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NUZ: Homelessness Tests Tempers at Park Meeting

Plus, another look at controversial ‘Seattle Is Dying’ doc

A recent rumble in the park fractured along ideological lines—before spilling over onto social media—amid struggles over how best to deal with a burgeoning homeless population.

There was a meeting at Depot Park last Sunday to discuss impacts of a homeless encampment coming to the park’s parking lot. Photographer and homeless advocate Jeremy Leonard showed up and was snapping pictures of the Warming Center’s Brent Adams when Take Back Santa Cruz member Hollie Locatelli came up to Leonard and said that he should get people’s permission before taking their photos.

Locatelli tells Nuz she felt Leonard was following her wherever she went at the event. Leonard says he doesn’t know why Locatelli would think that, but that if she does, it might explain what happened next. Leonard told Locatelli, who was former City Councilmember Richelle Noroyan’s campaign treasurer in 2014 and 2018, that he had a First Amendment right to take photos at a public meeting in a park. After that, the timeline gets hazy. Everyone agrees that it happened quickly, but Locatelli slapped Leonard’s $5,000 camera, and he started snapping photos to try and get her to back off. Leonard says he felt like Locatelli was trying to knock his camera out of his hands, while Locatelli says he was practically rubbing the camera in her face.

Leonard says he didn’t know Locatelli, and that he had never had a proper conversation with Noroyan, who was nearby. So he went over to introduce himself to Noroyan and ask what Locatelli’s deal was. Noroyan told Leonard, who lives in South County, that the city doesn’t need people from Aptos coming in and telling Santa Cruzans how to run things. Now, there are of course many non-Santa Cruz residents who are very involved in Santa Cruz politics, including many on the right. Noroyan says she was wrong, that what she said was “stupid,” and that she’s sorry. She also felt the Leonard, who’s 6’4”, was getting in her face.

Leonard talked to a police officer and explained that he didn’t want to press charges for assault, but asked the cop to speak with Locatelli about the incident, which he did.

Facebook was quickly aswirl with speculation and taking sides. Six years ago, Leonard took heat for taking footage of a public safety hawk threatening a homeless man during a cleanup, which ignited ire from the community—some of it directed at him for sharing the clip in the first place.

“My camera always gets me into trouble. It’s crazy,” Leonard muses.

As Locatelli was walking toward the parking lot, Leonard yelled out something to the effect of “Next time, I will press charges!”

Locatelli says the cop told her that slapping a camera isn’t grounds for an assault charge.

RIGHTING HOME

After Nuz wrote last week (“A Place to Lie,” 3/20) about the screwiness of the anti-homeless documentary Seattle Is Dying, Santa Cruzans have continued to share it, and it seems to be spreading to other communities too. Which is fine. There’s only so much one alt-weekly column can do.

But you know where this suspect piece of borderline anti-homeless propaganda, from the Washington state TV station KOMO, is inciting a little more scrutiny? Try Seattle.

Just take this post from a Twitter page titled “Angry Seattle.”

“Apparently, I am dying?” the tweet reads. “Bull fucking shit. Yes, I have a homeless problem. Yes, it’s gotten worse. Doesn’t mean people are fleeing like on the set of Walking Dead or some shit. Doesn’t make me Detroit from 10 years ago. Shut the fuck up.”

The region’s Tacoma News Tribune argued that the recent doc could get in the way of real homelessness solutions. The stories of those struggling on the streets in the one-hour piece are real, and they hit close to home. Reasonable minds may disagree about out how to tackle the issues. The piece’s narrative arc, however, is heavy on anecdotes, with a tiny bit of mostly lousy data sprinkled in.

As we wrote last week, KOMO is owned by America’s pro-Trump local news monopoly Sinclair Broadcast Group. We don’t pretend to know the station’s true motives, but if this is another one of Sinclair’s pieces of right-wing propaganda, isn’t this pretty much exactly how the conglomerate would want the saga playing out—i.e. gradually spreading throughout the country?

It’s worth noting that the video doesn’t have any advertisements… which is odd for a news piece on the web in the revenue-starved media landscape of 2019. So if KOMO is not selling ads with this journalistic mess, what the heck is it selling?

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