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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

Activists Disengage from City Police Spying Process
by Rico Thunder
Monday Jul 24th, 2006 10:18 AM
For this reason, I will no longer engage with the Council on this issue. It has become abundantly and painfully clear that the Council has nothing to offer those of us working on protecting people's rights to express dissent locally.
RE: A letter to council members on the issue of Police Spying

Dear Councilmembers,

The new police policy on police spying is a failed product resulting from a failed process.

Unfortunately, you never understood the gravity of this issue. At the heart of this is nothing less than our rights to free speech and free assembly, right to privacy, and right to due process.

Let's be very clear: The people of this community got together to create a grassroots New Year's parade to replace a defunct city-sponsored event. It was to be an act of peaceful civil disobedience with the clear political intention to challenge the Draconian event permit process. Santa Cruz police made a rash decision to infiltrate the group in order to gather information for public safety reasons. Armed undercover officers infiltrated the planning meetings in a private home, created dossiers on organizers and others involved, gathered information about other events, tipped off other agencies, and participated significantly in the meetings.

From the very beginning the comments from the City Council ranged from Cynthia's sentiments that lawbreakers get what they deserve to Ed's comments that it was a "tempest in a teapot" to Ryan's absurd assertion that we shouldn't rush to any conclusions because the police officers involved have due process rights. Only Tony and Tim, to their great credit, were on the right side of this issue.

The Council failed to engage the process. The city council was dragged kicking and screaming to this issue and showed reluctance, foot dragging, and duplicity in doing the right thing. Only after Bob Aaronson's conclusion that police had violated the civil rights of parade planners did the public safety committee do an abrupt turnaround. In Mike's words -- a reversal of everything he'd said earlier -- I think we have nothing really to talk about since we are all on the same page here.

You fell down on your responsibility to protect the civil rights of Santa Cruz residents. From the beginning, the council could have taken a strong stand and passed an ordinance that prohibited police monitoring of peaceful groups without strong evidence of criminal activities. Instead the council abdicated their responsibility to the City Manager and City Attorney who predictably created a policy that put few restrictions on police power.

The city failed to even apologize. Sherry Conable's repeated and simple request that the city simply apologize to parade planners was first argued against and finally ignored.

The Council and the City Managers cut the stakeholders out of the process. After the abrupt turnaround of the March 29th PSC meeting, we were promised a transparent process working hand-in-hand with the ACLU with plenty of public comment. But a month later after several canceled meetings, the city still needed frequent prodding to not ignore the issue. And when the city manager and attorney did finally sit down to write a policy, they sidelined the ACLU discarding the draft policy prepared by Mr. Schlosberg and ignored his substantial objections, and rushed through a grossly inadequate policy with no public comment.

Apparently, in Santa Cruz the right to free speech, free assembly, and right to privacy are worth protecting at the national level, but when these rights are threatened in our own community, the Council has shown that it has neither the interest nor the will to protect citizen's civil liberties.

It is clear that the city is not willing to negotiate this process in good faith. From the beginning it was clear that the Council had little interest but stilling the embarrassing public relations nightmare this has become. This city has delivered nothing more than adamant dismissals, empty assurances, broken promises of a remedy, a closed-door process, and a useless policy.

For this reason, I will no longer engage with the Council on this issue. This is not petulance, but a clear realization of where we stand. It has become abundantly and painfully clear that the Council has nothing to offer those of us working on protecting people's rights to express dissent locally.

I've lived in this community for twenty years. This is the first time I've taken up an issue before you. The results do not bode well for Santa Cruz. I am ashamed of you.

Sincerely,
Rico Thunder