On May 12, 2005, Humboldt County Superior Court ruled IN FAVOR of a [formerly] homeless man charged, in 2003, with violating two Arcata ordinances, commonly used against homeless/houseless people. The ordinances which establish ‘no camping’ and ‘no obstructing traffic’ inherently discriminate against people who have no place to rest and were adopted by the city in an apparent effort to disappear nomadic and homeless folks and/or discourage the presence of such people in Arcata.
“no camping”: Michael Porter was awakened, cited, and ordered to leave when he was found around 7:40am sleeping alone in Redwood Park. There was no shelter available wherein Michael could have secured a legal sleeping space. There was no trash, garbage, human waste, or drug paraphernalia associated with him.
THE COURT FOUND THAT THE HARM (‘SIGNIFICANT EVIL’) OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION FOR ONE NIGHT NECESSITATED MICHAEL’S VIOLATING THE ORDINANCE. [Arcata Municipal Code Sec. 10004]
Michael was represented pro bono by attorney, Tracy Herrin, who believes these cases to be significant. She argued the defense of necessity, citing In re Eichorn (1998) 69 Cal.App. 4th 382, and requesting the court to take judicial notice of People v. Theodore Lewis Robinson (2003) Humboldt Superior Court T0304959M. [Tad’s case- tad, a prolific writer for the PLAZOID and voice in defense of justice and rights for houseless people]
Ms. Herrin questioned Michael Twombly, who co-founded the non-profit which oversees the Arcata Night Shelter. Mr. Twombly testified that in the time period when Michael Porter was ticketed in Arcata, the shelter was not open, and that he [Twombly] knew of no other place for a homeless person to sleep. Twombly also testified, in his professional opinion, that he thought homeless people are victimized more frequently than people in the average population.
Michael testified that he was involuntarily homeless, had a hard time finding work due to his lack of a phone and a place to shower, and was aware that there was no shelter in which he could stay, and no legal place for him to sleep.
Michael’s Case was People v. Porter T0313779M
The court found that Michael, by sitting alone on the sidewalk in the Garden Gate alcove in Arcata, was not in violation of the ‘obstructing traffic’ ordinance [Arc. Muni. Code Sec.4111] Because the ordinance requires an assemblance or congregation “of persons upon the… sidewalks…IN SUCH NUMBERS AND MANNER AS TO OBSTRUCT AND IMPEDE public travel thereon… or interfere with business…”
For one, Michael was alone.