Tag Archives: Camping ordinance

Steve Bass found guilty of camping not occupying, but could jury have ruled otherwise without hearing his defense?


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.– You may have underestimated the importance of today’s Camping Ban trial. The local media, social justice community and rights watchdogs missed it. But judging from the police force on hand and the elaborate lock-downs placed on the jury pools, it was evident the City of Colorado Springs thought a lot was at stake. I’ve written already about the draconian motions to prevent defendant Steve Bass from explaining his motives, including a ban of the word “Occupy.” Today the court made audience members remove their “Occupy Colorado Springs” t-shirts, but let the cat out of the bag by the palpable gravitas with which the court officials and police handled jury selection. Except for the absence of TV crews outside, you’d have thought Steve Bass was Hannibal Lector tripped up by an urban camping ordinance at “what happened last year in October at a park downtown.”

Yeah, even mention of “Acacia Park” was giving away too much, the prosecuting attorney preferred to call it “115 W. Platte Ave.” Every so often a prospective juror would stand up and say “I presume you’re referring to OCCUPY WALL STREET?” like he was solving a riddle, but instead of the door prize that volunteer would be dismissed from the pool for knowing too much.

After a trial that lasted one third the length of the jury selection, Steve Bass was found guilty. He offered no testimony, his lawyer, the very capable Patty Perelo, made no closing statement, because what defense could be made? Steve and his council elected not to have him testify, because to begin with, he’d have to swear to tell the whole truth, and if he explained he could only tell part of the truth, he’d be slapped with Contempt of Court.

We thought the jurors might have been curious, after seeing the city’s 8×10 glossy pictures with the circles and arrows telling what each one was and hearing not a peep from Bass, but they didn’t express it, and left after giving their verdict. This is Colorado Springs.

One of the prosecution’s witnesses, the arresting officer, nearly spilled the beans when he identified the defendant as someone he couldn’t have confused for someone else, because he’d said he’d encountered Bass many times in the park and shared many conversations.

“Oh?” the defense attorney Perelo perked her ears and asked, “and WHAT did you talk about?”

“Um… homeless policy, mostly.” That’s all HE could say. He couldn’t explain why he’d encountered the defendant so many times, or what the defendant was doing. Attorney Perelo couldn’t push it, because that would be leading him into forbidden territory. His testimony for the prosecutor was delivered straight from his notes.

There were two police witnesses, a map and several photographs, showing the tent and another showing just the poles. Was this necessary for a conviction? Because it necessitated explaining to the jury that said poles were in their “unerected state”. Not to be confused with the tent which was “fully erected”, which the judge pronounced like expressions which tripped off the tongue in cases of serious crime.

A photo of two sleeping bags required the officer to say he found the defendant sleeping “in the bags in the tent in the park” to prove all the elements of a violation of the camping ban.

The prosecuting attorney summarized it thus: “there was a tent, there was a sleeping bag, looks like camping to me.”

Not according to a dictionary definition of course. But that too had been motioned inadmissible. If you look it up, camping is variously defined as to “Live for a time in a camp, tent, or camper, as when on vacation.” Or as when destitute? Dictionaries don’t go there. That’s more like sheltering.

A couple of other examples: Soldiers sleep in tents. They’re not camping. Mountaineers overnighting on the side of a mountain aren’t camping. Refugees of war and natural disasters stay in refuge camps, but aren’t said to be camping. Anyway.

Steve Bass didn’t get his day in court. Everything he wanted to say he couldn’t. His attorney’s strategy today was to prepare for an appeal, on the grounds that the judge deprived Bass of the ability to defend himself.

Did Bass violate the camping ban as the jury decided? The prosecutor explained that nobody, not the judge, nor police officers or herself or the jury was in the position to decide the law. So Steve Bass has to take his case to someone who can.

Jury Selection
Over four hours were spent on choosing a jury, by far the most interesting part of the day. It took three sets of 25 potential jurors to pick six and one alternate. As the process approached lunch hour, the court was eager to buy pizza for seven instead of twenty five, but they didn’t make it.

As I mentioned, usually a juror familiar with “Occupy Wall Street” was dismissed, whether their opinions were favorable or unfavorable. I saw one juror dismissed because delving further would have meant discussing Occupy too much and would expose the other jurors to more occupy talk than the judge or prosecutor wanted.

On the other hand, many jurors had direct relatives in law enforcement, one juror considered a CSPD officer her “knight in shining armor,” so that was another cause for eliminations.

During the second batch, another juror stood up to say he was a former corrections officer, who wasn’t sure if he might have met Steve Bass “in the course of his duties” which poisoned the entire group by suggesting Steve had spent time in prison. That batch was dismissed. In actuality, Steve recognized him, because they both frequented the Dulcimer Shop.

