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On March 23, coordinated actions were held statewide in California to oppose the use of solitary confinement in prisons and jails. Protests were planned for Eureka, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. In Santa Cruz, community members gathered on West Cliff Drive for a rally and candlelight vigil. Organizers say future actions will continue to be held statewide on the 23rd of each month to symbolize the 23 hours per day prisoners in solitary are held in the "complete isolation" of their cells.
"We have decided to hold this gathering on the coast because so many people locked up in solitary confinement talk about their desire to see and be near the ocean," an event announcement for the Santa Cruz vigil read. As an example of exactly how small solitary cells are in reality, demonstrators outlined a 7 by 11 foot area in blue tape outside of the Surfing Museum, and labeled it "solitary confinement cell."
"Solitary confinement has been defined as torture by the U.N., yet the U.S. puts more people in solitary and for longer periods than any other country," stated a press release from the Santa Cruz based organization Sin Barras, which helped plan the demonstration at the Lighthouse. "California continues to use the practice in violation of international law and in violation of the US policy against cruel and unusual punishment."
Read More with Photos | Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement Begin | Sin Barras
Previous Coverage: Santa Cruz Rally for California Hunger Strike Anniversary
|| Supporting California and Santa Cruz Prison Hunger Strikers at 'Hunger for Justice'
|| Rallies and Demos Begin in Support of 2013 California Hunger Strikers
Supporters packed a Santa Cruz courtroom on March 17 for preliminary hearings concerning the six UCSC students who were arrested for blocking traffic on Highway 17 on March 3 to protest tuition increases. The hearing was the first time all six of those arrested have appeared together in court, and they all have legal representation now. None have pleaded guilty to the charges they face, which include misdemeanors for "resisting arrest" and creating a "public nuisance."
A video has surfaced of Santa Cruz Police hitting and tasing Oliver Howard in front of the Court House on Water Street on October 13, in what multiple witnesses called excessive force at the time. The woman who recorded the video can be heard saying, "I hate cops" and "this is so fucked up" as the events unfolded. After the violent takedown by officers, Howard was taken directly to the hospital. He was never booked into jail and apparently was never charged with any crime. Since that time, one of the witnesses filed a formal complaint with the Santa Cruz Police Department, which triggered an external review.
Those on the scene that day say Santa Cruz Police hit Oliver Howard with a baton, tased his bare body, piled on top of him, wrenched and twisted his limbs, and grinded his face and body into the ground. "I did not feel the man he was pursuing was dangerous or a threat to the officer or me," witness Debra Ellis stated in October. "The man being pursued appeared scared and confused," she said.
Read More with Video
Previous Coverage: Witnesses Report Excessive Use of Force by Santa Cruz Police
Students at UC Santa Cruz concluded four days of protests against tuition and fee increases with a campus-wide strike and shut down on March 5. Dubbed "96 Hours of Action," demonstrations were held March 2 to 5 at schools across California to highlight the relationship of racist mass incarceration to the privatization of education. Thousands of people in Santa Cruz were affected on March 3 when six students locked themselves together to block highway traffic.
Amilcar Perez-Lopez was a 21-year-old man from Guatemala, living and working in the Mission District. Amilcar and his household were facing eviction at the end of March. On February 26, plain clothes SFPD officers Craig Tiffe and Eric Reboli shot and killed Amilcar. Police have stated he was in the process of stealing a bicycle, but that claim is called into question by a number of witnesses, some who say the cyclist had stolen Amilcar's phone. Witnesses have reported being intimidated and bullied by SFPD since Amilcar's murder.
In October, a new law went into effect in the City of Monterey making it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks in commercial districts. In response, activists staged a sit-in on the sidewalk along Alvarado Street in Downtown Monterey on February 13, and they say they plan to make it a regular event. Individuals with Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) organized the demonstration because they believe the law targets individuals without homes, travelers, and the impoverished.
On February 7 an Oakland Police Department officer shot at — but missed — a man who was reportedly having a mental health crisis. Later that day, Oakland city officials bragged in a press release that OPD had not shot anybody for twenty months. However, in the last thirteen months five people have been shot and killed by law enforcement in Oakland, it just happens that they were not killed by members of the Oakland Police Department. Jacorey Calhoun was shot and killed by an Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy in August of last year.
Since January 2014, people in Oakland have been shot and killed by the CHP, Alameda County Sheriff, private security, San Leandro Police Department and most recently by the Emeryville Police Department. It would seem that nearly every local law enforcement agency — if private security can even be placed under that label — that operates in Oakland have killed somebody since last January.
