Mentally Ill Homeless Man Successfully Sues Company for Blaring Classical Music

Craig Bannister | May 29, 2024
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A homeless man who says he’s suffering from schizoaffective disorder and mental illness has won a temporary restraining order stopping a tire company from playing classical music near his encampment in one of the wealthiest counties in America.

"I'm just a person who has schizoaffective disorder and mental illness,” says plaintiff Bruce Gaylord, who has lived in a homeless encampment in the California city of San Rafael since his truck broke down and was stolen last year.

“Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder that is marked by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Gaylord filed his lawsuit after the East Bay Tire Company began blasting classical music and security warnings in an effort to keep its employees and customers safe, deter crime and discourage littering of its grounds with garbage.

In response to the Gaylord’s suit, California Superior Court Judge Judge Sheila Shah Lichtblau granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting East Bay Tire Co. from blaring the classical music. According to the ruling, the tire company is prevented from blasting its music until the case is heard on June 28.

Even though the music was “rock concert loud” and so painful that it kept him from sleeping, police wouldn’t help him, Gaylord says.

Fortunately for Gaylord, his city has a union for the homeless.

San Rafael is located in Marin County, the fourth-wealthiest county in the U.S., home of the Marin County Homeless Union, which stepped in to help Gaylord.

Marin County Homeless Union President Robbie Powelson says he visited Gaylord’s encampment and documented just how loud the music was blaring:

“We took a decibel reading of the sound. We measured that the decibels were between 50-118 decibels. In general, it was far above the San Rafael noise ordinance so it was illegal.”

The tire company’s classical music assault is the result of a more widespread hostility towards the homeless encampment, Pres. Powelson told a local NBC affiliate:

“NBC Bay Area asked the president of the Marin County Homeless Union what might have led to the escalation.

“‘I think, right now, the property owner is trying to facilitate, is being emboldened by the city of San Rafael’s antagonism toward camp integrity,’ said president Robbie Powelson. ‘Trying to help facilitate the city’s mission of forcing everybody out.’”

The city is, indeed, in federal court trying to rid itself of the homeless encampment, as KRON 4 reports:

“The music stopping may have been a win for members of this encampment, but they are still fighting the city to stay where they are. On June 24 there will be another hearing in federal court against the city. If San Rafael wins, the people living at the encampment would be kicked off the property.”

But, East Coast Tire Assistant Manager Robbie Derho told ABC 7 that the loud music wasn’t meant to drive out the homeless, but to deter the problems associated with the camp:

"‘Every morning we're out here picking up garbage and glass and different things, so it's been hard," Derho said.

“The company says they've seen everything from illegal drug use, to prostitution happening at the encampment.”

Derho also showed ABC 7 a window cracked by a bullet he says was fired towards the store.