Though Judge Williams maintained a convivial air of impartiality, he betrayed an awful prejudice. Whenever a juror expressed knowing something of what was in the news in October 2011, the judge would asked them if they could refrain from judging Bass based on the misbehavior of others. If jurors who knew about the protests were let to remain in the running, the assumption the judge offered was that “Occupy” was a taint that the defendant hoped they would overcome.

I don’t doubt that this slant extends well beyond Occupy, because municipal courts are notorious for being rubber stamps of a city’s citation process.

For example, in Judge Williams’ instructions to the jury, he read the sample guilty verdict first, in all its solemnity. When he read the not-guilty sample, he broke character to explain that he was not going to repeat the redundant stuff, etc, etc, and then he told the jury they shouldn’t be swayed by the order in which the two samples were read. The dramatic guilty versus the blah blah not-guilty.

Occupy harassment
Knowing about the prohibition against Steve mentioning Occupy, we thought we’d exercise our right not to be gagged. Could it matter? Should it? How preposterous that Steve was being tried and not permitted to say what he was doing. As if some precedent would be set that a defendant might convince a jury that forbidding a person shelter was a bad law.

So we came to court with t-shirts that read OCCUPY COLORADO SPRINGS. Immediately when we sat down, the judge called the lawyers up and decided we’d have to remove our shirts. We were given a chance to explain who we were, but the choice was invert the shirts, put on new ones, or leave. So we walked out.

I had an extra shirt outside with a peace symbol on it. Admittedly a politically-charged shirt, somewhat iconic locally, because it recalled an event in 2007 when peaceful protesters were forcibly removed from a city parade, one of them dragged across the pavement, an elderly woman who subsequently died of complications. So I knew I might be pushing it.

The point being to give Defendant Bass some context. He’s an activist. Alone without a voice he was a perp. With an audience of protestors he becomes a man of mystery. Every accused person in court is sized up in part based on his relations sitting behind him. Why shouldn’t Steve be allowed to show who his friends are?

As I reemerged from my car, already a police supervisor was yelling across the street to tell me I wouldn’t be allowed to wear that shirt. “Are you kidding?” I asked. I had a bag full of them, prepared for this eventuality if other spectators wanted to show solidarity. He was crossing the street to preempt my bringing the confrontation to the steps of the courthouse.

“Eric, you know the judge won’t let you wear that shirt.”

“I know no such thing. He only forbid things that say Occupy.” I knew this to be true, technically.

But they weren’t budging, they claimed a jury pool was already in the courtroom and they didn’t want to take any chances. Oddly, the officer blocking my way, beside the supervisor, was Good Old Officer Paladino who’d brutalized my friends and me in 2007. So he knew the t-shirt too well. Actually Officer Irwin Paladino’s history of abusing protesters goes back to 2003. I decided to dispense with plan B and invert my black t-shirt so I could go back in.

Did the CSPD make the smart call forbidding my t-shirt? I’ll be the first to admit the CSPD have outwitted the local social justice movement at every turn in Colorado Springs. They’re clever and competent, but they’re in the wrong. The CSPD are stepping on our rights, and overstepping their authority to do it. While it may have been superior gamesmanship, it was wrong.

Have I mentioned that they followed us everywhere? As if we were the accused in need of escort. On the officers’ radios we could hear them narrating our movements throughout the building. When Patrick went to the bathroom, an officer followed him inside and made small talk as Patrick peed. Did they think we were going to Mike Check the men’s room?

At one point we were able to see from a window on the second floor hall that CSPD were conferring with a parking enforcement officer around our cars. She was examining the license plates, getting on her phone, standing by the cars, as if waiting for something. The cars were legally parked, the meters fed, and well within the four hour limit. But who wants to argue with an impound lot? I assure you this intimidation tactic worked very well to send us out of the courthouse to rescue our vehicles.

Meanwhile, another friend came into the courthouse and overheard officers discussing whether to deny us entry again, and by what pretext, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

While watching the jury selection, it was the batch that was being dismissed in full, the court bailiff suddenly bolted from behind where we were sitting and told the judge she’d overheard us whispering about inappropriate subjects, specifically using profanity. This accusation was based on a dear Occupier’s habit of muttering colorful asides. Okay this was true, but in his defense, it was after the jury being spoiled, about the jury being spoiled, but inappropriate none-the-less and he apologized. But to tie all together in the misbehavior was a fabrication. The prosecutor tried to have us evicted, and Officer Paladino chimed in about the confrontation I instigated at the door. That’s when my friend told the judge she’d overheard CSPD officers discussing plans to keep us out, so the bailiff’s actions began to appear a little contrived.

This complaint was finally settled with the judge’s warning that one peep out of us would get us 90 days in jail for Contempt of Court. At this point we knew the pieces of duct tape we’d brought in to use to protest Steve’s gagging were definitely OUT.

Just before lunch recess I was able to clarify with Judge Williams whether the peace t-shirt I had wanted to wear was acceptable to the court. Receiving no objection from the prosecutor, the judge told me it would be okay, and then assured me he’d inform CSPD.

