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Dennis Bernstein Interviews Bradley Stuart Allen and Ben Rice on KPFA's Flashpoints
by Flashpoints, KPFA 94.1
Friday Mar 30th, 2012 9:05 PM
Flashpoints on KPFA Radio 94.1 is an award-winning daily investigative newsmagazine broadcast on the national Pacifica Radio network.

On March 29th, Dennis Bernstein speaks with Indybay reporter Bradley Stuart Allen, who has a jury trial on May 21st for felony conspiracy, vandalism and trespassing charges over his coverage of the Occupy movement, as well as Ben Rice, who is representing Bradley.
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Flashpoints, for March 29, 2012

Dennis Bernstein Interviews Bradley Stuart Allen and Ben Rice on KPFA's Flashpoints

(12:29 minutes)

Transcript:

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Let me read you a little bit of some independent reporting from Indybay.

Santa Cruz District Attorney Bob Lee has embarked on a full frontal assault against independent media in Santa Cruz by including four regular contributors to the independent news website Indybay.org amongst the eleven people charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors after the occupation of a vacant bank building on November 30th, 2011. District Attorney Lee apparently believes it is his duty to dictate how events such as the occupation of the vacant bank at 75 River Street in Santa Cruz should be reported on by the media, and if he does not approve of the coverage, again this is from Indybay, they're saying that journalists risk the DA bringing charges against them.

Well, Bradley Stuart Allen knows that the authorities in Santa Cruz are willing to bring charges, because he's facing felony charges for documenting various actions of Occupy Santa Cruz. And indeed Bradley Stuart Allen joins us from Santa Cruz. Also from Santa Cruz joining us is his attorney, Ben Rice.

I thank both of you for being with us on Flashpoints.

BEN RICE: Well thanks for having us. It's great to be with you.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Thank you so much for joining us. Let me start with you Bradley Stuart Allen. What were you doing? Were you a photographer? And tells us about the kinds of things you were documenting when you got arrested.

BRADLEY ALLEN: Sure, thanks Dennis. I've been a journalist, a photojournalist in Santa Cruz, covering a wide-variety of events for over ten years. On November 30th, 2011, I showed up to an announced demonstration that was being held in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz. It was announced that it was going to be a picket of banks in downtown Santa Cruz.

And so I showed up to that event as a photojournalist to cover it for Indybay.org. At that demonstration, people initially met at the county courthouse, marched to a Chase bank, held a brief rally, and then marched towards a couple banks in downtown Santa Cruz, which has been the site of previous pickets related to the Occupy Santa Cruz movement.

However as a surprise to the majority of people on that march, people got into this empty bank building and began to occupy it. So I was covering this march, and since the march, people from that march went inside the bank building. I covered that as a breaking news event.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: And then what happened? The police came.

BRADLEY ALLEN: The police responded, and I took pictures of their response to demonstrators. And then I went home. And I published my photos on Indybay.org. And two months later, I'm facing multiple felonies and multiple misdemeanors as a result of my coverage of this announced demonstration.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: What did your photographs? What are a some of the images that your photographs depicted? Did it, did they depict police violence? Did they depict protestors?

BRADLEY ALLEN: It's a sequence of the demonstration, so we have pictures of the march, as well as pictures from inside the bank, such as demonstrators are making signs, signs against the windows, even people inside the bank. Things like this.

Just documenting what's happening, what's taking place. Including the police. There was one individual who was arrested outside of the bank, and I documented that arrest as well. Asking the police officers for information as to what happened, and why that person was being arrested.

But in regards to the actual occupation of the building, there were no arrests made for that at the time. This occupation lasted for three and a half days, but no arrests were made at the time.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: OK, you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Let's bring your attorney into this Bradley Stuart Allen. Let's ask Ben Rice a little bit more.

Mr. Rice, you're representing Bradley Stuart Allen. Say a little bit more about exactly what the charges are. What is Mr. Allen being charged with?

BEN RICE: Sure. They filed felony charges against Bradley, and all these individuals actually, for conspiring to trespass, and then do vandalism that amounted to over the threshold amount to make the vandalism a felony. The bank is claiming some $30,000 worth of damages.

So it's a somewhat unique legal approach by the DA's office. It's something that we see sometimes in homicide cases, and gang cases. But they're saying that anybody that trespassed should have been pretty much put on notice that it was likely that vandalism would occur.