In August of last year, an unarmed African-American man was shot several times and killed by a white law enforcement officer who later claimed the man was reaching into his waistband. His lifeless body was left for hours in a puddle of his own blood and the police would later claim that the man was suspected of a robbery. This incident describes the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, but it also describes the killing of Jacorey Calhoun who was shot and killed by an Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy in Oakland six days earlier.
Steve Schnaar writes:
Nearly two years ago, a Santa Cruz police officer injured a homeless man who was already in handcuffs, slamming him face-first into the ground. Caught on video
by a bystander, the incident got a lot of attention and the SCPD promised to do a formal investigation. However the results of that investigation have been kept secret, and meanwhile the offending officer is still on the job with no apparent consequences.
As the issue of police accountability continues to spark protest and discussion around the country, Santa Cruz has its own unresolved incident of police violence: the aggressive take-down of Richard Hardy by Santa Cruz Police Officer Nathan Vasquez in 2013. Although the incident was captured on video and widely circulated, after well over a year the SCPD’s internal investigation has not been made public, no apology has been issued to the victim, and Vazquez remains on the job without any apparent consequences.
Read More | SCPD Officer Vasquez Slams Drunk Man's Face On Pavement
In September of 2014, the City of Oakland began to make attempts to displace and remove people in public plazas in the wake of the WOSP (West Oakland Specific Plan) being passed. Then, in December, as the Ferguson inspired Bay Area uprising was raging, people armed with bolt-cutters took down the fences encircling the park to the cheers of those on the streets. Wanting to know more about the anti-gentrification struggle and how it connects to the battle against police and white supremacy, we caught up with long-time Oakland organizer and militant, Linda Grant.
On February 23, a group held a demonstration in support of Alix Tichelman, the person charged with involuntary manslaughter in regards to the death of Google X executive Forrest Hayes on November 23, 2013. Stop all witch hunts! writes:
We demand an end to their misogynistic witch-hunt against Alix Tichelman...We offer our unconditional support to Alix Tichelman and hope more people begin to ask questions about this case.
Yuvette Henderson, mother of two, was gunned down by Emeryville police officers Michelle Shepard and Warren Williams on February 3 within minutes of an incident at the Emeryville Home Depot about a block away. Details of exactly what happened at the Home Depot remain unclear. The current, and still incomplete, police narrative of the killing that followed conflicts with initial police statements as well as eyewitness accounts. Disturbingly, officer Williams used an AR-15 military assault weapon to gun down Yuvette and supposedly did not turn on his PDRD body camera until after the shooting. Community members have raised questions and demanded the release of multiple related surveillance videos, yet police and the local businesses involved refuse to come clean or release the video. Concerned that Yuvette was killed because she was a Black woman, and that police agencies are involved in a massive cover-up, the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) held a rally at Emeryville police department headquarters on February 21 before marching to the Home Depot, where activists used their bodies, chains and lockboxes to block three main doors, thereby shutting the store down for most of the day.
Read More with Photos |
Anti Police-Terror Project Holds Rally and Vigil for Yuvette Henderson |
Graffiti Near Where Yuvette Henderson Was Shot By Emeryville Police
Previous Related Indybay Feature:
Yuvette Henderson Gunned Down by Emeryville Police in Oakland
February 10 marked the fourth consecutive Santa Cruz City Council meeting where residents have protested the police purchase of a $250,000 BearCat (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) funded by two Department of Homeland Security grants. As with the previous protests, community members again rallied in the City Hall courtyard and entered the council meeting as a group to speak out against the purchase of the armored attack-style vehicle during the open communications period.
During the meeting, Council Member Micah Posner and Mayor Don Lane announced that they would be bringing the BearCat issue back to the council's agenda in March. The specifics of their announcement addressed some of the subjects of interest cited by community members organizing with SCRAM! (Santa Cruz Resistance Against Militarization!), but the group's three demands remain as follows: to bring the BearCat back onto the SC City Council agenda for a full public hearing and to rescind the approval; to establish a long-term policy for grant applications and acceptance in the City that ensures timeliness, transparency, full public disclosure and input; and to help develop and implement policies that prevent military equipment from flowing into law enforcement agencies throughout Santa Cruz County.
Community members continue to ask that individuals sign the petition
to "Give Back the BearCat," and on Tuesday, February 24
, they plan to again speak out at the city council meeting and hold another rally at City Hall at 4:30pm.