Returning from lunch, once again with the peace shirt, the security screeners nearly didn’t let me pass, but I barreled past with the confidence of someone who knows his rights. This time Officer Paladino came upon me at the courtroom door, swaggering right into my face assuring me he was not going to let me pass. FORTUNATELY before he could wrestle my arms behind my back, another supervisor arrived who’d heard the judge, and I was allowed to proceed. Boring story I know. But the pattern was unsettling.

Then Steve was found guilty, you could feel the city’s giddiness as they discussed sentencing. We’re only talking community service, but Colorado Springs has only one contractor for that, the odious Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, whose hi profile task is to clean up after the CSPD Homeless Outreach Team scoops up the homeless and puts them in shelters very much in the model of correctional facilities. Steve was able to negotiate a less anti-homeless agency, and that’s the story so far.

Steve Bass to get his day in court, but he can’t say what he was doing or why, & above all he can’t mention “Occupy”


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.– Municipal Court Judge Spottswood W. F. Williams heard a final motion today before the AUGUST 10 trial of Occupier Steve Bass, charged with violating the city’s camping ban. The prosecution motioned to forbid from trial, “discussion of political, economic, or religious beliefs or ideology as a purported justification for the alleged acts”, and even “arguments related to the belief that the defendant’s conduct was constitutionally protected”, and in true Colorado Springs fashion, the judge GRANTED the city’s motion! YES THAT’S RIGHT, now if Bass wanted to say he wasn’t “camping,” he can’t say what else you would call it! In effect, Defendant Bass is prevented from explaining WHY he was occupying, or even THAT he was occupying, because saying “OCCUPY” is expressly forbidden. The judge will play it by ear whether to make an exception for himself during “voir dire” if selecting impartial jurors might require asking their opinion of “Occupy”. That’s IF BASS GETS A JURY AT ALL, because next, Judge Williams prompted the city prosecutor to research whether Bass was entitled to a jury of his peers for the infraction of camping…

The issue had already been resolved in an earlier hearing. Unable to find definitive wording on whether a camping ban violation invoked the right to a jury trial, the court ruled to proceed as if it did. But at today’s hearing Judge Williams related that in the interim over a casual dinner conversation, another judge informed him that the law read otherwise. So he put the question again to the prosecution. And again the citations came up inconclusive. This time however, with the clerk advised to continue the search, the decision stands at “pending”.

If Judge Williams opts to eliminate the jury, the forbidding of political or constitutional discussion is a moot point, actually two. There won’t be a jury to confuse, nor a judge either, because Judge Williams decided, by allowing the city’s motion, that the defendant has no arguments to make. Case closed. If the judge gets his way.

The point of today’s hearing was to hear not a judge’s motion but the city’s, a “motion in limine” used to reach agreement about what arguments can be excluded from the trial, often a defendant’s prior convictions which might prejudice a jury.

The core of the city’s motion was this:

…that the Defendant be ordered to refrain from raising the following issues at the Jury Trial…

1. Discussion of political, economic, or religious beliefs or ideology as a purported justification for the alleged acts, or as an issue to be evaluated by the jury;

2. Presentation of facts or arguments related to the belief that the defendant’s conduct was constitutionally protected expressive conduct;

3. Presentation of facts or arguments with the primary purpose or effect of proselytizing for the occupy movement, or otherwise using the Courtroom as a public forum;

4. Any reference to settlement negotiations with the Defendant prior to trial;

The city is guessing that because defendant Bass has passed on all opportunities to dismiss his case on technicalities, or plead for a deferred sentence, that he’s hanging on to get “his day in court.” Whatever that’s going to look like, the city doesn’t like it.

Points three and four were conceded by the defendant. No proselytizing was intended, and of course plea deals are confidential. But the discussion of #3 was amusing, because the city expanded it to mean absolutely NO MENTION of “Occupy.” Even though the defendant was cited in ACACIA PARK, in OCTOBER, under 24/7 media coverage, the prosecutor argued that mentioning OCCUPY “would be unfairly prejudicial to the City.” Further:

To admit evidence related to any political, economic, and religious debate concerning the “Occupy Movement” at trial in this matter would result in prejudice, confusion, and a waste of Court time. By allowing such testimony, the jury would be misled as to the elements of the charged offense which would result in confusion during jury deliberations. Furthermore, the prosecution would suffer unfair prejudice if the jury were allowed to consider the defendant’s private ideology…

Not only did the city fear it would lose a popularity contest with “Occupy”, it worried that the courtroom would be abused by public debate. The point was ceded by the defense because the “primary purpose” would always have been to present defending arguments, not proselytize.

The City’s request is that the Court be treated as a forum for resolving criminal disputes and not as a public forum for debate. Political, economic and religious debate should be restricted to appropriate public forums.

The prosecutor raises an incongruous irony: Steve Bass is on trial because the city doesn’t consider Acacia Park to be an appropriate forum either.

