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Safe Ground

Safe Ground Sacramento rally.
PHOTO /SHOC

By Paula Lomazzi
Homeward Street Journal


SACRAMENTO, CA.  On July 1, Safe Ground Sacramento held a rally, march and camp-out.  It began at Loaves & Fishes’ Delaney Center parking lot with breakfast and some great songs by Glenn Bailey. Various news reporters milled around the growing crowd of supporters.

There was a short rally with John Kraintz of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee welcoming everyone.

Greg Bunker of Francis House spoke on how Sacramento is one community, and it needs to put aside the ‘us-vs-them’ attitude between social groups.

Long time civil rights attorney Mark Merin spoke on the values of a society that seems to give to those who have much, and take from those who have little, making it necessary for good people to stand up for what is right.
James Little spoke about a recent incident he experienced because he was homeless. Sharon Hendrix spoke about the need for solidarity. Jacoby of Pappa Roach and Sr. Libby Fernandez of Loaves & Fishes confirmed their support and encouraged the participants.

The speeches ended with Garren Bratcher of Loaves & Fishes explaining the logistics of the march ahead.
Then around 350 homeless, formerly homeless and never been homeless people, five dogs and a pony marched or trotted 1.2 miles from the Loaves & Fishes staging area to a piece of City property off Richards Boulevard to declare it “Safe Ground”.

A team set up a bunch of tents while speakers from San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, and Merced offered their solidarity with Sacramentans.

Bill Camp from the AFL-CIO offered his endorsement and support. Rev. Brian Baker, the Dean of Trinity Cathedral, lead the rally in prayer. Then there was an open mic session and musical entertainment.
The lot was hot since there were no trees for shade.  Also, it happened to be located next door to the police station.  So, around 1 PM, it was time to move on down the road; through a hole in the fence, down the road and around the corner by the water treatment plant, where an inviting park-like setting became the second Safe Ground declared that day.

The police said campers would receive amnesty for 24 hours and the sprinklers were to be turned off for the night.
The weather turned drastically cool and pleasant. Over 60 Campers set up around 25 tents and some cots. Many who were out for the first time from the overflow shelter were given sleeping bags. The portable toilet just happened to be placed directly under a street light, so evening trips without a flashlight were accident free.
Everyone got a $5 McDonald gift certificate, which wasn’t needed for dinner because Mo Mohanna brought everyone some perfectly prepared pizza and chicken wings.

People were able to rest without fear of harassment, except for a brief encounter with Wackenhut security.
Everything was just about perfect, until the next morning when reality set in and everyone had to tear down their tents and cots, pack up their gear and re-enter the real world of Sacramento, where homeless people are not allowed to legally live outdoors, and all emergency shelters are full, especially since July 1st marked the closing of the Overflow shelter at Cal-Expo.

The Safe Ground Sacramento Campaign will continue, though, and homeless campers will declare yet another piece of land as Safe Ground for yet another night.  This time with a growing number of supporters, and with the plight of the homeless people of Sacramento being less ignored -- less swept under the rug.

Current organizational sponsors are: Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee, Loaves & Fishes, Francis House, Mark Merin Law Offices, Uptown Studios and Phil Giarrizzo Campaign Consulting. Visit Safe Ground Sacramento’s new website that Uptown Studios just created at: www.safegroundsac.org.






       
No Veto!
A Poem by Jack Hirschman

The poem below was read at a renter’s rights rally at San Francisco City Hall June 30, outside Mayor Gavin Newsom’s locked office door, while the Mayor hid inside, refusing to come out and explain to the people why he was planning to veto a slate of modest renters’ protections being passed by the Board of Supervisors. The bill was designed to give a little relief to the poorest and most vulnerable renters, those hit hardest by the collapsing economy, and prevent further homelessness — here in the city with the highest rents in the US. Tenants of all ages chanted ‘Let us in!’ in English, Spanish and Chinese. Former San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman read the poem below; its powerful words no doubt penetrated the closed door, if not the Mayor’s cold, privileged heart. The reading was done as part of a series of solidarity actions that kicked off the newly-formed San Francisco collective, the Revolutionary Poets Brigade.
                                 —Sarah Menefee 


NO VETO!

Anyone working, or unemployed and still living
on the piddles of unemployment checks or SSI
is smashed continuously against the wall of anxiety
about whether he or she or that child of his or hers

will ever be able to buy something more than a
pound of darkness, will ever be able to pay the rent
when it’s due, because we all need help to due so.
The government’s bailed out the banks and left folks

working their tails off to pay for the violence of the
corporations and their profiteers of the wars and their
landlords. Yes, private property IS the root of violence,
and the Mayor’s veto will be a violent act designed

to perpetuate the violence that everywhere is directed
at San Franciscans in the form of the monthly attack
on our rights that no tampax can stop the bleeding of.
So we must stay his hand, in the name of humanity,

we must invalidate the veto in the name of non-violence;
for make no mistake: the veto will empower the prisons
most of all, the home of those helpless to pay, so be
thrown away, to Street, USA, and curse the day they

ever voted for a false Mayor of the people, who sided not
with joy and justice and the lot of us in a rotten destiny
but turned his back to collect the buxs the landlords
slapped into his palm to keep him garrulously shut up.

Now’s the moment to wake up, Mr. Mayor, now’s the time
to give shared-rent tenancy the legal dignity it deserves.

Jack Hirschman


                                                   —Jack Hirschman



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This article originated in the People's Tribune
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