Santa Cruz homeless breakfast protest draws police attention

August 31, 2011 – 01:17 pm

Jessica A. YorkSANTA CRUZ > Food Not Bombs and other activists protesting the pending discontinuation of the Homeless Services Center’s walk-in food program next month were pressured to relocate Thursday.

California Highway Patrol officers, accompanied by and at the request of Santa Cruz police, convened at the River Street and Highway 1 protest and emergency breakfast feeding, the third such event in two weeks. Some 8 to 12 law enforcement vehicles, pulled up onto the grassy right of way on the busy intersection’s around 10:30 a.m. There, protesters were gathered with tables, strawberries, oatmeal, coffee and signs.

Although a handful of alarmed protesters contacted the Sentinel with concerns of their pending arrest, no one was taken into custody or cited, said Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel, who briefly visited the scene.

“I was willing to get arrested because they wanted me to get a permit and we’re protesting the fact of what happens when the Homeless Services Center shuts down and the criminalization when the homeless sleep on the street, ” said Abbi Samuels, with Food Not Bombs, a social activist group that often provides free vegetarian meals.

Samuels said about 50 people were fed Thursday, and organizations involved included Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom, Camp of Last Resort, Homeless Legal Persons Assistance Project, along with UC Santa Cruz students.

Instead, protestors voluntarily moved from the Highway 1 right of way to the sidewalk farther up River Street, Vogel said.

“It’s adjacent to the highway. A car could veer off the road, or a pedestrian could accidentally wander into the road, ” Vogel said of the event’s original site. “It’s not an area pedestrians should be. It’s not safe.”

When asked if the relocated site, just dozens of feet away from its original site, was much improved, Vogel said at least it was off Highway 1.“The difference is a sidewalk is designed as a place for people to be.”

At a similar event on June 11, CHP officers also visited the protest and asked organizers to clear the area, Sgt. Grant Boles said at the time. Boles said a permit would be needed for the breakfast protest to continue, but was unlikely to be granted due to hazards associated with nearby heavy traffic.


“That’s the busiest intersection in the county. And there was a recent fatality with a pedestrian there, ” Boles said last week. “We had a very positive interaction, and I gave Keith (McHenry, Food Not Bombs founder) some options about where he could set up legally.”


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