Naturally the defense objected to points one and two, though on the three particular defense strategies the city wanted to preempt, “Choice of Evils Defense”, “Defense of Others”, and “Duress”, the defense ceded as irrelevant. Judge Williams then granted points one and two with the proviso that Steve Bass be permitted to draft his own defense argument, to be presented to the court no later than the Wednesday before trial. Did you know that a defendant must have his arguments approved by his accusers before he’s allowed to make them in court?

I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that Steve Bass is going to get his day in court if he’s going to spend it gagged.

Was Steve Bass arrested for “camping” or was the city trying to curtail “Occupy”? Let’s remember that Jack Semple and Amber Hagan were arrested for taping themselves to a tent, and Nic Galetka was arrested for setting his things on the ground.

But Steve Bass won’t be allowed to mention those details.

———-
FOR REFERENCE: The city’s full motion is reprinted below:

MUNICIPAL COURT, CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO

PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS, Plaintiff
v.
Steven Bass, Defendant

Case Number: 11M32022

MOTION IN LIMINE

COMES NOW the Office of the City Attorney, by and through Jamie V. Smith, Prosecuting Attorney, and submits this “Motion in Limine,” moving that the Defendant be ordered to refrain from raising the following issues at the Jury Trial in the above-captioned matter:

1. Discussion of political, economic, or religious beliefs or ideology as a purported justification for the alleged acts, or as an issue to be evaluated by the jury;

2. Presentation of facts or arguments related to the belief that the defendant’s conduct was constitutionally protected expressive conduct;

3. Presentation of facts or arguments with the primary purpose or effect of proselytizing for the occupy movement, or otherwise using the Courtroom as a public forum;

4. Any reference to settlement negotiations with the Defendant prior to trial;

ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF MOTION

1. Discussion of political, economic, or religious beliefs or ideology as a purported justification for the alleged acts, or as an issue to be evaluated by the jury.

The Defendant is charges with violating Section 9.6.110 of the Code of the City of Colorado Springs, 2001, as amended (“the City Code”), entitled “Camping on Public Property.” Political, economic, or religious beliefs or ideology are not relevant to any of the elements of an alleged violation of City Code Section 9.6.110, nor are they relevant to any potential defense to that City Code Section.

City Code Section 9.6.110 makes it “unlawful for any person to camp on public property, except as may be specifically authorized by the appropriate governmental authority.” Testimony or arguments irrelevant to the elements contained in that language should be exclude from trial. C.R.E. Rule 401 defines relevant evidence as “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probably than it would be without the evidence.” Evidence and argument regarding political, economic or religious beliefs of ideology have no bearing on the offense charged and do not meet the definition of relevant evidence.

Even if some discussion of these issues could be found to be of limited relevance, such discussion would only serve to confuse the issues and waste the court’s and jurors’ time, and would be unfairly prejudicial to the City. C.R.E. Rule 403 allows relevant evidence to be excluded when its admission would cause prejudice, confusion, or waste of time. To admit evidence related to any political, economic, and religious debate concerning the “Occupy Movement” at trial in this matter would result in prejudice, confusion, and a waste of Court time. By allowing such testimony, the jury would be misled as to the elements of the charged offense which would result in confusion during jury deliberations. Furthermore, the prosecution would suffer unfair prejudice if the jury were allowed to consider the defendant’s private ideology, as it is not an element that the prosecution must prove. Time and resources of the Court would also be wasted by allowing such testimony.

Furthermore, this Court denied the defendant’s “Motion to Dismiss-First Amendment,” on June 7, 2012, holding that City Code Section 9.6.110 is content-neutral, and that the defendant did not have a Constitutionally protected right to express his views in the manner that he chose on the date of the violation. Therefore, the sole issue before the jury is whether or not Mr. bass was camping on public property without appropriate governmental authority. Any evidence concerning political, economic or religious views that he was attempting to express through his conduct has no relevance whatsoever to any of the elements of the offense.

Discussion of the “Occupy Movement” as a political, economic or religious issue is also irrelevant to any potential defense which could be raised in this matter. Economic, political and religious beliefs or ideology are irrelevant to the following defenses that the Defendant might attempt to raise:

a. Choice of Evils Defense. C.R.S. Section 18-1-702(1) provides, in pertinent part, that “conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal when it is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur… .” The statute goes on the state in subsection (2) that “the necessity and justifiability of conduct under subsection (1) of this section shall not rest upon considerations pertaining only to the morality and advisability of the statute, either in its general application or with respect to its application to a particular class of cases arising thereunder.” (Emphasis added.) Subsection (2) also states that:

[w]hen evidence relating to the defense of justification under this section is offered by the defendant, before it is submitted for the consideration of the jury, the court shall first rule as a matter of law whether the claimed facts and circumstances would, if established, constitute a justification.

