(en) Arrests of Homeless Protesters Imminent

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@loop.com)
Thu, 13 Nov 1997 11:48:40 +0000

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Santa Monica, California, USA November 13, 1997 ============================== The Santa Monica Police Department is on its way to attempt arrest of four homeless citizens of Santa Monica who have been chained to the premises of the abandoned 40-room Flamingo Motel since last night.

Although the winter weather is here, and it is raining right now here in Southern California, none of the cold weather shelters have been opened.

The protestors are demanding that the Santa Monica City Council call an emergency meeting today to arrange that the shelters open. Though funds have been allocated to the cities for such shelters, cities have been slow to respond to the need. Even California's Governor Pete Wilson (R), no friend to the poor by any means, criticized city goverments last month for "dragging their feet" for the last ten years.

The activists at the Flamingo Motel want the City of Santa Monica provide information as to where they CAN sleep -- as they may not legally sleep on public or private land, either.

The Flamingo property is owned by the RAND corporation, a non-profit government "think-tank. " The motel, which was closed two years ago, was one of the few remaining Single Room Occupancy facilities in the city which provided transitional housing for those who had become homeless. The property is scheduled to be re-developed as office space by the city of Santa Monica.

The homeless activists also said that RAND is responsible for a badly-biased study which has been used to create a public perception that all homeless people are alcoholics and drug addicts, further alienating public empathy with the homless population.

Jennifer Waggoner, one of the homeless activists participating in the Flamingo protest, explained that RAND solicited interview subjects from among the local homeless population. RAND announced it would pay $10 dollars per interview, but that it was only willing to interview subjects who were drug users. Word went out among the homeless population as to what questions were being asked, and how one should answer. If the subject answered appropriately, they would be called back for a second interview and paid $20 dollars.

As a result, Ms. Waggoner said, the vast majority of homeless people were not accurately portrayed by the study. Many homeless people, desperate for cash, fabricated answers in order to receive the money. She believes that the study was intentionally skewed in order to justify societal neglect of the problem of homelessness, buy portraying it as a "drug" issue.

Many homeless people remain invisible as a result of this sterotypical perception. Many like Ms. Waggoner are working poor, who do not earn enough to afford the rapidly escalating rents in the beachfront city.

For others on public assistance, the amount of money they receive is inadequate to purchase housing. To add to the problem, even those who receive government food stamps are often unable to properly feed themselves. Food stamps may not be used to purchase already-cookd food. Homeless residents of Santa Monica previously cooked using barbecue pits on public land. These cooking facilities have been closed in order to create an hostile atmosphere for the homeless population.

The failure to open the bad weather shelters is seen by the homeless community as part of the campaign to drive the homeless from the city. The city has, in recent years, passed a variety of local ordinances targeted the homeless. One is a "blanket" law which makes it illegal to cover one's self with a blanket while on a public beach or park. This law, Ms. Waggoner said, is only enforced against against persons who look poor; those who appear to be tourists with money are not cited.

The homeless do not have money to pay the citations issued by police for the crime of covering one's self with a blanket. As a result, these citations are then upgraded to an arrest warrant. This is but one example of the criminalization of people because they are poor. These people then have "criminal records," lessening their changes of finding paid employment in a shrinking job market.

The activists at the Flamingo motel said they consider this a human rights issue. "What right does the United States have to criticize the behavior of other countries like Iraq and China, " Ms. Waggoner said, "when the human rights of Americans are violated?"

The barrage of city cordinances in recent years designed to harass homeless people are not unique to Santa Monica. Many other cities have passed a variety of "no-camping ordinances." The State of California has made it illegal to sleep in one's car. The City of Santa Monica, however, is often called "The People's Republic of Santa Monica" because of it's supposedly leftish policies. Like the City of Berkeley in Northern California, which as a similar reputation, those people too poor to buy housing do not seem to be included in the "Republic."

Thus, the protestors have decided to declare the occupied land "The Independent Republic of Flamingo."

The citizens of The Independent Republic of Flamingo request all who are nearby and able to come to the site with food, dry blankets, hot drinks, video cameras and moral support now.(11:45 AM Pacific Standard Time)

The Independent Republic of Flamingo is located on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, near the corner of Pico Boulevard. (right next to the Pacific Shores Hotel)

This winter is expected to be especially severe, as a result of a weather phenomenon called "El Nino."

Lyn Gerry ________________________ http://www.radio4all.org http://www.radio4all.org/freepacifica

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