And that's of course pretty far-fetched in a case like this. If anybody were to participate in an anti-war rally, or any kind of rally, and some nut, or some, you know, well-meaning person who makes a decision to break a window or whatever, that would mean anybody that was participating in that rally or march could be similarly charged.

So we think this is significantly overcharge, particularly against Bradley, given his longstanding work as a photojournalist. We had a lengthy three day preliminary hearing, and put on a lot of evidence about Bradley. He's got a master's degree from UCSC, and had expert witnesses testify and talk about his work. And we did that to show that it's unlikely that he had the specific intent to further some kind of conspiracy here.

Despite that, the judge held Bradley and the other defendant that is a photojournalist; held them to answer on the felony conspiracy and trespass charges. The judge did not hold these two guys to answer for the vandalism. And that means that if that had held up, then they wouldn't have to go to trial on that.

Well we went to court today for the arraignment, and the District Attorney's Office has decided to issue those charges again in the criminal information that was filed today. So we're going to be filling a motion to knock the entire case out, cause we don't think there's any evidence, of any significant degree at least, that shows there was a meeting at the minds by Bradley to engage in some kind of conspiracy.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Now I understand that, in fact, the situation was photographed or filmed by a local news reporter for the local newspaper in Santa Cruz, and he wasn't prosecuted.

BEN RICE: That's correct. And actually there were an awful lot of other people that were identified, and not prosecuted, including one of our City Council Members. So it certainly appears to be a decision by the District Attorney, to go after individuals that are not on their A-List, shall we say.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Alright, let me bring you, we don't have a lot of time left, but let me bring you in Bradley Stuart Allen, and let me give you a chance to respond. Do you believe that this is an attempt at intimidating journalists, particularly progressive journalists, from being in there, and keeping an eye on a situation, in the context of Occupy, where we have seen many, many brutalities, and very troubling actions, overreactions by the police?

BRADLEY ALLEN: I definitely think it's a clear attack on myself, personally, and independent and alternative media specifically. It's also an attack on all journalists, and all people that depend on information to make informed decisions in their life.

But very specifically, it's an attack on the Santa Cruz Independent Media Center, which is part of Indybay.org, and yes, alternative journalism. Because they are working hard to control who gets to be deemed a journalist, what stories are appropriate to cover, and how those stories are able to be covered.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Would you say that you will have to hesitate now? Facing these kind of felony charges. Or, what happens? Do you go forward, another action happens, do you bring out your camera? What goes on? Have you been slowed, if you will?

BRADLEY ALLEN: I have been slowed down, just because of the practicality of going to court and having to defend myself, and deal with all these charges. So without a doubt, this has been a tremendous impact on my life.

But, at the same time, absolutely, I have been out in the streets with my camera. I will be back in the streets with my camera. I think that's critical. There was a demonstration at the Wells Fargo bank across from the empty Wells Fargo bank, and that was maybe a week after these charges were first issued. And myself, and my co-defendant, Alex, who's a photographer with Santa Cruz Indymedia, we were absolutely both out there, taking photographs of the demonstration.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Alright, well I want to look at the website. I'm gonna see the work you've been doing. I know you've been involved in this kind of work for some time. I want to thank you very much, Bradley Stuart Allen, and also Ben Rice, your attorney for bringing us up to speed on this story.

Important story for journalists, I agree with you, all over the country, because we've seen a lot of different variations on this theme, really meant to chill-out and sometimes literally, physically beat-down, independent reporting on these crucial issues. So again, please keep us posted. We're going to watch how this unfolds.

BRADLEY ALLEN: Alright, thanks.

BEN RICE: Thanks for having us.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN: You're very welcome. You're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio.

§Flashpoints
by Flashpoints, KPFA 94.1 Friday Mar 30th, 2012 9:05 PM
flashpoints.jpg
flashpoints.jpg

Flashpoints is an award-winning daily investigative newsmagazine broadcast on the national Pacifica Radio network. Through original reports and some of the key investigative reporters of our time, Flashpoints goes to the frontlines and to the core of the stories in the areas of government and corporate criminality, human rights, and economic justice. From Baghdad to the US-Mexico border, Palestine to San Francisco, Port-au-Prince to Washington DC, Flashpoints monitors the centers of power as an uncensored platform of independent media.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Becky Johnson
Saturday Mar 31st, 2012 3:11 PM
I'm one of the 11 defendants, also charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors. What I find most disturbing about DA Bob Lee's list of defendants chosen out of "hundreds" who participated in the march and building occupation is how he singled out those who reported the issues raised by occupiers of a long-vacant bank building. News reporters whose coverage characterized the occupation as "vandalism" "trespass" or an "attack on private property" were not charged. But journalists who carried the issues of the protesters to print face felony charges. And it's not hard to see that Bob Lee has picked his "wish list" of journalists, photographers, and radio personalities who have been critical of his policies in the past.

