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On August 21, activists with the Palestine Israel Action Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace Santa Cruz picketed outside of a talk at Temple Beth El in Aptos about Israel and Gaza, given by Dr. Andy David, Israel's Consul General for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. The topic of the talk was "Operation Protective Edge," Israel's name for their most recent military assault on Gaza, which began on July 8 and has killed thousands of Palestinians. To greet those entering the talk, a series of large signs with the names of those killed in the war was displayed near the temple's entrance, and individuals held a large banner on Soquel Drive that read "Sick of Gaza Massacre?"
An announcement for the demonstration made it clear that it was not a protest targeting the temple, but "their guest, the Israel Consul General and the policies of the Israeli government." One large sign displayed by demonstrators was titled "Remembering Some of the Victims of Israeli Operation 'Protective Edge'," and it showed pictures of people killed, and included short biographies about them.
Some of the literature the demonstrators were handing out called Israel's claim that "Operation Protective Edge" was an act of self-defense disingenuous. "The Incredible violence against Gaza is indisputably disproportionate to any threat that Israel faces from the Palestinian resistance to occupation," one brochure stated. It called Israel's attacks, "a siege on an open-air prison." Gaza has been called an open-air prison because Israel controls its land, borders, airspace, sea, access to electricity, and movement of people and goods, including food, water and medicine. "There is nowhere for people to go," the brochure states. "Evacuation is not an option."
Read More with Photos | Palestine-Israel Action Committee
Previous Coverage: Demonstrators at Sam Farr Fundraiser Oppose Congress Member's Support of Israeli War
|| Santa Cruz Activists Continue Die-ins to Protest Attacks on Gaza
|| The World Responds to Israel's Atrocities in Gaza
On August 17, the Direct Action Monterey Network joined a group of residents in Salinas at a demonstration against police violence. Four unarmed Latino men have been killed by Salinas police since March. Although the event was intended to be a community forum, the Cesar Chavez Public Library refused to let the group use their facilities. The gathering was interrupted when someone came over to tell the group that a man was being arrested across the street, but cops were prevented from arresting him by the newly formed local Cop Watch.
A couple of people immediately started walking to the front of the library, but soon they were followed by 15-20 other people who were adamant about preventing the police from harassing, arresting, or hurting anyone else in the community.
Direct Action Monterey Network writes:
"We quickly walked across the street and surrounded the two cops who had a man hand-cuffed and sitting on the hood of one of their patrol cars. People began filming the incident with their phones, while some started heckling the cops and asking why they were detaining this man. The cops, looking around nervously, yelled at people to back up. Some local residents recognized the detained man, who regularly hangs out at the intersection and occasionally panhandles."
"After about 20-30 minutes the cops began to remove the handcuffs from the detained man’s arms and started leaving. The crowd cheered and chanted “Sí se puede!”"
Read More with Photos | Direct Action Monterey Network
Previous Coverage: Rally in Salinas Demands Justice for Frank Alvarado, Killed by Salinas Police
|| Police Officers Kill Fourth Person in East Salinas: Frank Alvarado
|| Families, Residents and Statewide Supporters Fight for Justice in Salinas
|| Salinas Police Kill Three People in Last Three Months
A rally and march in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Mo. was held in downtown Santa Cruz on August 17. On August 9, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses. Michael was reportedly unarmed and holding his hands up while attempting to surrender, saying "don't shoot" when he was gunned down. Since that time, protests in support of justice for the Missouri teenager have erupted all over the world.
Community members in Santa Cruz marched from the Louden Nelson Center down Pacific Avenue to the Town Clock where a rally was held.
"Staying contained and silent must end. It is time for American civil societies to rise up, in SOLIDARITY, and express our outrage for the dominating modes of power that enable racism, inequality, and impunity. We must come together in order to resist the complacency and complicity that allows these injustices to persist," read an announcement for the rally.
Read More with Photos and Video
Related Indybay Feature: Rebellion in Ferguson Over Murder of Michael Brown
A demonstration to protest U.S. involvement in Israel's attacks on Gaza was held on August 14 outside of a fundraiser for Congress Member Sam Farr in Santa Cruz. On August 1 Farr voted, along with most of the House of Representatives, to give Israel an additional $200 million this year to fund their "Iron Dome" missile defense system. One sign held outside of the fundraiser asked, "Where is the Iron Dome for Gaza?"
