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Police Disperse Peaceful Narwhallagraphic Video Showing
Three SCPD squad cars and four officers ticketed one man and dispersed a group of others watching a silent video show projected on the side of the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union. The police did not cite any complaints or crimes other than the claim that the spectators were "loitering" in violation of Mayor Coonerty's Parking Lot Panic Law.
The scene of the latest SCPD bullying and buffoonery was the Parking Lot #27 at Laurel and Front Streets on Friday night, March 21st under the full moon.
Andreas Nickolas got cited for violating the Parking Lot Panic law (technically the Parking Lots and Garages Trespass Law MC 9.64 http://www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/council/ordinance/2007/17.pdf ). Nickolas was projecting a silent visual mix of scenes from the withdrawn racist Walt Disney movie “Song of the South” as well as videos of presidents Kennedy and Reagan giving speeches, an American flag, and other provocative imagery. (see http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/03/15/18485843.php) The video began about 9 PM and was initially greeted by angry denunciations from several city employees in a white truck, who quickly left once video cameras were turned on them.
Nickolas had provided video shows for the previous two Friday nights. A week before he was falsely cited for "amplified sound", though his projection was silent (someone else reportedly had been playing music). The lot is several blocks away from any residence, and fronts on the San Lorenzo River. The noise from the two heavily trafficked streets (Laurel and Front) are louder than anything that came from the parking lotanyway , it would seem to me.
Police cars drove by regularly for the next hour and a half, but did not stop nor uniformed police enter the parking lot. Various passersby stopped to watch the film (illegally, since to enter a parking lot without a vehicle without passing through is an infraction under Mayor Coonerty's new law). A saxophonist provided a little musical accompaniment and some spirited discussion about the best potential court defense if the group were harassed by the cops. Several people had video cameras and documented the event. The group varied in number from 4 to 25 throughout the course of the evening.
At one point a group of bicyclists numbering about 20 showed up, bicycled around the lot, stopped to offer support. About 10:30 PM, two squad cars showed up and blocked one entrance of the parking lot, prompting the bicyclists to flee out the other entrance. A third squad car shortly arrived with a lieutenant to block the other entrance (none of the cars took the available legal parking spots). The police shined their headlights on the offending projectionist and vehicle.
A stocky officer gave Andreas the first citation I've witnessed under the Parking Lot Panic law. He offered to leave prior to the citation, but police insisted on ticketing him. They then began demanding people leave the lot, asking if they had vehicles there. People objected that they were simply assembling constitutionally. Three more police officers crossed the lot to the levy during the course of this confrontation.
Once the projectionist and his party packed up their equipment, police squad cars still blocked both entrances. At this point one squad car pulled away unblocking one entrance. As I made loud audio commentary about the unconstitutional, abusive, costly, and unnecessary police action, an officer demanded to know if I had a car in the lot. I told him that I didn't have to answer that question. He then insisted I leave within 15 minutes.
I didn't ask if there were a riot, martial law, or some other disaster or criminal behavior that demanded suspension of the constitution, since that provision had already been passed by the Santa Cruz City Council under Mayor Coonerty in spite of the lack of any meaningful evidence showing a “safety hazard” in the city's 20 parking lots and 4 parking garages. The presence of four armed and uniformed men at night, their cars blocking the exit to the lot seems to indicate a pretty high priority action. I didn't leave, however, but stayed to video the repressive police action.
An earlier successful series of daylight protest/support actions reversed police aggression in Parking Lot #4 where the Wednesday Drum Circle, playing next to the Farmer's Market, was repeatedly targeted by ticketbook wielding cops. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/01/23/18474460.php )
The local ACLU, absent from this and earlier protests, did issue a statement opposing the law in so far as it applied to lots (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/01/28/18475525.php ). ACLU attorney and activist Don Zimmerman posed questions to the SCPD and SCPD spinmeister Zack Friend's response: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/09/21/18448912.php?show_comments=1#18449475 .
The Public Works Department's rationale for this law: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/09/21/18448912.php
Earlier police misconduct in Parking Lot #4 is documented at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/01/24/18474462.php , http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/01/23/18474460.php?show_comments=1#18476365 ) The peaceful and legitimate nature of the traditional community activity interrupted repeatedly by police is shown in a series of photographs at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/01/12/18471858.php .
But police are back now, in larger numbers, with officials of higher rank (Lt. Escalante, perhaps?, was the ranking police officer who oversaw this dispersal of a peaceful public assembly. The police gave no explanation that I could hear as to why they were enforcing a law they regularly overlook each Wednesday at the Drum Circle, and ignored for an hour and a half at this parking lot #27 (the map of all the public spaces where Mayor Coonerty's law bans public assemblies -- http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/09/21/18448912.php ).
The National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty weighed in on this issue as well in a letter to City Council http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/05/08/18219341.php?show_comments=1#18219371 to which Councilmembers Coonerty and Rotkin angrily replied.
The community was successful in stopping police state action in the Drummer's Circle, though initially police were successful in intimidating folks from using the public space (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/01/03/18469844.php ). Will police fear and force be successfully overcome here as well? Time and the community's response will tell.
I will be playing an audio account of the evening on my Sunday show March 23rd at 10 AM. Tune in to http://www.freakradio.org or 101.1 FM (Free Radio Santa Cruz) to hear how police are spending city money, and the kind of activity Councilmember Emily Reilly--now running for the State Assembly) is supporting.