Death of Democracy in Eureka California Day 70 – Courthouse Pickets
Occupy Eureka says, “The process is a sham!” “Free speech is not negotiable.”
Eureka, CA: Ten to fifteen Occupy Eureka participants held signs and chanted in and around a poorly attended meeting in conference room A and the main lobby of the Humboldt County courthouse, on June 4th, voicing opposition to a proposed ordinance meant to outlaw protest at all county properties. Among other unconstitutional restrictions, the ordinance would ban protests without permits, prohibit food sharing, set a 9:30pm curfew, and forbid the hanging of signs or banners. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed a similar ordinance under a so-called “Urgency Provision” on March 27, 2012, restricting use of the most traditional forum for free speech in the area, the front area of the Humboldt County courthouse/jail.
In response to Occupy Eureka, which emerged in early October 2011, survived a spate of police raids, and is perhaps the longest continuous 24/7 Occupy Wall Street protest, the Supervisors began discussing an ordinance to restrict use of the outside courthouse property, chill first amendment activity, and ultimately outlaw the Occupy demonstration. Publicly, the Supes talked of soliciting extensive input from residents and taking time to consider constitutionality before passing such a law. However, they quickly by-passed that process by manufacturing an “emergency” and implementing an “urgency ordinance,” a permanent law severely inhibiting first amendment activity in front of the courthouse and replicating already existing anti-poverty laws. The Supes disingenuously attempted to paint this ordinance as “temporary,”when in fact, it is on the books until repealed or successfully challenged in court.
After passage of the urgency ordinance, County Administrative Officer (CAO) Phillip Smith-Hanes began convening meetings in a small conference room for groups that have exercised their right to protest at the courthouse or monitor the civil liberties climate in Humboldt County. These meetings were billed as relating to the courthouse lawn, but in fact are part of a meaningless “public process” to restrict rights on all county properties, in violation of the Constitution.
At the first such meeting, representation from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community, Civil Liberties Monitoring Project, Women in Black, Occupy Eureka, Occupy Civil Liberties Working Group, Veterans for Peace, Communities for Justice and Peace, Redwood Curtain CopWatch, and others unanimously urged the CAO not only to repeal the “urgency”ordinance and inform the supervisors of the widespread opposition to such chilling prohibitions, they also outlined in detail the logistical, constitutional, and ethical problems with each and every part of the proposed ordinance. Veteran for Peace, Richard Gilchrist, who was arrested and jailed for a candlelight vigil at the courthouse after the ’emergency’ curfew was passed told the CAO, “I took an oath, and you have obligated me to continue breaking these unlawful and immoral laws.”
At the second meeting, the Ragin’ Grannies sang against the ordinance and constituents spoke eloquently against the proposed restrictions on first amendment activity. The CAO was asked what he had reported to the Board of Supervisors from the public. “Nothing” was his response.
Occupy Eureka, on Monday June 4th, decided to shine a spotlight on these sham meetings. First the County created a repressive and unconstitutional law predicated on a contrived “emergency,” and now it is feigning a “public process” to turn the county into (more of ) a police state. A letter delivered to the Supervisors and CAO before the scheduled meeting advised, “Occupy Eureka will not lend credibility to this farce of a process.” ###
PDF of above Press Release: https://www.box.com/s/c4bc5d6439fdfbe5c47e
Photos from Monday’s Protest available on request.
Lawsuit brought against Urgency Ordinance: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B-uTx6HuabZ7M255WldBbjNXLVk