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Taking Back the Tarmac--Santa Cruz Reclaims People's Parking Lot #4
by Robert Norse
Wednesday Jan 23rd, 2008 11:35 PM
Police disrupted and dispersed lawful public assemblies of drummers on December 26th, January 2nd, and January 16th. But this time the Community with the help of the Trash Orchestra and Food Not Bombs repeated their victory of January 9th holding the bumbusting Blueshifts at Bay. They were ably assisted by "Jumbogumbo" Joe Schultz's vegan victuals and renewed community outrage against keystone kop kapers cracking down on an accepted weekly tradition--the Farmer's Market Drum Circle!
The community won a victory today in Parking Lot #4, the lot behind Tacqueria Vallarta on Cathcart between Cedar and Pacific. There under the two tall trees the weekly Drum Circle bounced back from last week's police intimidation. Last week cops with ticketbooks dispersed the drummers, Food Not Bombs, and anyone loafing, loitering, or lingering with warnings of $100+ fines.

Today the crowd nervously returned, lured by food. It grew as the Trash Orchestra began to play. Drummers afraid perhaps of losing their instruments slowly joined in. The trumpeteer returned. Even spectateurs began violating the law by standing on the parking lot without visibly "retrieving or parking" a car or bike--to watch a violent police incident arresting a homeless woman. Even after sunset, the triumphant drumming continued and the crowd danced, children cavorted, and Santa Cruz took a deep breath of air from an earlier sweeter era. Police, except for the one incident involving Officer Kline, stayed away, presumably daunted by the potential prospect of giving out dozens of tickets and having to confront some who were willing to "risk arrest".

The City has a new ban on assembling or even lingering in a public parking lot or garage (unless for the express purpose of parking or retrieving a car or bicycle, and then only for 15 minutes). [http://www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/council/ordinance/2007/17.pdf ] It covers all 20 downtown parking lots as well as all 4 garages, and any new public lots that might be added in the downtown as well as in adjacent districts.

The Drum Circle has met for years, next to the Farmer's Market usually accompanied by Food Not Bombs around 3:30 or 4 PM. It's marked by dancing, juggling, hackeysacking, hugging, chatting, and other activities now forbidden in parking lots and garages all over the downtown in the name of “public safety”.

This afternoon, however, around 3 PM no one sat under the two large trees. Off to the side with their feet on the sidewalk, a thin line of regulars, many of them drummers without their instruments, sat looking downhearted and resentful. Some talked about the dozen tickets that were issued the night before in the rain as police harassed, ticketed, and then reticketed them for “sleeping”. Two confirmed that a police officer had told them the Drum Circle was "dead"; that there would be no more drumming in lot #4.

The week before on January 16th Sgt. Flippo, Officer Auldridge, and three other officers had bullied several dozen drummers away from the area with threats of tickets under the new Parking Lots and Garages Trespass law (I call it the Parking Lot Panic Law) The “warnings” “persuaded” the drummers to abandon their drum circle and move over to Pacific Ave. where a smaller group continued drumming.

This week, Suzanne, a lead drummer vowed, they would take citations if necessary—and then if threatened with arrest, move over to Pacific Avenue. I felt a twinge of frustration, since I thought it would really take the absurd and chilling spectacle of repeated arrests. How else could we generate the publicity necessary to beat back the latest repressive moves of Mayor Ryan Coonerty and City Manager Dick Wilson's anti-homeless, anti-hippie Parking Lot Panic law? The absurdly expanded police power was not something middle-class people would even notice, if selectively enforced.

Even worse, if people decided to restrict their own rights and give up these traditional spaces, (“everyone their own cop!”), this constitutional coup would work like a charm. Ten square blocks of precious public space in the city-owned lots and garages would evaporate as areas of public use. Anyone lingering in a lot could be detained on “reasonable suspicion”, ID-checked, and questioned. Another “useful tool” for the police department as SCPD spinmeister Zack Friend might put it. People would quickly forget what rights they used to have and follow the newest orders from SCPD Police Chief Howard Skerry's Downtown Dicks.