Organized by the Democratic Women’s Club, the fundraiser was hosted by Khristina Horn, who opened up her home on Millionaires' Row. Known as "Epworth-By-The-Sea," the mansion was built in 1887 and fronts the ocean at 320 West Cliff Drive. One demonstrator said being at the luxurious location felt "creepy" because of how strongly it symbolized the connection between big money and politics.
Farr could be seen through the large, bay facing windows of the mansion, speaking with supporters. Outside, activists casually held signs along West Cliff. One large banner read, "Your Taxes to Israel: $8 Million/day." $3 billion a year in U.S. military aid is given to the Israeli government.
Read More with Photos | See Also: Santa Cruz Activists Have Protested Regularly Since the Assault on Gaza Began
Previous Coverage: Santa Cruz Activists Continue Die-ins to Protest Attacks on Gaza
|| The World Responds to Israel's Atrocities in Gaza
At its board meeting on June 30, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Santa Cruz County adopted a statement of principle in support of a proposed moratorium on camping ban laws and ordinances within the City and County of Santa Cruz. Discussion of the statement was preceded by testimony from several local homeless persons and homeless advocates. Proponents argued that criminalizing homelessness, and particularly the essential right to sleep, is a failed policy and one that must be revisited if the community is ever to move forward and create truly positive outcomes for our resident homeless community.
It was further the position of proponents that a one year moratorium on the enforcement of camping ban laws and ordinances between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. would allow the Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to conduct a fiscal review of the cost savings of the proposed moratorium as well as provide an opportunity to assess the impact of such a moratorium on both the homeless community and the community at large. It is the intention of the Board that the statement be read publicly before both the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Cruz City Council at their next meetings.
In addition to supporting a moratorium on the camping ban, the Santa Cruz ACLU has made a number of recent public statements in what they call a new era of activism for the chapter. In July, the ACLU issued a resolution in support of the Santa Cruz Eleven
, as well as raising objections to the Cowell Beach curfew
and the acquisition of license plate readers
by the Santa Cruz Police Department.
Read More | ACLU Santa Cruz Brings Statement of Principle to Board of Supervisors | Speak-Out Leads to Historic Shift in Local ACLU Avoidance of Homeless Civil Rights Issues | Homeless Take ACLU Sleeping Ban Suspension Resolution to City Council | Santa Cruz ACLU
The Santa Cruz Police Department announced they will be partnering with 7-Eleven stores to launch "Operation Chill," which is code for a program that attempts to affect the behavior of kids, and change their perception of the police department, by bribing them with free slurpees.
SCPD issued a press release announcing Operation Chill on July 28: "Courtesy of 7–Eleven, officers are hitting the streets with “Operation Chill” coupons. When officers observe kids exhibiting good behavior, they can issue an “Operation Chill” coupon. The coupons are good for a FREE small Slurpee® drink at any one of the four 7–Eleven Stores in the City of Santa Cruz. "
According to police, since its inception in 1995, police departments have issued more than 12.5 million coupons,or “tickets” to kids in communities throughout the country. Jeff Hetherington, the local Asset Protection Manager for 7–Eleven commented, “This program is a big hit with both law enforcement agencies and kids. Police officers enjoy having a positive reason to approach kids and thank them for being good citizens, and the kids love the interaction, and of course, the Slurpee”Police say the program will last for as long as the coupons do.
Citing concerns about water use and contamination, a Monterey County Superior Court judge has ruled that San Benito County unlawfully approved a dangerous new oil-development project near Pinnacles National Park that could result in hundreds of wells being drilled in important agricultural and wildlife habitat in the Salinas Valley watershed. As the judge’s ruling notes, “There are numerous opportunities for toxic spills to occur that the County has apparently not contemplated.”
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the Indian Wells project, which would use cyclic steam injection, a water-intensive and polluting form of oil extraction. The court agreed that San Benito County unlawfully failed to consider development of the oil field beyond the initial 15 “pilot” wells in the challenged approval as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The court also found that the county failed to properly analyze the huge water usage, water pollution risks, greenhouse gas emissions, and threats to the California condor — even from the initial 15 well approval.
