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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

An Unfolding Witch Hunt
by Bicicleta Bandito
Friday Feb 10th, 2012 9:36 AM
Santa Cruz DA files charges against longtime local activists
It's been observed that the number of activists in Santa Cruz falls somewhere along the same lines as surfers and college students - which is to say a lot. But that could all change quickly if the charges filed by District Attorney Bob Lee Wednesday Feb. 8th against 12 local activists for the occupation of 75 River St are allowed to stand. Even those uninvolved with Santa Cruz's vibrant political community will recognize the list as a "who's who" of local activists - Robert Norse, Becky Johnson, Brent Adams, Alex Darocy, and Grant Wilson. Of these folks, at least half are media personnel (i.e. they're protest photographers) while the others work on homelessness. Grant Wilson is more known for offering people rides on his rickshaw bicycle at local parades and helping bring San Francisco's acclaimed SF Mime Troupe to town. Not exactly the type of activity worthy of felony charges.

In casting such a wide net against some of Santa Cruz's more prominent activists, city attorney Bob Lee and the Santa Cruz Police Department seem to be either a) scrambling to convict anyone for the brief occupation of a vacant bank this past November; b) have a large amount of evidence against the accused (unlikely); or c) are sending a message to anyone involved with the Occupy Movement that "You have the right to remain silent."

This latter possibility is especially chilling given the declining strength of free speech rights within the United States. From the unprovoked pepper spraying of UC Davis students to the crippling of an Iraqi war veteran with a tear gas canister in Oakland this past Fall, the Occupy Movement has seen its fair share of state repression unworthy of a Western Democracy.

And yes, free speech and Democracy remain the key words on the lips of the 99% from New York to Cairo. The problem is one form of free speech is being accorded a higher value than another. While the ever-angry rabble on the Santa Cruz Sentinel comments section appears to have considerable sway in the realm of public opinion, the folks who get out and march on the streets are derided and dismissed by the corporate media. In the words of CNN reporter Erin Burnett, who deigned to visit the fledgling New York Occupy site last Fall, "Protesters? Seriously?"

A better question any mature person could ask is, what exactly is an activist if not a more kinetic version of an engaged citizen? And what is an engaged citizen if not someone who takes an active role in speaking up for justice? It doesn't require a PhD in constitutional law to understand that civic engagement remains the backbone of a functioning democracy and to prosecute the former is to persecute the latter.

It's possible the intentions behind the DA's overzealous attempt to hold someone (anyone?) accountable for last year's vacant bank occupation are benign (if not off target) but the effect remains the same - The right to free expression, as exercised by longtime local activists, will be censored.

In making a case against the brief occupation of the 75 River St building, District Attorney Bob Lee will most likely claim that folks like Robert Norse or Grant Wilson were at the protest that occurred beforehand. But being present at a protest a case for felony vandalism and trespassing does not make. To file charges on such tenuous grounds is to harken back to the days of Joe McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities - where anyone who even murmured a word of praise for progressive politics was immediately labeled a "communist" and blacklisted.

Under such circumstance, it would seem prudent for Santa Cruz's sizeable progressive community to come together and denounce the charges for what they are: a Witch Hunt.

UPDATE: KSBW is reporting that the list of accused will be expanded to 24 more people making a total of 36 http://www.ksbw.com/news/30421811/detail.html
§Solidarity Demo with 75River Arrestees
by via OccupyCA Wednesday Feb 15th, 2012 9:37 AM
SANTA CRUZ, California – A week ago, 11 people were arrested over the occupation of the former bank on 75 River st. on 30 November 2011. The occupation was intended to turn the space into a community center hosting a slew of services the city didn’t offer. More people may still be arrested according to mainstream news sources. Charges include a variety of felonies and misdemeanors.

There will be a solidarity demonstration today, Wednesday 15 February, at 3pm on 74 River st. in front of the Wells Fargo branch.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Becky Johnson
Friday Feb 10th, 2012 7:32 PM
I just spent a day and a half in the Santa Cruz County Jail and am facing two felonies and a misdemeanor for standing on a public sidewalk. I was in the march to Wells Fargo Bank to protest predatory bank practices that have resulted in unaffordable housing, vacant housing, foreclosures, and indifference to the community in which they conduct business. Because of greed, fraud, and self-interest, thousands of citizens in Santa Cruz are experiencing homelessness while empty buildings dot the landscape allegedly for Sale/Lease, but REALLY as a huge tax write-off to offset huge profits elsewhere in the portfolios of absentee landlords.