The choose of evils defense “does not arise from a ‘choice’ of several courses of action, but rather is based on a real emergency involving specific and imminent grave injury that presents the defendant with no alternatives other that the one take.” People v. Strock, 623 P.2d 42, 44 (Colo.1981). in order to invoke the “choice of evils” defense, the Defendant must show that his conduct was necessitated by a specific and imminent threat of public or private injury under circumstances which left him no reasonable and viable alternative other than the violation of law for which he stand charged. Andrews v. People, 800 P.2d 607 (Colo. 1990).

There has been no allegation by the defense, and no facts in the police reports previously submitted to this Court, that allege a specific and imminent public or private injury would occur if Mr. Bass had not erected a tent on public property. Furthermore, reasonable and potentially viable alternatives were available to Mr. Bass to achieve his goal, such as picketing and handing out literature, on the date of violation. This was accepted as true and ruled upon by this Court at the motions hearing on June 7, 2012. it should also be noted that no state “has enacted legislation that makes the choice of evils defense available as a justification for behavior that attempts to bring about social and political change outside the democratic governmental process.” Id. at 609; see also United States v. Dorrell, 758 F.2d 427, 431 (9th Cir. 1985) (mere impatience with the political process does not constitute necessity).

b. Defense of Others. C.R.S. Section 18-1-704 describes the circumstance under which the use of physical force in defense of a person constitutes a justification for a criminal offense. Subsection (1) of that statute states, in part, that “a person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person…”. The defense does not apply considering the allegation in this case. There is no allegation that the Defendant was using physical force to protect himself from unlawful force by another at any time during the violation. Furthermore, no unlawful force was used or imminently threatened against any third party that would allow the Defendant to raise the defense.

c. Duress. C.R.S. Section 18-1-708 defines duress as conduct in which a defendant engages in at the direction of another person because use or threatened use of unlawful force upon him or another person. Duress does not apply in this case. There is no evidence that anyone was using or threatening to use unlawful force against Defendant or any third party to cause the Defendant to commit a violation.

2. Presentation of facts or arguments related to the belief that the defendant’s conduct was constitutionally protected expressive conduct.

Any claim by the Defendant that his conduct was protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution is not a proper issue to be raised before the jury in this case. This is a constitutional defense that was already raised by the Defendant in his “motion to Dismiss-First Amendment,” and which was denied by this Court on June 7, 2012. The Court ruled as a matter of law that the Defendant’s alleged conduct was not a constitutionally protected form of expression.

3. Presentation of facts or arguments with the primary purpose or effect of proselytizing for the occupy movement, or otherwise using the Courtroom as a public forum.

It is anticipated that the Defendant will attempt to use this trial as a public forum to assert his political, economic, and religious views on the “Occupy Movement.” Courtrooms are not public forums. People v. Aleem, 149 P.3d 765 (Colo. 2007). This Court has the authority to restrict political speech within the courtroom and preserve its purpose as a forum for adjudication of criminal disputes,m so long as the restriction is reasonable and viewpoint neutral. Id. The restriction requested by the City is both reasonable and viewpoint neutral. The purpose of this Motion is to limit the evidence presented in this matter to the offense charged and potential defenses thereto. The Motion is also viewpoint neutral as the City is not taking a stance on political, economic, or religious issues and would not request that the Court do so either. The City’s request is that the Court be treated as a forum for resolving criminal disputes and not as a public forum for debate. Political, economic and religious debate should be restricted to appropriate public forums. To allow Defendant to raise thee issues would be contrary to legal precedent and the rules of evidence.

4. Any reference to settlement negotiations with the Defendant prior to trial.

C.R.E. 408 excludes from permissible evidence compromise or offers to compromise. Plea negotiations fall under this rule and may not be discussed in the presence of the Judge or Jury.

Occupy Colo. Springs suffers SECOND ARREST for camping outside permit

Jack arrested for erecting tent in Acacia Park
COLORADO SPRINGS- Tonight’s 11 O’clock arrest in Acacia Park was the second for #OCCUPYCS. As contentious GAs can attest, the self-delegated city-liaison executive-members are fighting a losing battle with a dissenting membership determined to grow the OWS protest by stressing inclusion and enlarging the encampment to beyond the city-permitted canopies.

Five cruisers and one unmarked vehicle responded to call

1, we are the people! 2, we are united! 3, the occupation is not leaving!

Nighttime arrests continue across the country in local moves to stomp on the sparking Occupy Movement, using park, curfew and anti-homeless ordinances to thwart permanent protest encampments. Participants remind each other that it’s about issues not tents. The authorities however seem indifferent to their public raising issues, but raising tents is out of the question. Last night saw a mass arrest of over one hundred in Chicago’s Grant Park. Here’s what they were chanting as occupiers were pulled from their human chain, zip-tied and led paddy wagons on loan from the Illinois prison system.
          ONE! We are the people!
          TWO! We are united!
          THREE! The Occupation
          IS NOT LEAVING!

