Open Letter to Chief of Police Regarding Sleeping Bag Day

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This open letter to Chief of Police Braziel of the City of Sacramento is posted to inspire a well meaning dialogue on finding a solution to decriminalize homelessness and to end the human rights abuses of those who find themselves without a home. United Nations Special Rapporteur, Catalina de Albuquerque, sent a letter directly to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson raising concerns over human rights violations in Sacramento. There is growing concern over the criminalization of life sustaining behaviors such as sleeping, camping, and the need for bathrooms, when adequate shelter is not available. We hope this info will create a dialogue which ends human rights abuses and improves relations between law enforcement and the homeless, and we welcome your comments.

May 11, 2012
Sleeping Bag Day – Occupy Sacramento

Open Letter to Chief of Police Rick Braziel

Dear Chief Braziel,

We would like to let you know our purpose during OCCUPY Sacramento’s nonviolent action, Sleeping Bag Day, on Friday, May 11, 2012, beginning at 11 AM. Our action is in support of our human rights, the rights of homeless people to have a safe place to sleep, to have a home.

Our action also includes support for those Sacramento residents who are about to become homeless due to cuts in unemployment, lack of comprehensive mental health services, raises in rent, inhumanely low TANF grants for single mothers and their children {$495 + food stamps for a mother with one child, a mother who chooses not to leave her children on the street with no childcare while she searches for nonexistent jobs; a person who does one of the most important jobs there is, raising her own children full time.}

This is also to clarify how we see you in your role as Police Chief, and how we see you as a fellow human being, as part of the 99%. Please keep in mind that our purpose is to exercise our right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to peacefully assemble and call for a redress of grievances as our means of reclaiming our government, which has been bought by the 1%.

We appeal to you as a fellow human being, as part of the 99%, to note the following irony:

Setting up the conditions that produce homelessness is not illegal, yet it is now illegal for a person who is homeless to sleep on a sleeping bag or with a pillow on public land, anywhere, whether by the river or in the public plaza.

This irony, we understand, puts you in a bind. In your role as Police Chief you are called upon to uphold the law. In November 2011 you upheld the park ordinance forbidding the presence of sleeping bags or pillows on public park grounds at Old City Hall, by calling in about 30 police officers to confiscate the sleeping bags and the pillows. That is, you upheld this local ordinance over our First Amendment rights as described above. You also upheld this local ordinance that is inhumane towards homeless people who, by definition, have no home, no other place to sleep. We understand that you too are facing pressure from the 1% who have bought our government regarding which law/rights to uphold, ours or theirs.

We ask you and all Sacramento Police Officers to imagine a different scene, instead of “arresting” for pillows and sleeping bags.

Imagine: You identify with the 99%, with Occupy Wall Street, with Occupy Sacramento. Imagine yourselves given the go ahead to use force and harm the peaceful protesters if necessary, as was the case at O.W.S. in NYC last October. {google: One marine vs. 30} and at U.C. Berkeley last November. {google: Poet-Bashing Police and N.Y. Times} Would you attack the peaceful protesters? Would you attack us? Would active duty U.S. soldiers stand between you and the peaceful protesters, stand between you and us, just as active duty U.S. soldiers stood between the NYPD and the peaceful protesters, to protect them from the police? What would your thoughts be? How would you feel?

The active duty U.S. soldiers who protected Occupiers from police violence said they took the oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, not the 1%! What would your thoughts be if you stand with the U.S. soldiers, active duty and vets in Sacramento, California; and refuse to comply with the interests of the billionaire bullies who have bought our government? How would you feel?

We encourage you to stand with us, with the 99%. By your refusal to comply you will be making a powerful statement: Homelessness is not a crime. Having a safe place to call home is a human right. The 99% don’t suddenly become criminals because we lose our jobs, because we can’t pay rent, because we can’t get meds.

We encourage you, too, to find out about the Budget for All for FY2013, which includes federal monies directed towards housing the homeless, a U.S. Homeless Housing Grant. It also includes creating at least two million jobs in two years including, but not limited to, a School Corps, a Parks Corps, a Childcare Corps, and a Neighborhood Heroes Corps, employing teachers, firefighters, and police officers, among others. This budget was written by 76 people near the highest level of elected office in the U.S. They are the U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus. Their aim in their words is to create a national “budget that works for all Americans, not just the well-connected and well off.” We encourage you to visit www.cpc.grijalva.house.gov/ (Click on “Issues” and “Budget 4 All.”)

We also want to assure you that many Occupiers have gone to nonviolent training workshops. This is in keeping with one of the key principles of Occupy Sacramento, acting with violence towards no one.

With Vision and Compassionate Action for Homes, Safety and Sleep,

All Occupiers and Supporters present at the Sleeping Bag Day Rally State Capitol Steps in Sacramento, California – May 11, 2012

100% Occupy Sacramento General Assembly Approved


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