As happened two weeks before, the arrival and involvement of the Trash Orchestra and the presence of video and audio cameras recording seemed to stiffen the resolve of folks there. The actual reoccupation of the drum circle space under the trees was prompted by the arrival of a truck carrying hot vegan soup and (!) slices of tritip steak from master chef and caterer India Joe Schultz.

There was no mainstream media on the scene; Good Times apparently did have a reporter there. I heard afterwards that City on a Hill sent a reporter, though s/he never spoke to me. Indymedia's experienced photographer Bradley was snapping pictures. And I was fumbling with a camcorder in my maiden voyage (hopefully to be posted tomorrow).

Though police were reportedly grouped, if not massed, over by the Metro, only one squad car braved the Drum Circle reinforced by the Trash Orchestra. Officer Kline and a female officer took down “Crazy Mary”, a homeless local who has been documenting ranger misconduct in the Pogonip, police harassment around McDonalds on Ocean St. anti-homeless policies at Finn's Cafe also at Ocean. Officer Kline apparently also collided with the bike cart of another homeless man—Jack. Angry drummers and locals shouting “let her go” surrounded Kline's squad car. Though asked repeatedly what the charges against Mary were, Kline reportedly declined to say (even though Mary was one of the people asking).

He and other police officers, according to Angela, a witness to what she termed a police “hit-and-run”, then refused to take a police report of a hit-and-run, but only agreed to take Jack's “claim”. Angela may be reporting on this story independently.

The final score: Police trash a bike cart, arrest one homeless woman, and make one squadcar sweep through the parking lot. Drummers, soup servers, dancers, and community onlookers retook the parking lot without the hassle of further warnings, overt surveillance, and/or citations. And no rain--in spite of repeated predictions!

Good work, Santa Cruz.

But can so much energy be mustered even once a week? And what about the rest of the time when police have free license to hassle?

It's time to consider other avenues like a systematic campaign of ticketing tourists, demanding police warn and cite up-scale tourists in the lots and garages, and even taking such folks into custody ourselves and presenting them to the police to "sign their citations." Once the Downtown Association and Chamber of Commerce start receiving complaints about this absurd law actually being equally enforced, it will be sent back to the shop for major repairs.

Perhaps a loiter-in in front of the Downtown Association or Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz to identify the heart of the cancer that is pushing these repressive laws?

One parking lot back in the people's hands--at least one afternoon a week. Only 19 more to go! Check out the location of the forbidden lots and garages at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/09/21/18448912.php .

Two tips of the hat to the Tough-toned Trash Orchestra which not only led the Take-Back today, but also rehearsed without crowd backup on the 3rd floor of the River St. parking garage for 2 hours in violation of Coonerty's "roust the riffraff" law.
§Video Part One "The Beat Goes On
by HUFF Thursday Jan 24th, 2008 6:40 PM
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download video:

new_trash_wed_23_part_one.wmv (62.5MB)

This is video in two parts due to length. It starts from the first five people to arrive and ends after the one arrest. Part two, my next comment follows the rest of the protest, as the crowd grew and onlookers and children danced to the beat. The beat was the standing up for our culture and to stop an unjust law, and allow Food Not Bombs and the Drum Circle to continue, and it worked. In numbers they can not stop us. Keep it up. The community will follow.
§Part Two "The Beat Goes On" Parking Lot Tresspass law protest
by HUFF Thursday Jan 24th, 2008 7:22 PM
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download video:

new_trash_wed_23_part_two.wmv (61.2MB)

Part Two - showing the success of the protest. Thank you Trash Orchestra for standing up for our right to associate, assemble, dance, drum, and use our public property without a time limit, and for coming to the aide of The Drum Circle, Food Not Bombs and the rights of community. Thanks you all who showed up, the drummers and all who broke the law by simply being in a public parking lot for more than 15 minutes. It was a peaceful dignified event besides the cops arresting Marry. If there was anything non-peaceful, it was the arrest, in this posters humble opinion anyway. Thanks to those who brought food and all who continue to fight against these insane laws.

Posted for HUFF by
Tim Rumford