The Santa Ana City Council Monday shot down a request by Occupy Orange County protesters to camp at the Civic Center.
Council members said they were worried about the city being sued for selectively allowing protesters to camp where it doesn’t allow homeless people to spend the night. Scores of homeless people gather each day at the sprawling government hub, and many are cited for violating the camping ban.
An energetic crowd of about 40 protesters attended the meeting, with many making impassioned pleas to lift the ban and telling sometimes painful anecdotes about the realities that homeless people face every day.
“If I do become homeless, I want the city to protect my right to poverty,” said protester Massimo Marini.
Protesters were seeking an exemption from the ban similar to one given to Occupy protesters at Irvine’s Civic Center. Santa Ana council members emphasized that Irvine doesn’t have the same urban conditions and challenges as Santa Ana, a reference to homeless in the city.
The Occupy Orange County protest in Santa Ana is one instance of a growing international show of anger about corporate greed and an increasing disparity of wealth. The movement started as a protest camp in New York’s financial district and has led to protests in cities worldwide.
“Ultimately, the biggest threat to democracy is apathy — I get that,” said Councilman David Benavides, who along with Councilwoman Michele Martinez placed the issue on the meeting agenda.
But, he said, “Ultimately, it [an exmeption] would open us up to liability.”
Disappointed and angry, protesters departed the council chambers while shouting at council members. “Just remember we voted for you! That was a mistake,” shouted one protester. Added another: “People are going to get pneumonia out there.”
Council members said they were in solidarity with the protesters’ cause despite their unwillingness to lift the camping ban for them. Councilman Vincent Sarmiento asked the city attorney to draft a council statement affirming their support of the protesters.
Mayor Miguel Pulido, citing “interconnected” global problems like climate change and the struggling international economy, encouraged protesters to keep the movement going.
“Just because you don’t get a yes the way you want it or when you want it, keep fighting, because you have a righteous cause,” Pulido said.
— ADAM ELMAHREK