This is a formal letter to the Downtown Organization, as well as a statement I [read] to the City council on Tuesday, August 6, 2013. It will also be presented to the Santa Barbara Police Department as a harassment complaint against Officer Payne and SBPD’s policy regarding the persecution of the homeless before and during Fiesta.
The following events occurred on Thursday, August 1, 2013.
Background: I’ve been on the streets for almost a year. During that time I’ve slept most nights on the steps of Christ Presbyterian Church, next to the Granada Garage. Expecting a flood of tourists to arrive at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, I made plans to leave my sanctuary and spend the weekend at the bike-and-hike in Carpinteria.
So on Thursday, I packed up my camping gear and made my way down as far as the Calvary Church, where I planned to spend the night and push on in the morning.
I found a secluded spot all the way in the back of the lot.
Before I could even finish unrolling my bed roll out, Officer Payne pulls up in his “K-9” patrol car and turned his spot lights on me. The conversation went as follows:
Payne: “What are you doing here?”
(I give him the same information I gave you in my background)
Payne: “You can’t stay here … This is private property.”
Me: “Isn’t Santa Barbara basically made up of private property? Are you telling me that I need to leave town because I’m on private property? Are you telling me I should find public property like a park to sleep in? What are you really trying to say?!”
Payne: “I’m just trying to tell you to hide better.”
Me: “Hide better?! Am I not all the way back behind these buildings, completely out of sight?”
Payne: “Well, actually, you can’t stay here because this is where I let my dog play.”
(So finally, the truth is revealed. He uses the fenced-in fire-rescue training area as the place where his dog can do its business and he doesn’t have to clean it up.)
In my opinion, Fiesta and the Downtown Organization weren’t important to this officer. Neither my safety nor the safety of the many tourists was important to Officer Payne. The only thing that’s relevant is hiding his K-9’s bodily functions!
Do you want to take a guess on what I did after that?
I told him, “Sure, I’ll go.” Which I did. I packed all my camping gear back on my bike and went straight to State Street and De La Guerra – right in the middle of the packed crowd! That’s where I decided to spend the remainder of my weekend. Parked right next to SBPD command-and-control center. Decked out in all my homeless glory! Bicycle, backpack, bedroll, unshaven and in shabby clothes, I kept myself busy by looking through the trash on the ground and rooting through the garbage cans. When some officers asked me what I was doing, I just lied and told them “I think I lost something.”
I also attached an ‘illegal lodging’ ticket to a cardboard sign that read:
“One night on SB church steps…$400. Please donate to my defense fund!”
(All the time I’m sitting there I’m giving every cop and every tourist that same “I wish you would just leave look” that the business owners give the homeless year-round.)
The explanation of my actions is pretty simple. You treat someone like an animal, they’re going to act like an animal. In my case, I’m considered lower that dog poop.
I believe that lower status entitles me to any number of privileges.
As far as I’m concerned I can defecate, urinate, loiter, or sleep any where I please.
I have after all marked State Street as my territory!
(Officer Payne’s K-9 can have the rest of the city.)
Just think of this as you and your rich tourists as infringing on my territory, the same way you are always claiming I’m infringing on yours.
I also decided it would be in my best interest to file for disability benefits, since we all know animals can’t hold down a job.
Thanks to the continued harassment by SBPD, I believe my damaged psyche qualifies for the monthly stipend that will help me stay in my territory for years to come.
After this incident, I decided to drop by the Rescue Mission, to see if there were other lower life forms like myself experiencing the same harassment. What I found will amaze you. It appears as many as a hundred of these lower life forms will no longer be staying full-time at the mission. In the past, many have found permanent residence there, keeping them off State Street. Some have stayed there for a decade or more.
They are all going to be out on the street now that the Mission can no longer provide for their needs.
I telling you this because I truly wonder what you are going to do about it. Hire more cops like Officer Payne?
Trust me. We’ll be more than ready for that next year!