Legalismo

This is a direct copy of the email i sent earlier today and then copied and pasted some before it dawned on me it would be much easier and more effective to post it here. Collins is a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His referenced comment appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette on 18 Oct, after my arrest but before the paper got the news to rectify a time-frame misconception i tossed around earlier. The version of that story is dated 17 Oct, but the paper version came out the following morning.

I remain without legal representation and will accept any offer to confer, but no tapdancers to take the case. I’m not so stupid as to imagine i can learn the Byzantine procedure of Our shameful legal system before the 8th of November well enough to get the point across if i represent myself, but neither will i accept representation from someone who will not take my approach.

Professor Collins:

I am the guy arrested for camping in Colorado Springs.

Although the perfectly certain fact has yet to sink in amongst many of my cohorts here in Colorado Springs, i am well aware that the point you made for the CSpgs Gazette the other day is entirely true. No-camping ordinances are by no means unconstitutional. This fact highlights the argument against the amendment of that original document by many of our founders fearful that the enumeration of some rights would expose others to attack. Current events managed to plop a soapbox and peculiarly focused bullhorn directly in my lap. I intend to plead not guilty on grounds that no-camping laws violate the pre-constitutional right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and that this case is exemplar of the general and drastic erosion of human rights in the U.S., and across the entire globe. I am not particularly concerned as to the outcome of the case, but extraordinarily pleased at the opportunity to publicly state a few sentiments i believe by observation to be both common and woefully unarticulated.

I remain unbacked by any legal practitioner and i’d love your input, discussion, advice, council, suggestions, or connection, in any “and/or” configuration that suits your fancy.

Warmest Regards,

Steve Bass

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde

(Reprinted from Hipgnosis)

Report from the Right Front

I will be the first to point out, right now here in this forum, that I have a Texas-sized ego. I think I’m a reasonably smart guy, and not unlike any writer, that I have some things to say that are so danged important that I’m gonna say them. I’ll also point out that some others in the conversation, possibly including you, gentle reader, have the same handicap. The entire discussion ought to be undertaken with a salt shaker within easy reach ’cause everything anyone has to say ought to be taken with a liberal helping.
 
This post is an attempt to unravel a bit of a Gordian knot that has tied itself around the politics of “Occupy” movements around the world, and particularly here in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A. without hacking at it with f-bombs directed at the many possessors of equally large egos as mine, while openly acknowledging strong disagreements between some of us. Believe me, this is a difficult bit of unraveling and though I mean to avoid ad hominem attacks, I’ll not promise to eschew strong language. It’s also a bit of a news update, straight from the horse’s ass, so to speak. Sorry if it runs long or gets complicated; it’s a big hairy knot.

I am the guy that picked up the first no-camping ordinance violation in the city of Colorado Springs. I did this while participating in protests falling under the ill-defined aegis of a group called “Occupy Colorado Springs,” in solidarity with another ill-defined group called “Occupy Wall Street,” and other Occupiers all over the world. In case it’s unclear: there’s no such thing as Occupy Colorado Springs, (OCS). What happened is a few guys, boldly named at the top of the eponymous Facebook page like John Hancock at the bottom of that one famous page, finally got bent enough out of shape to do something about it so they set up a page, and a small camp down at Bijou and Tejon–Acacia Park. They were behind the Wall Street guys and liking what they were about, I came behind them.

There is no club membership, no charter, no bylaws, no nothing to define the Colorado Springs group that might in any way be construed to suggest the thing we are doing at Acacia Park is anything other than a gathering of a bunch of fully leaderless sovereign individuals that happen to share a common distaste at the state of human affairs extant in the world today. Anyone who has known me for any length of time, or has read any of the pages preceding this post will know that this is nothing new for me. I was and remain ecstatic at the development of public expression, both here and globally. I am a free actor in the business of protesting in general, and that involving the city’s no-camping ordinance in particular. I act as a sovereign, as a member of OCS whatever that means, as a citizen of the U.S.A., as a citizen of the World–a member of the human race, possessor of certain unalienable rights, whether those derive from God or not.

I decided to deliberately violate the city ordinance because I believe it exemplifies an aspect of the overall erosion of human rights here and across the globe that has precipitated such widespread uproar. I believe it directly attacks individuals’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that it is both superfluous and fully unnecessary. It’s just a mean-spirited dig at the weakest among us, a tactic akin to schoolyard bullying, which I maintain is motivated by the same spirit that allows the holders of power at the Federal Reserve and other powerful international and national bodies to gleefully grind the majority of the world’s citizenry to dust for no more than sport. I meant all along from well before the advent of any Occupations to have this conversation at a level previously unattainable to me, and now we will–that is, I and whomever cares to jump in during the proceedings. I control only my own actions and expressions.

