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Deputy Duplicity Thins Protest Numbers in front of County Building
Phone reports from on-the-scene activists "Commander X" (Chris Doyon) and David Silva. These indicate sheriff's deputies repeated their threats of Friday night to cite and/or arrest folks sitting or holding Occupy Santa Cruz signs in front of the County Building under the boilerplate "anti-lodging" law. On Friday night the group there resisted these threats (which included such absurd demands as each protester would only be allowed one personal bottle of water), but not tonight. Those sleeping in the San Lorenzo park encampment slumbered on as deputies drove away the visible protesters who were, perhaps, garnering too much support from passing cars and pedestrians. Threatening people with criminal prosecution for peaceful protest is both an act of duplicity and a form of assault. Hopefully folks will gain strength from each other to resist such abuse.
More than 8 deputies descended on the Water St. side of the County Building to intimidate protesters into leaving with their signs or face misdemeanor charges of "illegal lodging." Reportedly, after conferring with legal adviser Steve Pleich, who advised abandoning the visible end of the protest at night until the next General Meeting at 6 PM, protesters packed up all their gear and left--some to sleep in San Lorenzo Park, where the Sheriff's have no jurisdiction.
It is however illegal at night to be in San Lorenzo Park, illegal to sleep, set up bedding or camp after 11 PM, and illegal to "lodge" there (under the same phony law (PC 647e) used to by Sheriff's to run off protesters. The notion that people are "safe" because of police or sheriff reassurances is nonsense.
On Friday night Sheriff's Lt. Amy Christie provided assurances that police would allow folks with signs, tables, and chairs, to remain protesting as long as they weren't sleeping, camping, preparing food, storing food, or "lodging". These assurances came after activists resisted Sgt. Hansen's earlier demands that they leave entirely. I was present for that protest during this confrontation.
I wrote about it at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/10/07/18692660.php and played audio yesterday which is archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb111008.mp3 (about 5 1/2 hours into the audio file).
Earlier tonight I received initial reports of tickets given that were later contradicted. Deputies simply used the threat of tickets to accomplish their objective--painless activist removal.
A call later indicated that two activists--Robert and Hayden--either refused to leave or returned to the steps, to sit in two chairs there, reclaiming the protest area--though without signs.
An earlier "alarm system" whereby people would be called to come down and confront the deputies was either not used or not available. One activist said that sleepers from the park were not roused to confront the police in order to shield them from confrontation when they were most vulnerable.
Deputies gave no explanation of their "change of mind" regarding the scraping of the Constitution on the courthouse steps. Apparentlly the courthouse steps is not public property, even though there is no signage indicating closing hours nor any specific complaint from any named person. Even if there were, ordering peaceful protesters with signs to leave the outside of a public building at a time when the area is normally open to all (as the county property is 24 hours a day) seems to be begging for a lawsuit--or a larger protest.
Activists could not be reached for comment as to why they had decided to retreat while engaging in activity that is clearly constitutionally protected. Admittedly, the presence of police or sheriffs armed and in full uniform can be daunting. Nerve and resistance may take some time to build.
Said one old-timer, "if the deputies learn they can scare them away, they'll keep using that tactic until the protesters give up and stay away. I wonder why there wasn't a plan in place to deal with this situation."
Said another, "those two who returned to sit on their chairs afterwards looked truly heroic to me."