A Fullerton community activist is pressuring the City Council to support a moratorium on the police department’s enforcement of the city’s unlawful camping ordinance that has disproportionately targeted the homeless community this summer.
Stephan Baxter is encouraging his supporters to go to tonight’s City Council meeting and tell the panel to put the moratorium on the agenda. If the Council does not support putting the idea on the agenda, Baxter and fellow organizer Andy Anderson is encouraging them to gather at the Fullerton Transportation Center, where they will sleep there as part of an act of civil disobedience.
“When the homeless must lay their head down somewhere in Fullerton and are subsequently cited for ‘camping,’ they are issued a citation so cynical in its applications that their status as residents in their own community is accused of being illegal regardless of an individual’s conduct or past accomplishment,” Baxter wrote in a Facebook invitation for the proposed “sleep-in.” “All that matters is that on that day they were homeless, and with this factor alone, in Fullerton California, there is presumption of guilt.”
The Facebook invitation for the proposed “sleep-in” has so far counted 50 people as “going” to the event with 22 “maybes.”
People who have been cited under the ordinance are facing between $40 and $2,000 worth of fines. The relationship between the police and the homeless community soured in 2011 when a group of police officers beat homeless man Kelly Thomas to death at the same location where the proposed “sleep-in” will happen if the Council declines to put the moratorium on the agenda.
Baxter said that it’s unfair that the Fullerton Police Department is targeting the homeless community by issuing citations for overnight camping when the Council voted down an agreement with Orange County in June over a proposed homeless shelter on State College Boulevard.
Fairness aside, Baxter added that citing the homeless for sleeping in public as a way of solving the problem is not good for taxpayers because it hasn’t stopped the homeless from sleeping in the same location.
“You’re not getting the people who are causing the problems. You don’t know that because they’re asleep,” he said. “You’re not catching them in the act of anything other than sleeping. Unless they have a swastika on their f***ing forehead, you can’t tell who’s good or who’s bad.”
Some homeless residents gathered at the Fullerton Transportation Center on Sunday night expressed their support for a moratorium on ticketing the homeless and Baxter’s call to “sleep-in” if the Council declines to put it on the agenda.
“We need something like this to bring the attention based on the fact that even Police Chief [Dan Hughes] had promised in several newspaper articles that he will not give tickets until we have received a homeless shelter,” said Curtis Gamble, who has been homeless for the past four years. “Once the shelter had been rejected, all of a sudden the homeless are punished for that.”
Another person hanging out at the Fullerton Transportation Center, a man also named Curtis, had an alternative view of the plan, suggesting that the homeless people he knew weren’t worried about the ramped enforcement by police.
“They really don’t have the energy to protest and I don’t think many of them are upset about the tickets,” he said. “A lot of judges in homeless court will wipe the ticket clean because they know what it’s like out there. There’s not a lot of anger towards the police over the tickets.”
Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker and FPD Chief Dan Hughes were contacted for comment, but calls have not been responded to immediately. The City Council meeting starts tonight at 6:30 P.M.. at Fullerton City Hall.