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Center Column Archives
Before dawn on March 21, a fire erupted in a warehouse on 24th Street in Oakland. Two resident artists died. The fire quickly spread to the adjoining warehouse on 23rd Street commonly known as the AK Press warehouse. On the AK side, three residential units sustained severe damage, at least one being totally destroyed, with a beloved cat succumbing to the smoke and heat. Other units have borne varying degrees of damage. Businesses on the first floor are struggling with major water damage. Even worse, with both warehouses now red-tagged by the city, residents and businesses are not allowed inside either building, leaving dozens homeless. A new relief fund has been created that will be evenly split three ways between AK Press, 1984 Printing, and affected neighbors.
On March 14, farmers and neighbors of the Gill Tract turned out to disrupt business as usual at a local Sprouts supermarket. Activists, a brass band, and a large delegation of workers from the Fast Food Workers Union converged on Sprouts in Walnut Creek, holding a sit-in to block the main entrance to the store and rallying around a 600-pound stump that had been recently cut down by contractors preparing for the construction of Sprouts at the Gill Tract. One week later, Sprouts management sent protestors legal documents suggesting that the parking lot in front of their Petaluma store was not a "free speech" zone.
Supporters packed a Santa Cruz courtroom on March 17 for preliminary hearings concerning the six UCSC students who were arrested for blocking traffic on Highway 17 on March 3 to protest tuition increases. The hearing was the first time all six of those arrested have appeared together in court, and they all have legal representation now. None have pleaded guilty to the charges they face, which include misdemeanors for "resisting arrest" and creating a "public nuisance."
On March 12, the Pit River Tribe and their Native American and environmental allies optimistically left the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco following oral arguments in their long legal battle to protect the Medicine Lake Highlands from geothermal destruction and desecration. The Pit River people, the lead defendants in the case, are fighting in court to defend the Highlands, known to them as “Saht Tit Lah," an area that has been used for healing, religious ceremonies and tribal gatherings for thousands of years.
A video has surfaced of Santa Cruz Police hitting and tasing Oliver Howard in front of the Court House on October 13, in what multiple witnesses called excessive force at the time. The woman who recorded the video can be heard saying, "I hate cops" and "this is so fucked up" as the events unfolded. After the violent takedown by officers, Howard was taken directly to the hospital. He was never booked into jail and apparently was never charged with any crime. Since that time, a witness complaint with Santa Cruz PD has triggered an external review.
Students at UC Santa Cruz concluded four days of protests against tuition and fee increases with a campus-wide strike and shut down on March 5. Dubbed "96 Hours of Action," demonstrations were held March 2 to 5 at schools across California to highlight the relationship of racist mass incarceration to the privatization of education. Thousands of people in Santa Cruz were affected on March 3 when six students locked themselves together to block highway traffic.
Amilcar Perez-Lopez was a 21-year-old man from Guatemala, living and working in the Mission District. Amilcar and his household were facing eviction at the end of March. On February 26, plain clothes SFPD officers Craig Tiffe and Eric Reboli shot and killed Amilcar. Police have stated he was in the process of stealing a bicycle, but that claim is called into question by a number of witnesses, some who say the cyclist had stolen Amilcar's phone. Witnesses have reported being intimidated and bullied by SFPD since Amilcar's murder.