There are some protesters at Acacia Park that have strenuously objected to my camping as I did. They are pleased to maintain the fine relationship with CSPD and with the Mayor’s office that has developed, and happy to have avoided the head-bashing, tear-gassing removals that have troubled some other Occupy outposts. Fearing a narrowing of focus from the general Occupy platforms, they asked me, and truly in some instances pleaded with me to abandon my course. Some attempted to tell me. They are happy to compromise, capitulate, appease, to utilize terms previously utilized by those members opposed to my individual action. I am not. I promise, I love every one of the crazy fools involved with the action at our little street corner whether we agree on this matter or not. I’ll mention this one more time: I am just one dude. Anyone that agrees with me here is also behaving of his or her own accord.

Our Mayor Bach is an asshole. I promised to avoid ad hominem here, and I’ll point out that this is not an attack but an observation, and only my opinion. Publicly, falsely and slanderously maligning the very civilized protesters of OCS for urinating on sidewalks while simultaneously locking park rest rooms which had previously been available to all manner of dope-shooting freaks, and possibly authorizing the operation of park sprinkler systems to douse protesters in below freezing temperatures are asshole moves. In my opinion. Mayor Bach is in error, but he’s only acting as seems best to him in each moment, now also capitulating, and allowing protesters a right to their freedom of speech.

We already have a freedom to speak in our country. My violation of the camping ordinance addresses a deeper, more fundamental set of freedoms mentioned so briefly in Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration, and to be found in all the keening of literature throughout all of history–blowin’ in the wind, one might say. This is not a narrowing of focus, but rather a telescopic lens by which I hope we can examine questions of such grand scale and difficulty that centuries after a bunch of homeless guys floated across the Atlantic to Plymouth, we still haven’t grasped them. failing to address the camping ordinance presenting itself so conveniently will flippantly sidestep the most essential key to all of this whole set of global protesting. We’ve all seen protesters on the street corner a million times. We’ve always compromised. It’s never worked.

Anecdotally speaking, it appears the major objection raised by detractors of the Occupy movement is that there has been no firm expression of goals, manifestos, or demands. It seems to me that this is the natural outcome of the complexity of the problems at hand. Although there are certainly individuals involved in skulduggery at, say, the FED, my view is that we face the necessity to alter a fundamental flaw in our very basis for human interaction. I’ll leave you to read my thoughts on that elsewhere in this blog, if you desire, both previous to this post and to come. Right now the Occupy movement is just an acknowledgement of discomfort with the extraordinarily stubborn status quo across all political and national lines, and a frame work within which discussion may take place. Planning and legal definitions will have to wait for some 7 billion Occupiers to chime in. The difficulty of hashing out the minor disagreements among players here in Colorado Springs may be an indication of how much work is involved with the big picture. Be patient. Unless you like the status quo. Most of us don’t.

For anyone out of the loop, including friends across the U.S. and abroad, here’s a bit of fact: I was arrested 18 October, around 2am MST for deliberately violating a city no-camping ordinance. The arrest was executed by my friends, the extra-fine members of the “HOTT” team of the CSPD, as we had previously discussed, (those guys are just as much in jeopardy from “Wall Street” as any of us; they are our brothers). I was simply driven, sans violence of any kind, or even cuffs or hard feelings, to the Gold Hills police station. We did a little paperwork and the fellas drove me to a friend’s place where I claimed a bit of much-needed rest. The HOTT team and I were completely cooperative with one another, and remain so. They did their jobs, I did mine. I had to wrestle with the question until some family matters came up, but I will not be camping under that no-camping sign again until at least my court date, 8 Nov at 1:30p MST. I can not, nor will I attempt to speak to the actions of any other sovereign actors who may follow my example, other than to toss out my opinion should it seem germane to me.

I hope we can all have this conversation in a civilized manner. I hope the whole world shows up at the courthouse that day. I hope all my friends known and unknown that can’t make it will pray, or chant, or beam love on fairy wings–whatever their fancy. I’m gonna need it. I think we all need it, that day and every other.

Reprinted from Hipgnosis

Should homeless camping ban apply to Occupy Colorado Springs protest? Homelessness is often also protest.

COLORADO SPRINGS- Activist Steve Bass was arrested last night for overstaying his welcome in the city’s Acacia Park, violating the ordinance against pitching a tent in a public park. While the city is asserting that the anti-homeless no-camping ordinance ban applies to overnight free speech and assembly, and the OCCUPY COLORADO SPRINGS protesters argue that protest should be differentiated from the homeless issue, Steve reminds us that for many on the street, homelessness is their protest.

Bass has longtime experience administrating the Sunday morning soup kitchen at CC’s Shove Chapel. According to Bass, it’s not a matter of “To be or not to be” but the unalienable right to be or be somewhere else. Here’s an excerpt from his statement:

A point is advanced during the meeting [Occupy Colorado Springs negotiations with City officials] that separates homeless campers from active political occupiers. As a matter of personal opinion, though there are some real differences in context, the camping ordinance is bad law as yet untested in courts. However, having been involved with the free food biz in Colorado Springs for decades I am confident in stating that many homeless campers are in their position by choice, having opted out of a political system found onerous. I see no legitimate difference between this lifestyle of protest and the pointed expressions of protest embraced by Occupy Colorado Springs.

