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Free Movies in the Park Face Political Backlash
World Renowned Guerilla Drive-In Project Targeted in SCPD Efforts to Stamp Out DIY Community Events
Santa Cruz, CA, May 18th, 2009: After 8 years, 13 locations and over 150 free films to the community, Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In is being targeted by the Santa Cruz Police. In the wake of the May Day riots, city administrators are directing the city manager to stomp out all unpermitted community gatherings.
As the sun set Friday evening, the normally dark and dingy area under the Soquel Ave bridge was buzzing with excitement. It was a special event for the community as Guerilla Drive-In was showing the work of a local film maker, Cheri Lovedog. "The Jesus Factor" was shot in Santa Cruz and was created with a cast and crew mostly made up of locals, some of whom were sitting in lawn chairs waiting to see the film.
Earlier, Guerilla Drive-In had arrived to find the area under the bridge littered with plastic bags, dirty and unwanted clothing, and containers of partially eaten food. As the organizers and audience members gathered up this trash, they mused over the thought that they would leave this river-side space looking much better than they'd found it. Another audience member brought a large bag of popcorn and was passing it around to share with the entire group. It was a community effort, not only to create the film but now, to share it with others and transform this space under the bridge into something magical.
However, within the first 15 minutes of the film, the evening came to an abrupt halt as an officer from the Santa Cruz police department descended on the group and demanded to speak to "the person in charge." Organizers pointed out that 40 to 50 people worked to put the event on. The officer insisted that without a permit, the gathering must be halted immediately.
Earlier in the week, Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin and Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty told a closed Downtown Association meeting that they were now targeting individuals in an attempt to stop all unpermitted gatherings. Coonerty said, "As far as I am concerned, shame on the organizers for costing police time and funds that could be spent on preventing gang violence." Coonerty did not acknowledge however, that the crackdown on family-friendly community events is costing the city more money that it doesn't have. The city council already added 8 police officers that it had no way to pay for in emergency meetings after black-clad vandals broke windows during a May Day street party.
Liz Burchfield of the Guerilla Drive-In collective said, "Imagine a world where parks were not threatening places where drug deals went down, but rather alive with activity: families having night-time picnics, lovers holding hands, friends star-gazing. Isn't that world much better than the one that keeps us divided and afraid?"
Guerilla Drive-In has been working for years to re-envision the Santa Cruz community, bringing together neighbors in a commercial free venue, providing a safe and free event for the community, and reclaiming and cleaning up public space. GDI films have been shown in parks, downtown streets, industrial areas, and community gardens. Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In has been covered by the New York and Los Angeles Times and has inspired a movement that has been copied worldwide.