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SCPD Message to African-Americans, “Get Your Black Ass Out Of My City"
The same tactics of racial profiling and police intimidation used by cops in Ferguson, MO occur right here in Santa Cruz. People in Santa Cruz must address these issues head on before we are faced with a Ferguson, MO right here at home. There needs to be a greater awareness that the SCPD is targeting people of color and the homeless with selective enforcement of City ordinances in order to harass and intimidate them. Measures need to be taken to stop the SCPD from engaging in bullying and other abusive practices before it is too late and tragedy strikes..
Over the past two weeks all eyes have been focused on Ferguson, MO where popular resistance to the police murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old African-American youth, and the militarized police response has garnered national and international attention. Instances of police brutality and intimidation, and the use of an overbearing occupation of the community by heavily armed paramilitary SWAT Teams have outraged people across the country. The overt racist nature of the murder of Michael Brown and the subsequent gangland style drive-by shooting of an obviously suicidal young Black man by neighboring St. Louis cops are outrageous examples of the epidemic of racist police violence that is sweeping across our country, as the victims are predominately, but not exclusively, Black and Latino.
But are we any better here in the supposedly progressive bastion of Santa Cruz, CA? No. A culture of police impunity and intimidation of people of color, the poor and the homeless is rampant throughout Santa Cruz and it is aided and abetted by a City Council that responds to an exaggerated concern for “public safety” that targets the most vulnerable and marginalized segments of our community.
For decades Santa Cruz has done all in its power to criminalize the poor and the homeless. Vigilanteism, police sweeps of “illegal”campsites and daily harassment of the homeless is well documented and has led to many largely ineffective attempts by concerned citizens to address the problem of homelessness in our community. All the while law enforcement is tasked with the mission of keeping Santa Cruz streets free of indigent locals and transient youth. What results is the frequent harassment, intimidation and bullying of people of color, the poor and the homeless for actions and behaviors that otherwise go unchallenged if done by more accepted White Middle Class members of our community. Because of a climate of fear, fostered by demagogic local politicians, members of the SCPD feel they have carte blanche to physically and verbally abuse whomever they feel is a threat to “public safety,” that is anyone whose appearance does not fit into the preferred demographic.
Santa Cruz is predominately white and its social and political leaders are members of the privileged Upper Middle Class. But in fact most Santa Cruzans, of whatever racial or ethnic heritage, are part of the working poor and are totally unrepresented in the corridors of power. Within the ranks of the working poor Latinos and Blacks are selectively targeted and profiled for police surveillance. This is especially true for African-Americans who make up a very small percentage of the population of Santa Cruz. While the predominant attitude seems to be that Latinos should be seen but not heard, witness the white-washing of the Chicano Mural at Beach Flats Park, as far as Blacks are concerned they should not even be seen.
Just within the last few weeks two instances of unwarranted police harassment of African Americans have been recorded on video and uploaded to the internet. Victims and observers of the abuse have written of their experiences and posted them. The actions and statements of the cops involved are clear, and can be summarized by this verbatim quote, “get the f^@& out of my city punk or I will mess you up.” It seems that being Black in Santa Cruz is an invitation for police harassment and brutality. The message that the SCPD projects is that black folk don't belong in Santa Cruz and they better leave town if they know what's good for them or they'll wind up in the clink.
The culture of police impunity rampant throughout the US is alive and well in Santa Cruz enabled by a city counsel and local political establishment that has made concern for "public safety" an excuse for police harassment, intimidation and brutality. We do not want to have happen here what has already occurred in our neighboring community of Salinas where four young Hispanic men have been killed by the police in a few short months. If we do not take care it's only a matter of time before tragedy strikes and a Salinas, CA or Ferguson, MO is repeated here.
We, and that means all of us, have to stop and think. What is going on? Why is this happening here in Santa Cruz and across our nation? But more than that we have to act, to stop the insidious spread of prejudice and racism in all its forms before it is too late. Street demonstrations and letters to the editor are not enough. We need concrete action. Santa Cruz desperately needs a "Cop Watch" program and a Civilian Police Review Board to rein in those elements within the SCPD who are out of control and harass, intimidate and brutalize our marginalized citizens.
Part 1: Santa Cruz Police Racism by Officer Azua and Unidentified PO
Santa Cruz Police and First Alarm Brutalize and Arrest People for Being Black and Homeless