But I opted to stand outside the building, take photos, and observe the police. I never entered the building.

After the 75 River St Occupation, much came out about who owned the property and Wells Fargo's involvement.

After reviewing the discovery presented by DA Rebecca we determined that the owners of the building did not contract the private security services of First Alarm until the night of November 30th.

They'd obviously been relying on the taxpayer paid Santa Cruz Police Department solely for their security.

Another thing of note: Police Chief Kevin Vogel told the press in December that $40,000 in vandalism" had occurred. The indictment names "Over $400". Vogel has apparently exaggerated the value of the damage by a 100 fold factor.

I'm not looking forward to 4 years in prison for standing on a public sidewalk. Blogging appears to be my REAL crime. I've been an enthusiastic supporter of those who had the balls to actually Occupy 75 River Street for real.
Their non-violent, civil disobedience action raised awareness about that building (and others similar nearby) which stand empty with HUGE costs to rent...quite purposely. These empty hulks serve the 1% and NOT the citizens of Santa Cruz.

But leave it to the SCPD to use the occupation of an empty bank building as an excuse to charge up $80,000 in "police costs"Where the first thing they did was to caused a huge traffic jam by putting orange cones up needlessly right before the evening traffic rush. They made no arrests (until they nabbed me criminally cooking pancakes in my kitchen) and to over-estimate the "damage" when the protesters left the building.

And leave it to DA BOB LEE to charge local activists with felony charges making Santa Cruz County the most draconian legal response to all the Occupy movements in the United States, and the most politically-convenient list of defendants to be found.

by Robert Norse
Friday Feb 10th, 2012 8:53 PM
I don't think I can compete with the info-packed comments of Becky or the passionate main story, but I did want to put up something.

Every month or so Sandra Leigh invites me to do a five-minute speech on her show. This afternoon I recorded a brief speech which she'll be playing sometime soon. I'll append the link as soon as I get it. She's also promised to post the video on You-Tube so it'll be available soon.

Here's more or less what I said:



I regularly raise issues, mostly about homeless civil rights and misconduct by those in power on this show. Last time I implicitly raised some questions:

“Who will arrest and prosecute Chief Vogel for destruction of homeless property”

“Who will prosecute P & R boss Dannette Shoemaker and City Manager Martin Bernal for conniving at curfews, the closing down public spaces, and the excluding the public from city hall at night?”

"Who will fire County Administrative Officer Susan Mauriello for making it illegal to read the Constitution on the steps of the courthouse after 7 PM? Even to sit there silently reading it to yourself?"

"Who will hold Mayor Don Lane accountable for the stark contradiction between the fair words about homeless matters in his acceptance speech in December and the actions of the police and city bureaucrats around him?"

The most eloquent defense of homeless people as abstractions ever. But Lane is silent about the destruction of homeless property in the Pogonip and along the levee. He defects criticism of the refusal of his Homeless Services Center to give protective documentation and honest information. Under his chair, City Council remains a place where only the privileged few can speak. And often only if the Council wants to hear them.

"Who will hold these city and county officials and big wigs—our local 1%--accountable?"

My answer has always been—we must. They won't.

But on Wednesday, officialdom gave its answer to me. What is their answer?

Arrests and indictments for those exposing these conditions.

The journalists. The activists. The photographers. The critics. Those who photograph police surveilling the community & double parking their cars to give out nuisance citations. Those who document cops a blocking a lane of traffic to harass a homeless person for sitting near a building or lying in wait to give out multiple citations for bikes going the wrong way on Pacific Avenue. Those who document the excessive expenditure and excessive force of the police against peaceful protesters.

I've now been indicted for two felonies and two misdemeanors.

Why? Perhaps you remember the hubbub back in late November? Police formed riot squads to confront community members and actgivists for covering the independent action of activists in a peaceful 3-day occupation of a 3 ½ year vacant bank property, likely being kept vacant for speculation. The property they hoped to turn into a community center is still fenced off, policed, and vacant.

The property, as I understand it, was owned by Wells Fargo Bank. Wells Fargo is one of the worst banks. Berkeley's City Counci is currently debating divesting its investments from Wells Fargo.