The project site drains to the Salinas River, an important source of drinking and irrigation water for some of the world’s most productive farmland. The site is also important foraging habitat for the California condor, a critically imperiled species with a population of only about 430 individuals. “This legal victory helps protect California’s water, wildlife and climate from dangerous new oil development,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “It makes no sense to fast-track dirty and risky new oil projects when it’s painfully obvious we have to shift to clean energy sources to respond to the climate crisis.”
Read More | Center for Biological Diversity
Previous Coverage: Lawsuit Targets San Benito County's Approval of 15 Oil Wells in Endangered Condor Habitat
|| San Benito County Residents Reach Signature Goal for Fracking Ban Initiative
Rallies have been held around the world in opposition to Israel's recent air strikes on Gaza and the collective punishment carried out against the Palestinian people living there and in the West Bank. In Northern California, demonstrations have been held in Fresno, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Salinas, and Santa Cruz. According to the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC), as of August 17, approximately 1939 Palestinians, including whole families, have been killed since July 8. A total of 9886 Palestinians, including 2878 children, 1854 women, and 374 elderly, have been injured. 47 Israeli soldiers, most of whom were invading Gaza at the time of their death, have been killed by Palestinian resistance, and two Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian shells.
In response to pressure from conservation groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced an area closure for the swordfish drift gillnet fishery in the Pacific Ocean off California from July 25 through August 31 to prevent entanglements and drownings of endangered loggerhead sea turtles. This year’s El Niño conditions, warmer than normal waters, attract the endangered loggerhead sea turtles to the nutrient-rich waters where the deadly fishery operates.
On July 8, community members in Santa Cruz and around the state gathered
to commemorate the one year anniversary of the California Hunger Strike. Sin Barras writes:
"July 8, 2013 is a day we remember to never forget the torture the state of California willingly inflicts on human lives. On that day, 30,000 prisoners followed the lead of their fellow prisoners locked in solitary confinement and refused to eat. By one account, close to 100 people went without eating for 59 days before agreeing to eat in exchange for serious concessions from the California Department of Corrections."
"In Santa Cruz, at least 37 prisoners joined the statewide strike to protest the inhumane conditions they are forced to live in. At least 5 people have died in the local jail since August, and according to the recently released Grand Jury report, these deaths were preventable. We join this day of action to amplify the voices of those inside and continue organizing & educating with our community to end the violence of imprisonment".
"While certain changes have been made, we must carry forward the fight of the courageous hunger strikers until long-term solitary confinement is abolished in Santa Cruz and California."
Read More with Photos | Sin Barras
Previous Coverage: Supporting California and Santa Cruz Prison Hunger Strikers at 'Hunger for Justice'
Rallies and Demos Begin in Support of 2013 California Hunger Strikers
In response to the killing of Frank Alvarado, the Direct Action Monterey Network called for a rally on July 12 at the corner of South Sanborn Rd. and Fairview Ave. in East Salinas against police violence. Frank's sister Angélica Garza spoke, saying she wanted justice for "Frankie" and "he had a big heart." For the duration of the rally, Frank's niece held a sign that read "Stop Police Brutality. Justice For My Uncle!"
Frank's niece Natalie Mendoza also spoke at the rally, as did Courtney Hanson and Tash Nguyen of Sin Barras, a prison abolition group based in Santa Cruz, of which Frank was a member. "Frank was an extraordinary person with a big and loving heart," Sin Barras has stated. "His contagious spirit, candid perspective, resilience, and compassion for those who are struggling inspired community-building and understanding around him."
Natalie was calm, sad, well-spoken, and angry when she spoke. She righteously proclaimed, "It's not right. I've never had this much hate in my life for anything else. I'm sad, but I'm more angry than anything else because of how he was gunned down. There was no reason for how he was killed; no way to justify their actions. He wasn't even armed. We just need justice for him, and everybody else, all the other cases that have gone like this. There needs to be justice, and SPD needs to have a taste of their own medicine."
Read More with Photos and Video | Rally in Salinas Demands Justice for Frank Alvarado, Killed by Salinas Police | Sin Barras: In Memory of Frank Alvarado // En memoria de Frank Alvarado
Previous Coverage: Police Officers Kill Fourth Person in East Salinas: Frank Alvarado
|| Families, Residents and Statewide Supporters Fight for Justice in Salinas