My Letter to the Irvine City Council Democrats, 10-17

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[Note: I have addressed this letter to only the Democratic majority on the Irvine City Council because residents of Irvine have expressed to the opinion to me that, while they might be “maybes” with respect to the requests expressed below, the Republicans on the City Council are automatic and firm “nays.”  If anyone knows to the contrary, please feel free to let me know and I’ll revise future letters accordingly.

If anyone wants to ensure that the recipients see this as soon as possible, you may of course send them this link.  All three are, I believe, on Facebook; some readers here may have more efficient means of reaching them.]

Dear Mayor Kang, Mayor Pro-Tem Krom, and Councilmember Agran,

I am on the Civic Liaison committee of the Occupy Irvine demonstrators who have maintained a continuous presence outside of City Hall since the early morning of Saturday, Oct. 15.  I write in the hope of beginning a conversation with you.  Please feel welcome to forward this to Councilmembers Choi and Lalloway as you see fit.

I have met you all individually a couple of times or more, but I am not sure what you know about me.  I am a member of (but of course do not speak for) the Executive Board of the Democratic Party of Orange County and often attend Democratic Party events; some of you may know me from those, as well as from my role as an Orange County Co-coordinator for the Brown for Governor campaign last autumn.  I am an attorney (solo practitioner) located in Brea, CA, although I’ve spent the brunt of the past 2-1/2 years working in Irvine and Newport Beach.  I have been watching the “Occupy Wall Street” movement with increasing fascination and hope since Sept. 17.  Last week, I sought to become involved in planning and administration for Occupy Irvine.

So far, as you probably know, the demonstration on and adjacent to the lawn outside of the City Center complex at Alton and Harvard has been entirely peaceful and law-abiding.  That it would be so was not a foregone conclusion.  Before I became significantly involved in the events last Thursday, the expectation was that people would engage in civil disobedience on Saturday night.  That was, I believe, the intent even as late as 6:00 Saturday, at which time after consulting with the I.P.D.’s Special Events Sergeant, I reported to the assembly that the police were demanding that the lawn be vacated by 10 p.m., but that the Sergeant and I agreed that the Irvine Municipal Code did not clearly bar people from sleeping on the city sidewalks at night so long as they did not block the ability of others to exercise their ability pass them on the right-of-way.  With that understanding, protesters vacated the “park” with the intention of sleeping single-file on the sidewalk adjacent to the lawn, leaving an ample width of the sidewalk unobstructed for passers-by — only to be informed after having evacuated that they would not be allowed to sleep on the sidewalk pursuant to IMC Section 4-14-105.  I describe the relevant events in my letter to the Special Events Sergeant (who I am deliberately not naming here as a courtesy), which may be found at these links (among others at the same website): 

As a result, demonstrators have been denied the ability to sleep at night while in the vicinity — blunting the very point of the protest over people being driven out of their homes due to foreclosures and apartments due to unemployment.  They stand up all night often with lighted candles, holding vigil outside the location of their tent city.  They see that people in other cities are not giving way (as in San Diego), or are allowed to move to the sidewalk overnight to sleep (as in Long Beach), or are allowed to stay where they are (as in Los Angeles), and are asking me with increasing frustration why Irvine’s enforcement of the law is the most draconian.

I have been using my influence, to the best extent of my ability, to try to convince demonstrators to continue to obey the law.  My belief is that my influence on them is waning.  Our ability to sleep on the lawn is a matter that you may want to address in due course.  Our ability to sleep on the sidewalk without obstructing it is a matter that I think you should take up immediately.

As I indicate in the letter in the second link above, the argument for why people cannot sleep on the sidewalk at night is absurd, depending on the notion that sidewalks have “lanes” just like Alton Parkway and that obstructing any of the lanes, even between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., which are bereft of pedestrian traffic, is like parking a car illegally in one lane of Alton Parkway and expecting it to be tolerated.  This is not only absurd, but suggests that the purpose of enforcing this law so vigorously is to break the spirit of the demonstrators, to hamper our ability to engage in free speech, free assembly, and petition of grievances.

I submit to you that you would be wisest to emulate the decision of the city council of Los Angeles to allow an encampment.  As a stopgap measure you would be wise to emulate the decision of Long Beach and to allow people to sleep on the streets.  This law is unconstitutional in its application (which I realize is motivated overall by antipathy for the presence of the homeless in your planned city.)  The members of this movement are not without influence, connections, and access to legal support.  If forced to challenge this law, the intention of the plaintiffs would obviously be to invalidate 4-14-105 to the greatest possible extent, aside from whatever other relief might be sought.  If homeless people then come to realize that Irvine is now open resting ground for them, that is for you to address in the future; we simply want the law to be constitutional and constitutionally applied.

I urge you to use your influence to direct the Irvine Police Department to abandon this indefensible and repressive interpretation of Sec. 4-14-105 and to allow people to sleep on the sidewalk outside the putative “park” at Alton and Harvard — beginning tonight.  I regret getting this request to you so late in the day, but — like others who have been forced to stand outside all night if they want to vindicate their right to protest — the deprivation of my own ability to sleep has, as planned, taken its toll.  (Happily, Occupy Irvine has been working on a system to make the occupation easier, which may help the number of overnight demonstrators continue to grow.)

The Police Department has my contact information should any of you wish to contact me individually, as do many of your associates.  I am making this available as an open letter because I want the people of Occupy Irvine to understand that I am trying to work with you towards a civil and mutually agreeable resolution to this conflict — if they have not already committed themselves to, as individuals, challenging what they believe to be a wrongful exercise of police and regulatory power.

A final note: neither the people taking part in Occupy Irvine nor the group itself are currently among my clients; I write to you only in my capacity as a member of the Civil Liaison committee.  I am personally motivated to write, however, by my respect for and faith in each of you, which leads to my hope that you will make the best and most responsible decision both for Irvine and for the demonstrators.)  You may feel free to contact me day or night about this matter — recognizing that, if I am unnecessarily forced to stand upright for much of the night without rest as a condition of participating in the event, a reply may be delayed.

Gregory A. Diamond, Esq.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)