The occupiers of 75 Monterey Ave. left peacefully after making the point that the community has the power to act with its heart and its feet. But that voluntary and peaceful departure was not enough for the police chief. Perhaps Chief Vogel was embarrassed at the egg some saw on his face for not immediately attacking with the riot squad (which surely would have produced a riot).

Vogel's was actually a wise decision, though one prompted by the solidarity and high passion of the community. But those in power apparently must over and over again assert and reassert their authority--even after the reason for it is gone.

Several days later sheriff's deputies attacked and destroyed the structures at Occupy Santa Cruz in front of the courthouse.
A few days after that on December 8th, Vogel's cops in a frightening scene reminiscent of police state actions elsewhere in the country marched forward arresting activists, destroying homeless property and turning 100-200 homeless people into refugees.

Our community has emergency shelter for less than 5% of its homeless population—Occupy Santa Cruz and the campground adjacent was providing for twice that number. Feeding, housing, providing community. Vogel's men swept all that away and added insult to injury by a massive show of force against the small group of people who came to register their concerns and protest at City Hall and with the Parks and Recreation Department later that day.

Then there was the curfew imposed at the Courthouse, the fencing off of a section of San Lorenzo Park (along with other areas along the levee as phony "demonstration gardens" to eliminate community public assembly or homeless gathering places).

But that's not enough for city and county authorities. They have now singled out under blatantly false charges 3 photographer/videojournalists (Brent, Alex, and Bradley), a radio broadcaster (that's me), a sympathetic blogger (Becky), and street performer and bicycle advocate (Grant). We face state prison for conspiracy to commit vandalism and trespass.

The vandalism being done here is to the truth and to our rights, the rights of the independent media, and the right of the community to hear honest reporting.

The motivation isn't clear to me. Humiliated pride? A vengeful anger at the power of independent protests recently?

There has been a resurgence of community activism demanding real solutions, not talk, to the foreclosure crisis, the rent crisis, the job crisis. Perhaps those in power are worrying that the community won't be satisfied this year with the same doubletalk doubletrouble of the meaningless presidential tweedledee, tweedledum election race?

Having viewed some of the police reports, I'm frankly amazed that the D.A. would begin to proceed at all. I intend to post some of those reports on line to give the community clarity as to just how hollow and baseless those charges are.

I'm concluding at the moment that it must simply be a political gesture to appease conservative business interests and residents who would crush familiar voices harshly critical of those in power like mine and terrorize those who might choose to do such reporting in the future.

I don't know really know what's going on. I thought I knew, in some limited way D.A. Bob Lee and Police Chief Kevin Vogel. I guess not. Things are significantly worse than I'd imagined.

All I know is that I'm not guilty of any of these very serious (and yet very farcical) charges (trespass, vandalism, conspiracy) nor are any of the others to my knowledge.

The real guilty parties are those in power, as most of us probably already know.
by Becky Johnson
Saturday Feb 11th, 2012 8:46 AM
While I was incarcerated in "G" Dorm in the Santa Cruz County Jail, the women there told me their stories. One woman, who's name I will reveal immediately AFTER she is released from custody told me the following. Judge for yourself if it has the ring of truth.

On November 1, 2011, "Terry" was walking through Jade Street Park after having spent the evening at the home of a friend. It was 10:30 at night and she was carrying her laptop and a backpack. Three women, armed with a frying pan, mugged her. They hit her on the back of her head (she showed me the scar) with the frying pan causing an injury that needed twelve stitches to close at Dominican Hospital later that night.

They stole her laptop and backpack, and when they came back to beat her some more, she called 911 on her cellphone. Police and an ambulance arrived and Terry was whisked off to the hospital for treatment. Capitola police remaining behind interviewed the three women who Terry says assaulted her.

A few hours later, as Terry lay in a hospital bed with a neck brace and 12 stitches in her head, the police came and arrested her. Apparently the three women had all claimed that Terry had attacked THEM!

"And because it was three eyewitnesses against one, the police believed the three women's version and arrested me," Terry told me. She was charged with 3 counts of felony assault. The only person injured in this event was Terry.

"They told police that I hit myself in the head with the frying pan, and that's how I got injured."

She was assigned PD Minsloff for her defense.