Other homeless campers are thus because of uncontrolled habits, some of which fall under the label of “diseased” behavior by authoritative bodies in the U.S. or because of circumstances external to their control. There are only two varieties of property in the entirety of the U.S.–public or private. If the continuously burgeoning population of homeless campers is barred from sleeping on public property, and have no means by which to acquire access to private property, they have no option at all. Others are then required by default to put them up, thus far manifest here in conditions both unsanitary and unsavory as demonstrable by the bed-bug ridden Express Inn or the Aztec Motel, or else the Salvation Army–court ordered church. Otherwise, our only other option is to incarcerate them. I maintain that an unmentioned and “unalienable” right of all human beings is simply to be, wherever that being may take place.

To be or to be somewhere else

An attempt to address a few issues presented here in as brief a fashion possible: Re: “Occupy Colorado Springs hits legal wall.” Regardless of the opinions of any observer or participant in any protests currently under way here or across the country, police are likely to follow the direction of their superiors, apart from unauthorized behavior on the part of mavericks or rogues. Jason points out that the Bill of Rights “trumps” city ordinances and statutes, and if that is not true then I am personally inclined to object strenuously and if necessary physically, in the sense that I will camp “illegally” with the occupiers during the course of the current protestations.

A point is advanced during the meeting that separates homeless campers from active political occupiers. As a matter of personal opinion, though there are some real differences in context, the camping ordinance is bad law as yet untested in courts. However, having been involved with the free food biz in Colorado Springs for decades I am confident in stating that many homeless campers are in their position by choice, having opted out of a political system found onerous. I see no legitimate difference between this lifestyle of protest and the pointed expressions of protest embraced by Occupy Colorado Springs. Other homeless campers are thus because of uncontrolled habits, some of which fall under the label of “diseased” behavior by authoritative bodies in the U.S. or because of circumstances external to their control. There are only two varieties of property in the entirety of the U.S.–public or private. If the continuously burgeoning population of homeless campers is barred from sleeping on public property, and have no means by which to acquire access to private property, they have no option at all. Others are then required by default to put them up, thus far manifest here in conditions both unsanitary and unsavory as demonstrable by the bed-bug ridden Express Inn or the Aztec Motel, or else the Salvation Army–court ordered church. Otherwise, our only other option is to incarcerate them. I maintain that an unmentioned and “unalienable” right of all human beings is simply to be, wherever that being may take place.

Jason points out the tenuous Constitutional position of the camping ordinances in a reasonably clear manner. The position of the police is clear and understandable, though I believe they are mistaken about the issues with city statutes; they will do as directed by others. Some of us affiliated with with the Occupiers, including I, believe arrest followed by courtroom examination of these and other questions may be seen as a good thing, and would result in the elimination of obviously untenable, ill-conceived statutes that are currently being enforced only in the most visible and problematic cases anyway.

This describes some of the entanglement of the only somewhat separate matters of Occupiers in Colorado Springs, and campers in Colorado Springs. Without more than this brief mention, it also demonstrates the erosion of liberty in this country that precipitates the protests in the first place.

Finally, to nip a little at Bryce’s bait, his “dismissive” attitude is unnecessary and dishonorable. I would personally love to see the unconstitutional camping ordinances put to the test in court. The U.S. Constitution is NOT an especially arcane piece of work, in spite of generations of lawyers’ efforts to make it seem so. Here’s a copy for you to examine: http://constitutionus.com/ . Have one of these, too: ushistory.org/declaration/document/

As an individual, merely affiliated with the fine and diverse members of Occupy Colorado Springs, I can speak only for my own motivation and opinion.

(Reprinted from Hipgnosis)

The Law, in its Majestic equality, forbids rich and poor from being alike

At least when it comes to Urban Camping. Seems the “no camping” ordinance didn’t apply at the mall when Greed rather than Need was the motivation to take to the tents. People started camping out early Thanksgiving day to be the first in line for “doorbuster” specials on Black Friday. How about it, Doug, Janis, Sean, Lionel? Chief Meyers? Sheriff Mussolini errr Maketa? How about it Tame Ass Right Wing Media in town, Praising the HomeFull campers for their bravery in voluntarily pitching their tents with plenty of police protection, unlike anything the HomeLess PEOPLE ever got.
Hypocrisy, thou hast a name, and thy name is Colorado Springs Establishment.
Maybe they could redeem themselves by publishing stories detailing how many of those purchases were made on Credit and in 6 months how many of the Credit Cards used are in default. Black Friday is allegedly a Triumph of Capitalism. Yes, once again the Corporate BigPigs got the commoners to push themselves further into debt which they’ll never be able to repay. What a lovely victory that is!