Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Santa Cruz attacks another respected street performer: The Great Morgani

Santa Cruz attacks independent arts, culture and artisan vendors [link]
Human Rights abuse in itty-bitty Santa Cruz

"The Great Morgani, aka Frank Lima, Gets Squeezed Out of Downtown Santa Cruz"
2014-02-18 photographs and article by Bradley Allen [] []:
Update: Santa Cruz Police Officers Hassled The Great Morgani on Tuesday Afternoon. Joe Rose, an excellent illustrator and painter who regularly displays his artwork on Pacific Avenue, reports that on Tuesday afternoon, he witnessed two Santa Cruz Police officers hassling The Great Morgani on Pacific Ave. Joe wrote, “there were 2 cops that stopped him playing when he had a crowd of about a dozen people watching.”
On Tuesday, February 18, The Great Morgani announced he will no longer be performing in downtown Santa Cruz "due to the recent strict enforcement of current ordinances" passed by the Santa Cruz City Council.
The Great Morgani, aka Frank Lima, is a longtime street performer and performance artist from Santa Cruz, recognized as one of city's most interesting characters. He plays the accordion and dresses in homemade, seasonally relevant costumes which sometimes take up to 100 hours of work. He usually performs on the east side of Pacific Avenue on the El Palomar block.
He authored a book, The Great Morgani: The Creative Madness of a Middle-Aged Stock Broker Turned Street Musician, which is described as a "photo-illustrated story of one of the United States' most flamboyant and unusual street musicians." He also has a website,
[Photo by Bradley Allen. October 2013. Trails of Turquoise by The Great Morgani on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz.]

On the evening of Tuesday, February 18, news broke on the I Love The Great Morgani! Facebook page that he will no longer be performing in downtown Santa Cruz due to the enforcement of unconstitutional laws passed by the Santa Cruz City Council which infringe on first amendment activities, including street performance by The Great Morgani.
Here's the text of Frank Lima's announcement:  [begin text]
By Frank Lima, The Great Morgani -
After 17 years of entertaining/performing, downtown Santa Cruz, "THE GREAT MORGANI", has lost his "GREATNESS" status. Due to the recent strict enforcement of current ordinances, I am considered in violation of where i have performed for the past 10 years, even with written permission from the business owners. During these years, i have never been confronted by the police, downtown association, downtown hosts, business owners, or even city council members and mayors. The alternative performance areas, are so constrained & rigid, that they are not compatible to any type of performance. Rather than accept a hefty $300 ticket, or worse yet, spend a night in jail(in one of my costumes???), i will be quietly leaving the downtown scene. Thank you, EVERYONE, for you support and smiles, along the years. I will miss you all. ... The "GREAT ONE" has left the avenue.  [end text]

Public Outcry on Facebook -
I've already seen so much outcry on Facebook, that's it hard for me to believe that this aggression will stand. This might be one of those tipping point moments where all factions unite to say ¡Ya basta! — enough is enough!
The following immediate reactions to The Great Morgani's sudden announcement reflect the overall sentiment in Santa Cruz:
"This is just horrible! You are an ICON in downtown Santa Cruz, Frank!!! I think we need to protest!"
"You will be missed. What a shame."
"Noooo!!! This is very upsetting. You are the best of Santa Cruz."
"Fascist bastards, won't be happy until they squelch all outward signs of spontaneous creativity."
"This is crushing to the cultural experience we have enjoyed in downtown!"
"Baa humbug! You are the best of downtown Santa Cruz!"
"Thank you for being there for the last decade and a half that I lived in Santa Cruz. I always loved watching you entertain and LOVE the incredibly creative costumes."
"This goes against our "Keep Santa Cruz Weird" motto. The Great One is an essential part of Santa Cruz's weirdness."
"I hope there's something the Santa Cruz community can do to reverse this decision."
"Ordinance and restrictions have now restricted the very uniqueness right out of Santa Cruz."
"let's ....Save The Great Morgani!!"
"Inconceivable! Tom Scribner's saw weeps tonight..."
"My 2 year old daughter and I always stop to dance to your music." 

The Great Morgani performing at Cruzioworks for First Friday in Santa Cruz on February 1, 2013.

Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) helped cause this...
Here's what Take Back Santa Cruz member Steve Schlicht said today about the Great Morgani news:
(Posted at []) "I love the Great Morgani and he's a part of what makes downtown "great". But unfortunately, I see him as "collateral damage" created by the likes of Robert Norse, Becky Johnson, et al with their "civil disobedience" aimed at disrupting the downtown merchants ability to present their goods and services in a safe, attractive, compelling manner. When you let anyone with a box shlepp shit on your front door, that hurts the merchants that pay rent and taxes. I blame the "whacktivists" for this. They are the ones who created such a scene about it (and took such advantage of a tolerant community) to the point where the city government felt compelled to make a change in the ordinance. When you foster an attitude of intolerance for rules, good people get hurt in the process. Personally, I think the city should just give TGM his own spot, wherever he wants, and leave him alone. He's the exception to the rule."
No, Steve, if anyone is to blame for this it is Take Back Santa Cruz.
TBSC member Pamela Comstock is one of the five idiot SC city council members who supported the strict new rules on street performance downtown. She said things looked too jalopy for her downtown: []
This is another TBSC "achievement", booting the Great Morgani from downtown Santa Cruz.

"The Foul Fruit of a Poisonous Set of Anti-Homeless Laws in Santa Cruz: Chickens Coming Home to Roost"
2014-02-19 by Robert Norse from "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom - Santa Cruz (HUFF)" []:
When they came for the peaceful panhandlers, I did nothing, because I was not a panhandler.
When they came for the homeless sitting next to but not obstructing businesses, I did nothing, because I was not homeless.
When they came for the political activists with tables, I did nothing because I was not a street tabler.
When they came for the street vendors, I did nothing, because I was not a street vendor.
When they came for the less-famous street performers, I did nothing because they'd never challenge a well-known and accomplished performer like me.
When they came for me, there was no one to back me other than to offer sympathy and express dismay.
The ordinances being used to skewer Morgani (and previously used to skewer other street performers) are the "Display Device" law [MC 5.43.020] also known as the "Move-Along" law and the "Sitting Down on the Sidewalk" law MC9.50.012]. The former is almost unique to Santa Cruz and the latter was expanded in 2002 by former Councilmembers Ed Porter and Emily Reilly to "move along" "undesirables" (at that time, peaceful but visible panhandlers with signs, political tablers raising uncomfortable issues downtown, and--as it turned out--street vendors).
The most recent intensification of those ordinances was created by the Bryant-Robinson City Council in the fall banning blankets, requiring "free-standing" devices, limiting performers to twelve square feet total, and constricting even more severely the available locations. See [].
Ironically, the issue was raised in the early days of 2003 when Councilmember Ed Porter pushed through his "improvement" on the successful Voluntary
Street Performers Guidelines. It was billed as a "bad behavior control" ordinance but was actually directed against homeless people and political protesters. As it does today, City Council staff and members moved ahead with their prefabricated preordained agenda largely ignoring public comment.
The Move Along law replaced the successful Voluntary Street Performers Guidelines [] which had been in place for 22 years. Its full implementation was delayed
Neal Coonerty's second edition of the "Keep Santa Cruz Weird" t-shirts significantly omitted the phrase "Support Your Local Street Performer"--which appeared on the initial t-shirt. Mike Rotkin probably spoke of "coming back to examine the law in six months if there were any problems"--which never happened.
Steve Argue and others were hauled off to jail under this law when it was used against political protesters. [] He got part of it thrown out in court [See and go to April 2004: Victory for Free Speech in Santa Cruz"]. Other well-known performers (including Morgani) did not raise their voices here nor subsequently with the exception of a brief successful protest to defend the right of Tom Noddy to juggle downtown and appear at a benefit for Street Performers later that year.
I remember Morgani's annoyance when I chalked on the sidewalk near his sidewalk performance space some years ago "Illegal", to dramatize how differently "reputable" performers are treated when compared with "the riff-raff". I.e. until recently, police have left the colorfully-dressed tourist-drawing musician alone. Now having speared all the small-fry, they can come after the big fish.
Bubble performer Tom Noddy gives his detailed description of the earlier Santa Cruz struggle at .
A relatively few protesters raised the issue repeatedly in the fall as the Sidewalk Shrinkage ordinances approached activation, but none of the "big names" (including Morgani) showed up [].
Without active opposition, this kind of bigotry camouflaged as "public order" or "public safety" rolls inevitably forward. Morgani's facebook page has a long stream of sympathetic and gloomy responses, but no one really calling or, more importantly, organizing to fight back to save street performing in Santa Cruz.
Some of us will be serving coffee outside the Coffee Roasting Company today on a related issue: that of excluding homeless people with backpacks from sidewalk cafes and businesses. Since excluding the visible poor from downtown is really what these Downtown Ordinances (See "Deadly Downtown Ordinances" at ) are all about, I encourage Morgani fans and fans of street performing generally to begin appearing in the streets to support challenges to this creeping destruction of the First Amendment (and traditional Santa Cruz life).
Morgani and the street scene generally obviously need to be saved. Have we the energy and organization to do it?
If we do not hang together, we will--as Ben Franklin so wryly put it--all hang separately.

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