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writing for godot

MIDNIGHT PARK CLOSURE WOULD TARGET HOMELESS SAN FRANCISCANS --- AGAIN!

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Written by carol harvey   
Tuesday, 15 October 2013 23:02
SAN FRANCISCO IS DRIVING OUT THE POOR

San Francisco is experiencing intensified City-wide gentrification, including unlawful renter evictions, removal of Market Street homeless chess players, police harassment of homeless people, and City Supervisor Scott Wiener's thinly-veiled attempt to drive the unhoused from city parks.

On Sunday, October 6, 2013, homeless advocates held a Chess-In on Market Street defying the downtown Business Improvement Districts' (BIDs) pressuring cops to evict homeless chess players and their decades-long peaceful brain game, claiming they attracted drug deals and gambling near the Powell Street cable car tourist attraction.

Advocates observe cops stepping up efforts to disband homeless encampments and redoubled enforcement of San Francisco's Sit / Lie law which prohibits sitting or lying on sidewalks.

The Sit / Lie law restricts unhoused people to an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. sleep window. But, street dwellers claim police often wake them early with tickets or roust them in the black of night, confiscating their bedding and belongings --- literally leaving them out in the cold, sleep-deprived, and ill from exposure.

On Monday, October 7, 2013, the San Francisco Land use Committee voted to move to the Tues/ Oct. 29 Full Board meeting Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposed legislation to “establish a baseline closure of 12 a.m. to 5 a.m.” for San Francisco parks.

In crafting his park closure law, Supervisor Scott Wiener continued a long San Francisco tradition, and his personal pattern, of advancing the interests of wealthy business owners and developers to make policy reflecting their ongoing push to drive the homeless, the poor, even lower middle class residents out of every corner of a city where even moderate incomes cannot meet rent.

Homeless people forced to sleep in parks for safety would risk criminalization for their unhoused status and face Infraction fines of $100 to $500. A Misdemeanor would carry up to six months' county jail time and a $1,000 fine – a penalty no homeless or poor person could pay.

San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness lead organizer, Lisa Marie Alatorre believes it's not only the BIDs' mindless reshuffling of homeless people from place to place throughout the City in some vain attempt to disappear a group that can never go away. She thinks the push also comes from a loose network of neighborhood groups, developers, park people --- 'haters,' on The Haight Neighborhood Council who just don't want to have homeless people around.

She confirmed that on Oct. 29, the Full Board will “duke it out” in discussion and debate, making amendments and changes to the highly controversial finalized law.

Alatorre wants to see momentum galvanized for massive grass roots groundswell support in which, over the next three weeks, the community steps up phoning swing vote supervisors expressing an emphatic 'No!'

In the August, 7th hearing, an estimated 40 people spoke in robust opposition. Around 25 Coalition on Homelessness advocates joined public commenters from Hospitality House, the AIDS Housing Alliance and the Harvey Milk Democratic Club. These last two groups advocated for the many unhoused LGBTQ San Franciscans.

Alatorre called the closure law 'an absurdity,' “ridiculous,' and 'duplicative.'

“Most of our parks already have closing hours.” Implementing legislation intended to curb vandalism and theft by changing parks' closing hours also duplicates already-existing laws which have not reduced vandalism and theft, she said.

Alatorre expects to see huge implementation and enforcement costs --- signs, gates, fences, and park patrol salaries.

Citations will generate incarceration and court fees, she observed. San Francisco taxpayers will be socked with the bill.

Worst of all, poor and homeless people will feel what Alatorre calls this law's “unintended consequences --- massive displacement of people who are forced to sleep in the parks because there's nowhere else for them to go.”

“Folks will be forced onto the streets” and “into new neighborhoods, creating new crises.”

“We have only 1,339 shelter beds, and over 7,000 people on any given night who are homeless in San Francisco. More than 5,000 people are forced to find refuge and places to sleep either on our streets or in our parks,” she said.

She insisted The City should prioritize increasing affordable housing, including permanent, affordable public housing.

INSIDE / OUTSIDE OCCUPY TACTICS

While the Coalition on Homelessness conducts Board of Supervisors protests, a group of Occupy San Francisco homeless street activists working in tandem with public commenters inside City Hall, employ relentlessness, humor, documentation, legal acumen and 'peace at all times' as an 'outside game' strategy.