For the record, I am against vandalism. I've always been against vandalism. Being charged with both "conspiracy to commit vandalism" and "vandalism" is both an insult and an injury.

In my own case, I blogged about 75 River Street in very favorable terms. I thought it was a righteous action (I still do!) and done for the right reasons. If I had been part of the planning, I would have emphasized the number of homeless people who have no shelter while this empty building sits for YEARS providing no jobs, no services, and very little revenue to the City. In 2010, while the building sat empty, FOUR PEOPLE died of hypothermia out of doors.

I also would have emphasized that the huge rent asked for ($28,790/mo) virtually assured that no one would rent it. I would have questioned whether Wells Fargo wanted to rent it at all. I would have pointed out that Wells Fargo is benefitting from an empty bank building because they are deducting the "lost" rent from HUGE PROFITS ($15.9 BILLION profits in 2011) made elsewhere in their portfolio.

As it was, the group Autonomous Anonymous stated they intended to turn the building into a community center.

While the rest of the world struggles to put bread on the table, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was paid $17.9 million for 2011. Meanwhile, the City of Santa Cruz is stuck with a blighted building FOR YEARS smack dab in the middle of our downtown, that is protected by our police with our tax dollars.

Who allows this situation to go on unabated for YEARS and YEARS?

Kudos to the activists who boldly and bravely occupied this building for 3 days to demonstrate the inequity of allowing this situation of LANDHOARDS not LANDLORDS misusing property while our entire community suffers from a blighted downtown as a result.

While I am completely innocent of all charges I am facing, and never even entered the building, I too am on Bob Lee's list of felons.

Perhaps he didn't like what I wrote about the 75 River Street Occupation?

see: http://www.beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/2011/12/75-river-street-repurposed.html

or my dissection of Police Chief Kevin Vogel's blog entry on 75 River Street? http://www.beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/2011/12/chief-vogels-letter-reading-between.html

Or maybe, for Bob Lee it was more personal when he read: http://www.beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-da-bob-lee-and-ariadne-symons.html
where I accuse him and the judge who signed my arrest warrant with subverting our justice system? It's hard to tell what is motivating him.

In any case, Bob Lee is taking care of a critic of himself by charging me. How convenient for him.

By contrast, DA Bob Lee is NOT charging Jessica Pasko and Schmuel Thayer of the SENTINEL, Phil Gomez of KSBW who tried to enter the building (proving he is a conspirator?????), or freelancer Alex Hubner for the Santa Cruz Patch who was inside the building, or his colleague, Brad Kava who was outside the building on November 30th, or Councilmember Katherine Beiers or City Manager Martine Bernal who entered the building? Or Mayor Don Lane who was outside on the property. Selective prosecution has got to be considered.

Some wore masks but most didn't. None of the eleven charged wore masks. And, after reading 133 pages of police discovery, there is NO EVIDENCE ANY of the 11 vandalized anything nor conspired to vandalize anything. Police testifed that they "only charged the people we recognized" which is chilling in its own way. Two women who served as police liasons are charged. I think they should be commended for keeping an albeit lawless situation from escalating into a violent confrontation between occupiers and police instead of facing felony charges for their services.

At Brad and Alex's preliminery hearing, Detective Gunter testified that the "vandalism" was limited to graffiti in the elevator and an anarchist symbol on the roof air conditioning vent which might have been there prior to November 30th. There was zero evidence that any of the 11 charged had anything to do with the vandalism, planning the event, or involved in the initial entry.

This "crime" (grafitti that could be painted over) does not constitute felony charges and lives ruined even in advance of conviction. We eleven journalists and activists now face years in prison for our alleged involvement, while Wells Fargo continues to plunder our City leaving a wake of foreclosed homes and businesses, empty buildings dotting our landscape, and continues to spend our money on shareholder's profits and CEO's uber-salaries.

