PRESS RELEASE, January 12, 2009
Where Would Jesus Sleep?
NOT GUILTY decision in arrest case from City Hall Safe Sleep Space/Protest
On Friday, January 8, 2010, Kimberly Starr, representing herself, won the case which arose from her arrest at the Eureka City Hall Safe Sleeping Space/protest. For 32 nights in the City Hall parking lot, PEOPLE PROJECT, a local group and grass roots movement for the rights and dignity of houseless and poor people, shared blankets and nutritious food and set up a tarp structure under which people could sleep out of the rain and cold, meeting needs that are otherwise unfulfilled in Eureka. PEOPLE PROJECT also protests the city criminalizing houseless people and demands land where houseless people can be without harassment. On the night of December 6, 2009, between 25 and 28 Eureka Police officers, with multiple police vehicles, swarmed the City Hall Safe Sleeping Space/protest, set up a “pre-arranged booking table” in the adjacent lot, cordoned off the entire block, and intimidated almost all participants away. The case and testimonies following Starr's arrest and jailtime brought several important issues to the surface related to local police activity and the impossible situation that city policies leave people in who have no shelter.
Initially, the Humboldt County District Attorney [DA] charged Kimberly Starr with three misdemeanors- trespass, camping, and resisting. Starr subpoenaed documents from the City of Eureka, moved to suppress the arrest, and made an extensive discovery motion, almost fully granted by the court, compelling the prosecution to turn over documents related to the costly police action. Both the City and the DA failed, however, to turn over many documents and records in their possession as ordered by the court. In the last week of Starr's court case, the DA chose to drop the misdemeanors and charge Ms. Starr with one infraction trespass. The subsequent trial involved testimony from: Eureka City Manager, David Tyson; Eureka Police Department's own Patriarch of Corruption, Murl Harpham; and Becky Perry who works in personnel at City Hall.
The Eureka City Counsel decided to send EPD to City Hall to dismantle the safe sleeping space/protest in a closed session meeting on Tuesday, December 1, 2009. Then, the Council hid that discussion from the public. The entire process was in violation of state open meeting laws and the Sunshine Amendment of the California Constitution. City Manager, David Tyson, not wanting to expose the illegal planning of the City, testified during Starr's trial as if it was his decision to order the Eureka Police Department [EPD], with no input from the Counsel, to break up the City Hall sleeping space and punish the participants.
Lt. Murl Harpham, who is one of the EPD officers known to repeatedly tear down and steal houseless peoples' tents and survival gear, had arrested Ms. Starr on December 6, 2009. Through the court case, it was learned that Harpham erroneously assumed that Ms. Starr was on probation and requested that the DA forbid her from being in most of downtown Eureka and circulate her photo to Eureka merchants to make her an unwelcome target of businesses and police. (see attached document). Even with the document in hand with his name on it, Harpham tried to deny (on the witness stand) that he had made the request. Later he admitted that he has filed similar requests in the past regarding other houseless Eureka residents.
In response to Starr's last question in court, Harpham admitted that there is NO place where people (who cannot pay) may sleep without being subject to Eureka Municipal codes. However, he has been quoted as saying that “the solution is just to make it uncomfortable here for them." …, so he “sweeps” the camps, “keeps moving them [homeless people] around,” and arrests or tickets people for finding a place to rest. (http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_10369336) California courts have repeatedly upheld the Supreme Court and California Court of Appeals 'necessity' rulings, with regard to houseless people: “Sleep is a physiological need, not an option for humans[.]” and depriving a person of sleep, which “produces a host of physical and mental problems” is more a “significant evil” than violating an ordinance that prohibits sleeping. [In re Eichorn, 81 Cal. Rptr. 2d 535, 540 (Ct. App. 1998); See entire case at http://peopleproject.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/sleep-deprivation-is-significant-evil-quote-from-2000-ca-court/]
Ms. Starr was found “Not Guilty” of the infraction trespass. PEOPLE PROJECT vows to continue organizing for a safe place for people to sleep and for the decriminalization of houslessness.
Video from December 6, 2009 here: