To publicize the ticketing of homeless people for camping violations, activists stage a sleep-in at the bus station.
Protesters staged a “sleep-in” at the Fullerton Transportation Center Tuesday night to bring attention to the police’s ramped enforcement of the unlawful camping law that has disproportionately affected the homeless.
Dozens of people attended the demonstration where community activist Stephan Baxter fulfilled his promise to sleep in front of the bus station if the Fullerton City Council did not put a moratorium on issuing tickets for its unlawful camping ordinance on the agenda. A few of the attendees brought along their sleeping bags and blankets along with their signs like “Being homeless is not a crime or illegal” and “Everyone has the right to live.”
Earlier, at the regular City Council meeting, more than two dozen people spoke during public comment about the camping law enforcement, including Baxter, who organized the “sleep-in” at the Transportation Center. Baxter reminded the Council that nearly all of them were elected right after the police beating death of Kelly Thomas in July 2011, which he called “the darkest moment in the city’s history.”
“If that result is —and it is today—that officers wearing the same uniform that beat that man to death for 10 minutes…seven feet from where they did that they issued tickets to the homeless today. Is that what we want when 66 percent of us voted for a recall?” he asked. “We wanted to make homelessness illegal? That’s the lesson we learned from [Kelly Thomas]?”
He added that if Fullerton doesn’t treat people with dignity, “nothing happened at all for the last two years.”
While many who spoke during public comment called for a moratorium and for the city to support a year-round shelter, one speaker told the audience that advocates shouldn’t direct their anger at the City for ticketing the homeless but rather let non-profits help those in need.
“I would appreciate it if those screaming the most would roll up their sleeves – many of us have – get involved in the non-profits and help the community,” said Larry Bennett, a former Fullerton planning commissioner.
Once Mayor Whitaker closed public comment, the Council did not immediately address the concerns posed by many about the illegal camping ordinance and moved on to the consent calendar.
At the Transportation Center spot where he put in a makeshift nightstand and his sleeping bag, Baxter said that he was surprised that the Council did not even acknowledge the public comments before they moved on to other business, unlike the August 20 meeting
The Fullertonian reached out to Police Chief Dan Hughes and Mayor Bruce Whitaker for comment on the public comments about the illegal camping ordinance, but they have yet to respond.