Who does Bob Lee work for? The citizens who elected him, or for Wells Fargo Corporation?


by Robert Norse
Sunday Apr 1st, 2012 6:18 AM
I've been urged to say as little as possible about last year's 75 River St. protest, though as a reporter and homeless advocate I've consistently reported on such protests---especially the mounting tide of outrage represented by Occupy Wall Street nationally an Occupy Santa Cruz locally.

Becky is eloquent and uncompromising in her public statements--

The November 30th event was the first mass attempt in Santa Cruz to set up a Community Center and focus on the crimes of Wells Fargo bank and of Santa Cruz authorities against homeless people (though that last objective has been a repeated target of smaller protests).

I'm inviting Becky to join me on Free Radio today as guest/host or call in. My show runs from 9:30 AM to 1 PM at 101.3 FM and streams at http://audio.str3am.com:5110/listen.pls .

I urge people to call in to the show (831-427-3772, 832-469-3119) and also contact D.A. Bob Lee urging the dropping of all charges against the 11: http://elenemigocomun.net/2012/03/dismiss-charges-against-bradley-allen/ . As Becky has described, the charges against the eleven are false, politically motivated, and targeted.

Though a number of those accused weren't there primarily for journalistic purposes, they were there as whistleblowers struggling to throw light on abuses by banksters and city bosses as well as empower a community plagued with unemployment, foreclosure, and rent profiteering. The "criminals" were across the street at 74 River St. at Wells Fargo Bank, the lease-holder for 75 River St.

See

"Wells Fargo CEO earned $19.8 million in 2011" at
at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/16/BU5R1NJKJB.DTL

"Wells Fargo Should Be Forced to Meet Subpoenas, SEC Says" at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/03/23/bloomberg_articlesM1CRUA6K50YQ01-M1CXY.DTL

"Wells Fargo Ends Free Checking With $7 Fee in 6 U.S. States" at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/03/08/bloomberg_articlesM0KTTX0D9L3501-M0L2F.DTL

"Wells Fargo Poised to Lead Payouts Higher After Stress Tests" at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/03/12/bloomberg_articlesM0JM0H07SXKX01-M0S4D.DTL

"Wells Fargo faces investors' class-action suit" at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/28/BUC31NQCOD.DTL

http://blog.sfgate.com/inoakland/2012/03/27/after-cancelled-meeting-councilmembers-stick-around-to-discuss-changing-citys-banking-contract/

"Foreclosure lawsuit to get another chance" at
at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/18/MNMD1NGUO6.DTL


The Lee prosecutions, coming 2 1/2 months after those who did occupy the bank peacefully left, seems like an after-the-fact pretext to pick off activists Lee doesn't like.

At the Preliminary Hearing for journalists Bradley Stuart and Alex Darocy, no evidence was presented of prior "conspiracy" or vandalism. The only thing they and the other 9 are accused of is "trespass", pumped up with the phony "conspiracy to trespass" charge--which was something done by hundreds of people in what was clearly a peaceful protest which ended peacefully.

Something dark and disturbing is happening here with these prosecutions--whose shadow extends far beyond the eleven charged, beyond those who came in and out of the bank. those who "trespassed" on the property to observe, and those who must now wonder what new "conspiracy" and "trespass" charges Lee and the SCPD will cook up next to stop Occupy Santa Cruz, other anti-war groups, and those standing up to abusive authority.
by Not a Wells Fargo fan
Monday Apr 2nd, 2012 8:07 AM
Becky-

Like you, I'm no fan of Wells Fargo...I'm currently housing a person who lost her home to Wells Fargo. There are plenty of things to not like about WF, but the assertion that they can claim a tax deduction for rental income they did not receive is not factual. They can write off the expense of the building (property tax, maintenance, etc.), but they can't include money they did not earn.

A good journalist checks their facts before publishing them.
by Becky Johnson
Tuesday Apr 3rd, 2012 10:17 AM
I've been TRYING to fact check this for quite a while with no luck yet. You post anonymously that you "know" better and perhaps you do. I strive to only print factually correct information and would like to amend my claim, if its inaccurate. However, your comment, which asserts to the contrary, is not sourced in any way and is not helpful in adding clarity to this issue. In fact, you have muddied the issue.

