Homeless advocates began a protest July 4 in front of the county court house, against the Santa Cruz city ordinance known as the sleeping ban, which prohibits camping outside between 11 p.m. and 8:30 a.m.
“It is absurd to cite people for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go,” said Christopher Doyon, organizer of the Peace Camp 2010 protest.
“This is a human rights issue,” Doyon said. “Everyone needs to sleep — it’s a basic right.”
At first neither the city police nor county sheriffs department issued citations to sleeping protestors. But after weeks of protest, the county sheriffs made nine arrests and gave 24 citations for illegal lodging and other violations.
Protestors moved downtown Aug. 11 to set up camp outside the City Council building. The protest is ongoing despite multiple nightly visits from police, which have resulted in citations and arrests.
The police department will continue to issue citations to protestors, said Kevin Vogel, deputy police chief.
“People are more than welcome to exercise their right to free speech in front of the city council building,” Vogel said, “but as long as they continue to flaunt the laws the city council has set up, we will continue to cite them.”
In addition to the city camping ban, protestors have been receiving citations under the state anti-lodging law, California Penal Code section 647 section E, which prohibits lodging on private property without the consent of the owner.
Camping ban citations are often dismissed if the individual involved provides proof that there were no vacant shelter beds the night the citation was issued. The state anti-lodging ban does not offer the same amnesty.
There are different criteria for what is considered a violation of the city camping and state lodging laws. Vogel declined to state how officers determine which citations to issue.
“We’re taking a stand here because we don’t have anywhere else to go,” Doyon said. “There are over 2,000 homeless people in Santa Cruz according to the latest census, and there aren’t nearly enough beds.”