Read More with Photos | See Also: Local Activists Continue to Press the Issue on the BearCat and Militarization
Previous Coverage: Activists Say Santa Cruz Police Lied to Secure $250,000 Armored Vehicle Purchase
|| Santa Cruz Residents Continue to Call for Police to "Give Back the BearCat"
|| Protesters Shut Down City Council Meeting after Purchase of Armored Vehicle Approved
Family, friends, and community supporters came together on February 14 for a candlelight vigil to honor 23-year-old Phillip Watkins, who was shot and killed by two officers with the San Jose Police Department on February 11. About one hundred people attended the vigil, and many spoke about what a positive person Phillip was, and how he changed their lives.
Phillip was the father of a young girl, who was at the vigil with her mother, Phillip's life-partner. Also in attendance was Phillip's mother and sisters, and his partner's mother. Phillip attended San José High School and De Anza College, playing on the football teams of both schools. Fitness and exercise was his passion.
One of Phillip's sisters who spoke at the vigil described her brother as "always giving what he had for others," and she recalled that whenever the ice cream man would come around their neighborhood during their childhood, Phillip would always share his money with her so that she was sure to get what she wanted. "Now is the time to live through Phillip," she said. "That's what keeps me ok."
Read More with Photos
Solidarity Monterey writes:
On February 22nd, 2014 a CSU Monterey Bay police officer arrived at a student’s apartment because the student was supposedly trying to commit suicide. Now that cop is likely going to be fired for not using excessive force; specifically, for not tasing the student. The details vary according to who recounts the story, and the whole thing has been complicated by a legal shitstorm between the CSUMB cop and their union on one side, and the city of Marina police department on the other.
The CSUMB cop claims that the student had calmed down and posed no threat to anyone by the time the Marina cops showed up. The Marina cops claim that they had to restrain the student and that the CSUMB cop refused to help them. But what is generally agreed upon by everyone involved is that this CSUMB cop is being fired for NOT using more force against the student.
Now, this author has noticed a strange position taken by some people, including some who otherwise oppose oppression and illegitimate authority: that this cop should not be fired. The argument seems to be that firing this cop will encourage more aggressive actions by police, that it reinforces the violence of this already incredibly violent institution. But the inherent violence of the police should point to an opposing position on this issue. Yes, fire this cop! Fire all cops!
In the early afternoon of February 3, Yuvette Henderson, a 38-year-old African American mother of two was shot and killed by Emeryville police on Hollis Street just inside of Oakland city limits. An employee of Home Depot in Emeryville called police reporting a shoplifter who was armed with a gun. Initially, police did not claim Yuvette had brandished a weapon when they approached her, but later said she did. Emeryville police officers Michelle Shepherd and Warren Williams both fired multiple times at Yuvette, killing her instantly. As activists who inspected the scene of the shooting suspected, a high-powered AR-15 rifle was used to kill Yuvette.
Nearly a hundred people turned out for a vigil for Yuvette Henderson that evening, marching to Home Depot where a window was broken, then chanting inside of Safeway and blocking the intersection of 40th Street and San Pablo Avenue before returning to the site of a memorial for Yuvette.
On the morning of February 10, activists gathered at the site of the memorial for Yuvette and proceeded to deliver printed questions for ExtraSpace Storage, where Yuvette was gunned down, and Home Depot, where Yuvette was accused of shoplifting and apparently some sort of altercation took place. A demand was issued for both the Emeryville and Oakland police departments to release surveillance video.
Vigil for Yuvette Henderson, Gunned Down by Emeryville Police in Oakland |
Statement on the Emeryville Police Department's Killing of Yuvette Henderson |
Questions and Demands Surrounding the Police Killing of Yuvette Henderson |
Support Yuvette Henderson's Family
On January 27, about 100 citizens attended the Santa Cruz City Council meeting to demand the Council rescind its rushed approval of the Police Department's purchase of a fully armored vehicle, a BearCat. Activists claim Santa Cruz Police relied on questionable information about their need for an armored vehicle when they pushed the Council to approve this purchase, claiming it would take 3-4 hours for the nearest armored vehicle to arrive here from Santa Clara if needed. In fact, both the Sheriff's Department and the Scotts Valley Police Department have armored vehicles that can be quickly deployed.
The Santa Cruz City Council approved the BearCat Purchase on December 9. Journalist John Malkin, who has been working with SCRAM! and others to uncover more information about the SCPD's BearCat purchase through Public Records Act Requests, said that information detailing other agencies' armored vehicle inventories would have been, "very useful to have shared with the city council at the point when they were asked to vote for purchasing a new 250 thousand dollar vehicle."