Consider this: WHY would WF leave 75 River St. unrented for over 3 years asking an extraordinary rent?
Why wouldn't WF simply lower the rent until they hit what the current market rate rents would net, i.e. a tenant who could move in and meet that kind of rent the 1st month?
What's in it for THEM to leave it unrented for years at a time?
What's in it for US, the people who LIVE and try to find work in Santa Cruz if the building remains vacant for years at a time?

Any light you can throw on the issue is appreciated. Throwing mud rarely accomplishes this.

by Not a Wells Fargo fan
Tuesday Apr 3rd, 2012 12:32 PM
If you have trying to verify your claim that a corporation (or anyone else for that matter) can receive an tax deduction for income they did not receive and have been unable to do so, why do you continue to put that claim forward? From a journalist's perspective, wouldn't it be more responsible to find out the truth first? Making groundless assertions and then asking people who call you on it to prove you wrong is not how journalism...even "advocacy journalism"...works. When you don the mantle of "journalist", you enter into a social contract with the general public to provide factual information; if you cannot determine that what you write is factual, you should not publish it until you have.

Would you agree that it would not be fair to tax you on income you did not earn while you deal with your legal situation? Would you also agree that it would not be fair for you to claim a deduction for any income you did not earn during that time? Another example: I have a lovely garage at my house....perfect for storing antiques, classic cars....or whatever. It's very clean and secure, so I feel it should fetch a rent of $1,000 a month. However, no one has rented it. Does that mean that I can claim a $12,000/year deduction on my income tax? Of course not.

Now...to your list of questions...none of which are particularly germane to your claim:

WHY would WF leave 75 River St. unrented for over 3 years asking an extraordinary rent?

The building is an asset of the corporation, just like a CD, a stock holding, or a vault full of gold bricks. It is their's to spend or save as they see fit. Many of Robert Norse's detractors decry the fact that he does not spend his considerable assets they way they feel he should. But that is his right...just as it is WF's right to do with their assets what they feel is best.

Why wouldn't WF simply lower the rent until they hit what the current market rate rents would net, i.e. a tenant who could move in and meet that kind of rent the 1st month?

I don't have any insight into WF's justification for their rental price. Perhaps they can't afford to accept active tenancy at a lower number; a vacant building does not cost as much to operate as one that is rented. Perhaps they have plans for the building long-term, but will consider delaying those plans if they can receive a premium rental price for it. Again, just like Robert Norse and his trust fund, WF has the right to do with their legally acquired assets as they see fit.

What's in it for THEM to leave it unrented for years at a time?

Perhaps they want to sell the building...and having a tenant with a long-term lease complicates that plan. Maybe they have plans to occupy (no pun intended) the building themselves, when business conditions improve. The building was built as a bank, and is set up to function as a bank; perhaps the cost of remodeling it for anything but a bank is too expensive. Bottom-line: no one but WF has any insight into their reasons, but it's not unlikely that they have a long-term plan. The building was purchased with private money; neither you, me, or anyone else has the right to tell them what to do with it (as long as that use is legal, within building/zoning codes, etc.).

What's in it for US, the people who LIVE and try to find work in Santa Cruz if the building remains vacant for years at a time?

It's not our asset; we are not entitled to gain anything from it. What's in it for US if Robert Norse chooses to save his inheritance for years at a time? Could he not use his money to create jobs or provide housing? What's in it for US to have the Borland building in Scotts Valley, any number of warehouses in Watsonville, or a large portion of the Rittenhouse building remain vacant for years at a time? Are you going to occupy my garage because I can't find someone to rent it to? Where do we draw the line?

As I've mentioned in my initial post, I'm no fan of Wells Fargo. I've seen the devastation a foreclosure can cause in my own family, and I have moved my own mortgage from them. But it seems to me it's not the fact that there is a vacant building downtown...it's that it's a vacant Wells Fargo building. Disagree with how WF manages its assets all you want, but that does not remove their right to manage those assets as they see fit, as long as their use or non-use of those assets is legal. Are you prepared to advocate for the prohibition of ALL vacant buildings? Good luck with that.

by Reality Check
Tuesday Apr 3rd, 2012 2:42 PM
Becky, I informed you months ago that nobody, not a person nor corporation can write off 'income not received' as a tax deduction. Yet you persist making the claim. It's a pretty simple concept, and ludicrous to state that you've been 'trying to fact check this'. It's in the tax code. You can deduct actual expenses, but certainly not 'unreceived income'.


'not a Wells Fargo fan' answered all of your other questions.