" He did absolutely nothing," she told me. Even when her laptop computer re-appeared when one of the perpetrators accidentally sold it to a friend of her brother's, Minsloff's office did not follow up. He didn't even investigate what would have been a clear, smoking gun about who was the perpetrator and who was the victim. When he finally did talk to Terry, he told her that he could cut a deal. If she would simply plead guilty to 1 misdemeanor battery charge, she could serve 6 months in County Jail and 3 years of probation, and avoid a felony conviction.

She took the deal. And guess who was the Judge who gave the stamp of approval? You got it! Judge Ariadne Symons. SHE was the "wise" judge who believed that a 50 year old woman would go into a park after dark to attack three women with a frying pan, and while she was doing this, managed to hit her ownself in the head and cause a bloody gash requiring hospitalization. Oh, yeah. That's believable!

It's a sad day when your only option is to sue your own lawyer for incompetance.

More stories to come folks! Oh, and listen for me on Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.3FM Sunday when I appear as a guest on Robert Norse's radio show. call in with your questions at 831 427 3772 between 9:30AM and 1PM.
by Sylvia Caras (posted by Norse)
Saturday Feb 11th, 2012 9:26 AM
Occupy Santa Cruz supporter posted the following thoughts on the Occupy Santa Cruz facebook page. I found them worth repeating and also urge people to research her questions and post your conclusions.


Sylvia's Reflections (at http://www.facebook.com/groups/occupysantacruz/209968099100591/ )

"I've been thinking about reframing the story of 75 River St. In order to do it well, I need some fact-checking.

Here are the ideas and focus.

I'm thinking to point to community need, empty building, selfish bank, pumped-up police, sensationalized media (nothing new there, but Santa Cruz should do better than that) … and to frame the piece about the commons and the greed of private ownership and intentional (if that's true) vacancy, the selfishness that prevented freeing up community space and withholding community service. Unused space, owned in private, lying fallow, while others sleep rough and have no place to assemble. What's fair about removing an asset from the commons? Isn't that just like hoarding? The Occupy action drew attention to the miserly attitudes and the city and the media found that attention unbearable and covered their shame by arresting peripheral protestors. A precipitous action by city police prevented the actors from restoration.

And maybe mention timing: On a Tuesday, the courts found the Oakland police department guilty of misconduct. The next Saturday, the OPD arrested 400 protesters. Retaliation for the negative verdict? 10 days later the SCPD arrested people not much connected with 75 River St. Solidarity with OPD?

I'd like to draw attention to how police in black uniforms and gear belts use fear to control, to ask outloud where's the cooperation, the respect, who is in charge, … ? And who decided this was a good use of resources, taxpayer dollars, how much cost the police department has endured. Or wasted.

It's time for a new set of rules.

That's how I'd frame a response. This was on Thursday's GA agenda, and I couldn't stay long enough to discuss this then. The point is greed and selfishness; and yes, of course, an apology for vandalism.

In order to be credible, I want to include some data:

Who is on the the building title? Is it paid for, financed, what are the tax write-off consequences of its emptiness, how long was the building vacant, are there any 'squatters' rights' precedents in California?

What's the 'homeless' count in Santa Cruz? I think the data United Way has from last year's Project Homeless Connect would be helpful. How many came to use the services that day, which could be a proxy for local 'need'. And how many volunteers from the community? - to reflect community support for service provision, as Occupy was doing at the encampment and continued at 75 River. Maybe add a quote from Mayor Lane's address.

Why is the Sheriff arresting and not the City – how does that work?

How much did the city (and county?) choose to spend on overtime to intervene? And the costs now of all the arrests and bookings and detentions? These are my tax dollars. And I'm guessing the bank's insurance paid for restoring the site, because the Occupiers were prevented, and is that a tax write-off or part of the bank rescue package – did tax dollars pay for that too?

I'd like to draw a parallel, if it works, from not letting the space be used to the banks currently holding lots of cash and not lending – I need a citation for that.

And what are the demographics of 400 arrestees in Oakland, especially median age. Maybe 23? That would be startling to include in a story.

And the number of people arrested in Santa Cruz who we know were (or were not) part of 75 River. Or maybe we all were and that shouldn't be divided out."
by Ed Natol
( ednatol [at] hotmail.com ) Saturday Feb 11th, 2012 7:00 PM
I've been in SoCal for the past week, so I haven't been able to follow this as well as I would like.

