“Unreasonably Disturbing Noises” Trial Continued for Robert Facer and Robert Norse

On July 20, 2010, Robert “Blindbear” Facer, a homeless street musician, and Robert Norse, a housed activist and long-time supporter of homeless civil rights, had their trial continued until August 3rd. On January 6th, they were issued a $445 citation for an alleged violation of MC 9.36.020, the city’s ordinance against “unreasonably disturbing noises,” during a demonstration against war and occupation abroad and the local criminalization of poverty, within a “free speech zone” outside of Bookshop Santa Cruz on the Pacific Avenue sidewalk.

The police allegedly arrived at the January 6th demonstration to issue citations based on a “citizen’s complaint” from Sean Reilly, a resident in the nearby St. George apartments. He complained because he was trying to sleep, at 2:30pm, on a Wednesday. Sean was in court on July 20th and presumably ready to testify. SCPD officer Lauren Schonfield, who issued the citations, also appeared in court.

Regarding the incident, Robert Norse wrote on Indybay.org, “The absurd contention that First Amendment activity on the street has to be at a low enough volume to not awaken a light day sleeper on the second floor with an open window on a weekday at 2:30 PM on Santa Cruz’s busiest street, is, of course, absurd. This whole prosecution (especially with the unusual involvement of the City Attorney) smacks of a desire to maintain an illegal ‘move along’ policy at the discretion of the police and nearby businesses and residents. [This is] not what the law and the Constitution allow.”

The trial is being heard before Commissioner Kim Baskett in Department 10, located in the basement of the 5-story county building in Santa Cruz. Robert Facer is being represented by attorney Ed Frey, with legal support from Ray Glock-Grueneich. Robert Norse is defending himself.

Ed Frey presented a motion (half page) to the court. This apparently caught both the city attorney and judge by surprise. The city attorney requested, and was granted, 10 days to review the motion. The trial is scheduled to resume on Tuesday, August 3rd at 10pm. Commissioner Baskett explained that the court will hear the case until 11:45am, if needed, and then continue the next morning.

For more information, see:

More Sidewalk Singing Tickets Go to Trial

Santa Cruz City Municipal Code 9.36.020 Unreasonably Disturbing Noises:

“No person shall make, cause, suffer or permit to be made any noises or sounds (a) which are unreasonably disturbing or physically annoying to people of ordinary sensitiveness or which are so harsh or so prolonged or unnatural or unusual in their use, time or place as to cause physical discomfort to any person, and (b) which are not necessary in connection with an activity which is otherwise lawfully conducted. As used in this section, “lawfully conducted activities” shall include, but not be limited to, any and all activities conducted by the city for public health, safety or welfare purposes.”

Crossposted at Indybay.org.