'Sign Lady' moves protest to Redwood City

January 3, 2011 8:04:39 PM PST
She is back again. Estrella Benavides, known to many as the "sign lady," has moved her unique protest from Belmont to Redwood City. This time she has become a human signboard.

Back in August, Benavides was living on the streets of Belmont, spending her days demonstrating on the corner of El Camino Real and Ralston Avenue with signs scribbled on scraps of cardboard and cloth, whatever she could find.

Her encampment stretched 132 square feet. Belmont police warned her that it was blocking the public's right of way.

What was her message?

"Fight for your rights and freedom and believe in god," Benavides told ABC7 in August.

Benavides was arrested shortly after she was interviewed. She went on trial and a jury convicted her of violating Belmont's encroachment laws. She served her time in jail.

"Several agencies have tried to offer her help and she is just determined and set on her course," Belmont police spokesperson Lt. Pat Halloran said.

Halloran says Benavides has money in her bank which she refuses to touch.

"As a result, technically she has money so she doesn't qualify as being indigent for any kind of housing or assistance," Halloran said.

Benavides has now set up on Whipple Avenue and Veterans Boulevard, the busiest intersection in Redwood City. She is now clothed from head to toe in signs. This way, police cannot charge her with blocking the sidewalk.

"This is the only way I can have four signs together and I'm the sacrificing, moving around, turning around," Benavides said.

Her few belongings and signs referring to god, witchcraft and government conspiracies are now on a baby carriage. The rest of her things are being held by police. Benavides says she does not have any place to store them.

Benavides is fast becoming a fixture in Redwood City. Most motorists there, like in Belmont, wonder what her message is.

Benavides says this is her new pulpit. But she is also going to get help but on her own terms and it includes college.

"I need to go apply for a job and I'm applying for CSM too," she said.