Quoting Becky
"After reviewing the discovery presented by DA Rebecca we determined that the owners of the building did not contract the private security services of First Alarm until the night of November 30th.

They'd obviously been relying on the taxpayer paid Santa Cruz Police Department solely for their security."

[headdesk] So, only people that can afford private security should have it? Unless you sign the check to OPC, you're on your own? Of course the taxpayer funded Santa Cruz PD was their first line of defense. Like it is for everybody else in town, it was only afterwards that FA was called in to keep tabs on the property. Well done, OSC, you provided 3 jobs in Santa Cruz. [/headdesk]

by Bob Lamonica
Sunday Feb 12th, 2012 12:59 PM
What is happening to Becky Johnson, Robert Norse, et. al, is fundamentally wrong. Just because you don't like somebody does not mean the DA's office, or any other Law Enforcement office, gets to double standard the law. This is what happened to Wes Modes in 2010.

DA Bob Lee is here shown to be a fraud, a scoundrel and an abuser of power. These indictments are like losing something in the dark, but looking for it in the light where you can see.

This situation again exposes the local Santa Cruz ACLU chapter Board of Directors for the cowardly, untrustworthy, smiling villains they are. They serve their "Progressive" cronies to be IN THE WAY of exposing, recognizing and responding to local abuse of power. Dereliction of duty and subversion of purpose can be effectively alleged, TIME AND TIME AGAIN, and no amount of lipstick on the pig will remediate the situation sufficiently. No amount of "environmental" activism covers up this fundamental COWARDICE to challenge local Law Enforcement EVER.

Mike Rotkin IN PARTICULAR needs to resign from the ACLU Santa Cruz ACLU chapter Board of Directors IMMEDIATELY! He's a real hot-shot as long as it's beyond the local application of values firewall. At long last, it is time this community rose to the occasion, and stands up to LOCAL abuse of power.
by Robert Norse
Monday Feb 13th, 2012 9:23 AM
I think her point was, Ed, that police spent a massive amount of time and money posturing and "policing" a vacant piece of property on behalf of Wells Fargo. (And now are trying to turn the whole episode on its head by prosecuting the journalists and photographers who documented it.)

The equation of a vacant piece of property (a predatory bank, for gods sake) with private homes is ridiculous. Misleading. And designed to obscure the real issues and demonize those trying to raise them.
by Bob Lamonica
Monday Feb 13th, 2012 7:03 PM
In one sense, I apologize for the strident language of my prior post. However, I have seen this behavior on the part of local Law Enforcement many times before, and have witnessed the same indifference by the so-called "Progressives" time and time again. One need only examine the Wes Modes Affair of 2010 to see the pattern.

It does not matter how polite, how contrite, these issues are presented to local Law Enforcement or the "Progressives." The former is never wrong, and will attempt to intimidate any that cross it, the latter is beyond being pointed out their shortcomings and will debase any that challenge it. Law Enforcement is composed of human beings, and they are fallible. The "Progressives" are more interested in staying in power, and the visible trappings of power, than they are standing up for the truth, especially when that truth means standing up to local Law Enforcement. I have never seen it. Ever. All the environmental activism in world does not mitigate this fact, this fundamental cowardice. If recognition and response to abuse of power is not important, nothing is.

The DA failed utterly in his prosecutional zeal over the 75 River Street situation. He did not, for example, call Becky Johnson in for an investigation. His conduct resulting in her being put in shackles, charged with crimes way beyond the reality. The entire case is now tainted, and all charges must be dropped against all parties because of this incredible bungling, which the DA and all other zealous officials thus engaged are so certain their actions will not be called to question, that the community will either look the other way, or be intimidated by the power of Law Enforcement. Any honest person who does not despise Ms. Johnson and the other indictees, who is objective, would agree, that ALL charges against ALL must now be dropped, in the name of prosecutorial misconduct.

As for the "Progressives," nothing will ever rise to the occasion where they will stand up against local Law Enforcement abuse of power. Prove me wrong. Mike Rotkin must be singled out here. He is the heart and soul of the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He may deny it publicly, but I've seen it: he calls the shots, he has the "credibility." It is for that reason that those in our community that believe in local application of values civil rights must demand the resignation of Mike Rotkin from the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.