The May 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Someone's Sister: Homeless in the East Bay

A Young Mother Dreams of a Brighter Future

Legal Rights of Homeless People

Exposing Wal-Mart Empire

HUD Pulls a Disappearing Act

Devastating Cuts to Section 8

Civil Rights Gets on the Bus

UC Students Brutalized by Police

Activism for Economic Justice

Night of Humanity and Courage

Nonviolent Vigil for San Diego's Poorest

The Faithful Fools

Medical Pot in Santa Cruz

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

A Night of Humanity and Courage
San Diego citizens protest against unjust homeless policy, and the cops back off

by Ana Barral

On Saturday, April 16, at 1:25 a.m. at night, a small group of persons sits peacefully holding hands on the ground of City Concourse in downtown San Diego. A group of policemen stand at some distance, issuing a warning that if they don't disperse, they will be arrested.

In response, the protesters start singing "Amazing Grace." A nonviolent scene of civil disobedience, this is the last act of the Rally and Sleep-out for the Homeless that started at 7 p.m. the evening before.

"You are invited to be homeless for one night," said the invitation to the rally. It was organized by the coalition, Citizens in Support of Homeless People, as a call to raise awareness about the homeless situation in San Diego.

The beginning of the week saw the closing of the winter shelters in San Diego, meaning that hundreds of homeless people are back on the streets again. With the available shelter beds hardly reaching a third of the actual number of persons in need, most of them will spend the night trying to hide from being ticketed by the police due to the ordinance that makes it illegal to sleep on the streets.

By 7 p.m., around 150 people had already gathered in the City Concourse, a number that would increase later to 500. Most of them visited the information table of Street Light, San Diego's homeless newspaper, and got some refreshments before settling down. A big American flag was held high at the front by people who spontaneously took turns as the rally unfolded.

On a makeshift podium, the rules were read before starting: it was meant to be a peaceful process, no drugs, alcohol or violence would be allowed. And so it was all through the night.
James Summers from Veterans for Peace opened with a rousing speech demanding true "support for the troops" in form of health care, housing and job assistance for the returning veterans.

Other speakers included Pastor Noel Estergren from First Lutheran Church and Jesus Nieto, professor from SDSU.

Charismatic "Rosie," a homeless writer for Street Light, drew applause with her seething criticism of the City Council. Larry Milligan, a long-time activist known for his passionate legal battles to stop the ticketing of the homeless and to establish a safe camping ground for them, gave a dramatic update about the situation in San Diego, mixed with poetry.

Personal testimonies of homeless people were then heard, some tempered and clear, others painful and passionate, voices of the unheard and unseen on our streets. Pity that no member of the City Council and no San Diego officials, except the cops, showed up. Night falling, a vibrant performance by the drummer band Supersonics made the rally more festive, together with a serving of homemade chili.

After 10 p.m., the participants who decided to sleep out as a protest started to settle down for the night in their sleeping beds and blankets. Under a shining moon and the trees of the concourse, it could have been a camp-out in nature except for the menacing presence of the policemen.

Rumors of $5000 bail did not deter the activists, who were ready to stay in jail several days just like their homeless brothers and sisters. A group of young people who saw the news on TV showed up spontaneously, carrying bags of food and cases of water. Their gesture of coming to offer help, instead of joining the Saturday crowd in the Gaslamp just a few blocks away, is another touching example of everyday humanity.

After two consecutive warnings, the second around 4.30 a.m., the police abandoned the Concourse without making any arrests. For those who observed the scene, the contrast between the force of authority and the force of true humanity and moral conviction could not have been more dramatic. Although largely ignored by the mainstream media, on that night history was made by modest heroes in our city.

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

© 2002-2005 STREET SPIRIT. All rights reserved.

Published by American Friends Service Committee

Editor : Terry Messman

Web Design: Robert Mills, Web Weaver CyberB Solutions