SANTA BARBARA — Dozens of people protesting Santa Barbara's new law that prohibits sleeping in many public areas feigned sleep Friday night in the hopes of getting arrested, but police would not cooperate.
They refused to arrest anyone for sleeping in public.
Some protesters curled up in sleeping bags in front of City Hall. Others lay on blankets. Some just sat on the steps and closed their eyes.
But with numerous television cameras whirring, and a crowd of reporters hovering, pens and pads poised, police scrupulously avoided the recumbent demonstrators.
Finally, when two protesters sprawled out on the street and a line of cars could not pass, police arrested them for blocking a public roadway, said Lt. John Thayer. Three others, who were lying on the sidewalk, were later arrested for "obstructing a sidewalk."
Police can use "discretion" when enforcing the sleeping ordinance, Thayer said, and by late Friday they had made no arrests because "we didn't want to participate in a media circus."
About 100 protesters, most of whom arrived via a chartered Greyhound bus from Los Angeles, picketed City Hall, chanted and sang protest songs. The bus returned for the trip back to Los Angeles at 8 p.m. Friday, and only a handful of local protesters were left.
Mike Neely, director of the Homeless Outreach Program in Los Angeles, said his organization sponsored the trip to Santa Barbara "to call attention to a law that is so hostile to the homeless it makes falling asleep illegal."
City officials say many other beach cities in California have similar ordinances, and Santa Barbara is being unfairly targeted.