"Our idea is that it would have given them a better perception of what kind of equipment is available locally, what kind of sharing is possible, and that the vehicle for another reason is not needed for our city," Malkin said.
Community members continue to protest the BearCat purchase. On Tuesday, February 10
, activists plan to speak out at the city council meeting and hold a rally at City Hall at 4:30pm. On Wednesday, February 11
, a forum on the militarization of the Santa Cruz Police Department will be held at the Louden Nelson Center at 6pm.
Read More with Photos and Video | See Also: Dear City Council, Santa Cruz Does NOT Want a BEARCAT
| Wider World is Watching the BEARCAT in Santa Cruz
Previous Coverage: Santa Cruz Residents Continue to Call for Police to "Give Back the BearCat"
|| Protesters Shut Down City Council Meeting after Purchase of Armored Vehicle Approved
At least six people have died in the Santa Cruz County Jail since August of 2012 while in the hands of the Sheriff’s Department and California Forensics Medical Group (CFMG). In light of the most recent death in November 2014, community-based organization Sin Barras, which fights to abolish prisons and the prison industrial-complex, held a demonstration on January 24 in downtown Santa Cruz.
After a year-long investigation of deaths in the jail, prompted by public criticism and concern, the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury released a report
including recommendations to improve physical and mental health conditions in the jail. One of the Grand Jury’s conclusions was that CFMG staff failed to identify and treat symptoms of methadone overdose, and had insufficient oversight and treatment facilities for people in the supposedly monitored units. The Sheriff's Department and CFMG have publicly disagreed with almost all the findings of the report, and since then, another person has died.
Hundreds of people came together to protest and raise awareness around the deaths, to highlight the broader context of overcrowding and lack of healthcare inside California jails and prisons, and create a space for community empowerment. Speakers, including Fox Sloan, mother of Amanda Fox Sloan, who died in the jail July of 2013, shared personal stories which shed light on the violence of the prison system and strategies for building alternative forms of justice.
Read More with Photos | Video, Audio & More Photos | Sin Barras | See Also: Cages Kill! — Freedom Rally & March in Santa Cruz
Previous Coverage: One More Death at Santa Cruz County Jail Makes Six In Two Years
|| Grand Jury Report on Jail Deaths Only a Snapshot of the Larger Picture
|| Fight Against Prison Expansion Continues at Statewide Actions Opposing Gov's Budget Revise
|| Santa Cruz Residents Urge County to Reject State Grant Awarded for Jail Expansion
|| Sin Barras Rally at SC County Jail Held in Response to Recent Deaths at Facility
Members of Youth Alliance for Justice rallied in front of Mountain View City Hall on June 28th with the faces of victims on placards, asking that they not be forgotten. All the images were of people who were killed, seriously injured, or "disappeared" due to racism or human rights violations.
On January 22, the Homeless Persons Legal Assistance Project (HPLAP) filed and served a lawsuit on the City of Santa Cruz challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed parks “stay away order” ordinance, Municipal Code Section 13.08.100. HPLAP is bringing this suit on behalf of the homeless community for whom City of Santa Cruz parks and beach areas are traditionally places of rest, relaxation and communal association.
The Complaint alleges in part that “the activities (use of parks and open spaces for free assembly) … are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and by the California Constitution and Defendants’ restrictions as to place, time and manner embodied in Section 13.08.100 are not reasonable under the circumstances.” It further alleges that “the ordinance as applied to Plaintiff’s activities … are based upon violations of other municipal ordinances which are so vague that they violate the due process standards as set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in that a person of ordinary intelligence cannot reasonably know what he or she is legally permitted to do under the statutes as applied.”
The ordinance had its second and final reading before City Council on January 13 and will go into effect thirty days thereafter by operation of law.
Read More | See Also: Open Letter to Mayor Lane Re: Compassion and Actions vs Words
Previous Coverage: Santa Cruz City Council Delays Second Reading of Parks Stay Away Ordinance
On January 13, hundreds of residents attempted to attend the Santa Cruz City Council meeting to oppose the council's December decision which approved a police department request to accept Homeland Security grants totaling more than $250,000 earmarked for the purchase of an armored attack vehicle. When residents first found out in early December about the proposed purchase, police described it as an "emergency response and rescue vehicle" in a report sent to city council members prepared by Deputy Chief of Police Steve Clark and approved by Chief of Police Kevin Vogel. The public later found out that police intended to purchase a Lenco "BearCat." BearCat is an acronym, standing for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.
