder of the evening, and a few other people spoke briefly. When one speaker mentioned it was his 83rd birthday, the group sang "Happy Birthday" to him. As the demonstration continued to grow throughout the evening, it reached a size of about 50 people at its peak.
The sheriff's department kept its promise, returning at 10:15 instead of 9:30, however. Demonstrators were flanked from both sides of the court house by about a dozen deputies. A sheriff's vehicle with six bright spotlights pulled up suddenly from the north end as deputies on foot arrived from the south end. An amplified voice announced that anyone not leaving the court house area would be cited for trespass. Demonstrators quickly began to pack up the various materials they had set up, and the steps area was completely cleared out.
The entire group of demonstrators then lined the sidewalk, and were shouting at the deputies who were then the ones to occupy the court house steps. Individuals had a copy of California's municipal code for trespass, and then proceeded to question the sergeant in charge of the foot patrol what section they would be cited under if they were to return to the steps area of the court house. She responded, "Section 'L'."
The exchange was contentious for a short period of time, with demonstrators outraged that their ability to assemble had been prohibited, but the sergeant eventually thanked the group for cooperating, and all of the deputies left.
Within five minutes, 20 people had returned to the steps and returned to what they were doing before the raid.
The group continued to slightly grow in numbers until after midnight, and the authorities never returned. At 8am, demonstrators reported that six people had slept on the court house steps. The morning crowd continued to grow, and when Ed Frey returned, the group was about 20 people strong. After a few brief announcements, the group was getting ready to accompany Frey to the Santa Cruz County Jail, where he was ordered to report at 9am. As they were about to cross Water Street, Joszeph Schultz, the owner of India Joze restaurant, arrived with freshly made donuts and coffee for everyone, so Frey and the group stayed and ate for a few minutes before setting off again for the jail.
As demonstrators walked Frey to the entrance of the jail they chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, the sleeping ban has got to go." It took exactly half an hour for the authorities to fit Frey with the house arrest ankle bracelet, and he walked out of the jail with a grocery bag containing the transmitter he was required to plug in at home. Frey briefly said goodbye to the demonstrators, and then he set off for home to begin his sentence.
Frey plans to keep appealing the case, and he said that he is hopeful that it will make it to the Supreme Court.
For more information about Ed Frey, and Full Spectrum Democracy, see: http://www.fullspectrumdemocracy.org/
Alex Darocy http://alexdarocy.blogspot.com/