With their own unusually assertive and creative tactics, they have pushed back against intensified police harassment and discriminatory enforcement of sit / lie laws, including Wiener's park closures.

Their main combat strategy involves chalking humorous, but direct, messages on sidewalks, megaphoning information to passersby, and video documentation of 'unconstitutional' police practices.

At San Francisco's Embarcadero, they attempted a Labor Day 'Vigil” they claimed was Constitutionally legal, protesting that San Francisco taxpayers who funded the recent America's Cup event received no invitations to hobnob with the Rich at catamaran races or City Hall galas.

When park police drove them out in a reprise of the nationwide 2012 Occupy encampment shutdowns, they marched to City Hall and camped below the Mayor's balcony. There they expressed their peaceful citizen dissent against the excesses of the One Percent and the unjust enforcement of sit / lie against poor and homeless people.

Through unknown means, they procured a printed invitation to the Skull and Bones Society's Garden of Good and Evil party attended during America's Cup events by Congressional Minority leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi.

One barefoot 'Rodent McSkinhead,' AKA 'Scud,' produced said invitation at the door. Blocked by the Deputy's wry retort, “No Shoes, No Shirt, no Service,” Scud returned with a shoe around his neck and a shirt tucked into his pants. The Deputy again turned him away, grinning.

They also chalked 'Ed Lee Is An Asshat' on a pedestal next to City Hall steps.

This raw humor drew mention in a San Francisco Examiner article stating, “they are targeting Mayor Ed Lee, who they say has turned his back on the homeless.”

Their hijinks also drew the Mayor in person asking how long they planned to stay. 'Three weeks,” they answered. In response, a man they suspected was the Mayor's personal Security was sent to cuff, interrogate, and intimidate one protestor inside City Hall. In the small room were two SFPD officers, two Sheriff's Deputies, and an apparent Homeland Security official. The detainee remained calm and was released without incident.

They returned, relentlessly chalking sidewalk messages decrying the Sit / Lie law, The Mayor's suspected corruption, Scott Wiener's park closures, and SFPD attacks. Despite this, Police Chief, Greg Suhr, often walks by and greets them.

They befriended a City employee with a garden hose who washed off the chalked messages as fast as they wrote them. On Tues/ Oct. 8, the message, “I am appalled,' appeared at the foot of the City Hall statue of Abraham Lincoln. They chalked and megaphoned the expected puns on Scott Wiener's last name. “____ head Wiener, Stop scapegoating the poor!”

Calling Wiener's rationalization for midnight park closures 'retarded,' Mike Zint said homeless people will break the law anyway because parks are empty, and they know how to avoid tickets and where to sleep.

He said homeless people actually protect parks. RV owners like Mike himself, “park on a block --- [with] no broken windows on that block. The cars down the block --- they got broken windows all up and down that block. The RV owners and the homeless protect their territory. They keep it clean. They don't want the hassle.

“People keep blaming the homeless for all this because it's easy to blame them.

“It's not the homeless vandalizing,” he says. "It's the yuppie kids."

These protestors view the Sit / Lie law as part of a class war of Rich on Poor in which Mayor Ed Lee, Police Chief Greg Suhr, and Supervisor Scott Wiener are One Percent lapdogs.

Zint asserts the police continually violate citizen dissenters' Constitutional right to sit or lie in the public spaces they own, and to 'lodge,' and hold possessions routinely confiscated by police.

He cites Sit / Lie's Exception 4, the right to sit or lie during “demonstrations.” He insists the protestors' 'Permit' is First Amendment free speech rights.

He claims that California Penal Code '647e' regarding vagrancy laws gives homeless people lodging rights on citizen-owned common spaces.

Zint cites the Sep. 5, 2012 9th Circuit Lavan vs Los Angeles Law stating homeless people legally possess their belongings on public sidewalks.

These protestors are prepared to be ticketed and arrested for acting within laws they say cops break. Generally, the police release ticketed parties without much ado. Jamming Courts with citations has, in the past, proved a successful homeless protest strategy.

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