Shortly after the December 9 BearCat approval, a group of activists met with Mayor Lane to discuss the issue, and they were invited to give a short presentation on January 13, which was delivered by Abbi Samuels of Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs. She spoke on behalf of a coalition of eight individuals which included members of the local chapters of the ACLU, WILPF, People's Democratic Club, Code Pink, and Food Not Bombs, as well as a first responder and a civil rights activist. The purpose of the presentation, Samuels said, was to give reasons why the BearCat order should be rescinded, as well as to introduce a proposal to change the process by which the City of Santa Cruz acquires grants.
Community members continue to circulate a petition
calling for the city council to "Give Back the BearCat," and another protest at City Hall is planned for Tuesday, January 27
Read More with Photos | See Also: Escalated Government Attacks on Homeless, Journalism, & Public Criticism: Santa Cruz & SJ
|| Public Records Released by the SPCD on the Bearcat
Previous Coverage: Protesters Shut Down City Council Meeting after Purchase of Armored Vehicle Approved
Santa Cruz County is drafting new regulations for medicinal cannabis patients and providers. These new rules have the potential to turn large numbers of patients and providers into criminals and drastically roll back decades of progress won by cannabis activists. In letters to the Board of Supervisors, medicinal cannabis patients and cultivators are expressing their desire for "more effective, more sensible, and more just solutions" regarding a policy on medicinal cannabis cultivation and distribution.
In Oakland, hundreds of people from more than two dozen groupings organized in response to the Anti Police-Terror Project’s call to come together for ninety-six hours of direct action over the Martin Luther King Day weekend. The first action announced was a protest inside Montgomery BART station in San Francisco at 7am on Friday. The weekend’s events culminated in a Jobs and Economy March for the People on Monday, January 19. Other groups organized more MLK-related events in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, and throughout Northern California.
From the blockading of Google buses to the blockading of major freeways. From riots against white supremacy and police in Oakland to anti-tech and gentrification brawls in San Francisco, 2014 was an explosive year. Battles erupted in a variety of places and around various issues. Against surveillance, against the eviction of squats and homeless camps, against Israeli attacks on Gaza at the Port of Oakland, and in workplaces and neighborhoods across the region. While the bay changed for the worse: thousands were evicted and displaced, the cost of living and rent soared, poverty, deportations, and cuts to basic services grew, and police across the region continued to go on the offensive killing and brutalizing many; people fought back in new and exciting ways. This year in review looks at some of the key struggles and outbreaks of rebellion that shook the bay area to its core.
2014 was a year of explosive anger, highlighted most graphically against gentrification, displacement, and a white supremacist system of policing and incarceration. But 2014 was also a time of many different and varied struggles – and one of the most exciting things by the end of the year was to see these different veins of contestation coming together. This review will look at some of the struggles, actions, and social upheavals which rocked the bay area and how everyday people took part in them.
On January 8, Eric McDavid was ordered released from prison. It has been almost 9 years exactly since he was arrested in Auburn, CA, on January 13, 2006. Eric’s release came about because of the habeas petition that he and his legal team filed in May 2012. Because the government withheld important documents from the defense at trial, Eric’s original judgment and sentencing were vacated and he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge that carried a five year maximum sentence.
In an unprecedented civil disobedience action on December 15, a multi-racial group of activists calling for an end to the "war on black people" shut down Oakland police headquarters. The doors of the building were physically locked down preventing police egress to or from the building and a "Black Lives Matter" flag was hung from a flagpole for hours, while others used lockboxes to block traffic on Broadway. The plan was to hold OPD headquarters for 4 hours and 28 minutes, the time Mike Brown's body was allowed to lay in the street after he was shot down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Protest signs and banners demanded justice for Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Alex Nieto, and others murdered by police locally and nationwide. As word of the action spread, around 200 supporters gathered, chanted, and blocked side streets in solidarity. Twenty-five protesters were arrested.
On December, 15, Spain passed the "ley de mordaza", a gag law that makes it a crime to insult a cop, film a cop, or assemble in large groups. On December 16, seven anarchists were arrested on charges relating to terrorism. On December 22, a group of anarchists stormed the Spanish consulate in San Francisco. After throwing leaflets into the consulate, tipping over the Spanish flag, and yelling curses, the group left without incident.