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On March 28 in Monterey, about 75 people joined a broad coalition of activists in a rally and march starting at the Monterey Wharf to protest white supremacist police brutality in Salinas and nationwide to say Black and Brown Lives Matter. Thirty protesters marched to Highway One, blocked all four southbound lanes, and closed the highway for 45 minutes. Eight people in total were arrested.
The action was organized in the context of the killing of five unarmed Latino men since March 2014 by white Salinas police officers: March 20, Angel Ruiz, age 42; May 9, Osman Hernandez, 26; May 20, Carlos Mejia, 44; July 10, Frank Alvarado, Jr., 39; October 31, Jaime Garcia, 35.
The rally started with a statement from the Black Brown Coalition: “We have been inspired by the growing movement which has taken the name Black Lives Matter, a phrase and concept created by three black womyn activists and organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to counter anti-Black oppression in the form of police/vigilante killings and mass incarceration. We understand that police and prisons are the modern expression and continuation of anti-Black oppression in the United States, which began with slavery, continued through Jim Crow and Segregation, and which now manifests in the current “Criminal Justice System.” Slavery and it’s legacy, along with the theft and colonization of indigenous lands, is the foundation of the system of White Supremacy which extends into other forms that target other People of Color here and in other parts of the world through deportations, militarized borders, drone strikes, bombing, and military occupations. This is why we have decided to extend our declaration to include Brown Lives."
Read More with Photos | Eight Arrested in Black and Brown Lives Matter Rally and March, Monterey, CA 3-28-15
Previous Coverage: Salinas Police Tase Jaime Garcia to Death
|| Police Officers Kill Fourth Person in East Salinas: Frank Alvarado
|| Salinas Police Kill Three People in Last Three Months
A newly completed assessment has found that monarch butterflies in North America are vulnerable to extinction. The assessment was undertaken by NatureServe and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and results were published in a report released by the U.S. Forest Service on March 9. “The time is now to intensify continent-wide efforts to reduce the threats to this iconic species and prevent it from succumbing to the fate that has befallen far too many other species,” said Bruce Young, NatureServe’s Director of Species Science.
Autonomous Students UCSC write:
Before dawn on March 3, a group of six students at the University of California Santa Cruz went to the fishhook connecting Highways 1 to 17. Evoking the practice of highway blockades popularized during the Black Lives Matter movement, they chained themselves to aluminum trashcans filled with cement and blocked traffic for nearly five hours. The traffic jam this caused stretched over the hill to snarl Silicon Valley commutes, an act of peaceful civil disobedience that has since become the most controversial of the “96 Hours of Action” declared across the UC system for the first week of March, in protest against tuition hikes and police violence.
After their arrest, the students were informed in jail that the university had suspended them indefinitely, leaving the campus residents homeless and without access to dining plans or healthcare.
Since then, student activists have vigorously debated whether such tactics can effectively build towards a mass movement – all while insisting on defending these six students from excessive and unprecedented punishment. In the meantime, we have been drawn into a difficult discussion with community members and apolitical UC students who fail to see why a protest of tuition hikes and police violence warranted this level of public disruption – and what these two topics have to do with each other in the first place.
Previous Coverage: Supporters Pack the Courtroom for the Highway 17 Six
|| Students Shut Down Santa Cruz Highways and UCSC Campus During 96 Hours of Action
On March 24, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 before an overflowing room to ban the cultivation of cannabis in all unincorporated territories of the county, with limited exceptions. Personal grows of 10×10 square feet are still permitted, with restrictions. Outdoor cultivation is entirely banned in the 2nd District, represented by Zach Friend, and includes the communities of Aptos, Corralitos, Freedom, and portions of Watsonville.
The vote amended the Santa Cruz County Code by deleting the existing Chapter 7.126, passed on February 11, 2014, in its entirety, and adding a new Chapter 7.126. The new version of the code drastically reduces the legal rights of patients to cultivate and access the wide-range of medicines they depend upon from the cannabis plant.
The February 2014 version of Chapter 7.126 includes "Section 7.126.040 Limited immunity for medical cannabis cultivation business." This section allowed for collective cultivation and distribution for use among its members, which is the model used by the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. Collective cultivation allows patients to work together to produce their medicine, just like community vegetable gardens where resources, labor, and harvests are shared.
Previous Coverage: Cannabis Patients and Cultivators are Under Attack in Santa Cruz County
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."
Judge Denine J. Guy set the next hearing date for the defendants for April 8, and said the issue of restitution could come up as part of the proceedings. During the highway blockade on March 3, the students sat across multiple lanes of the roadway and locked themselves to garbage cans full of cement. It took officers with the California Highway Patrol several hours to release them and clear the traffic lanes.
In response to the highway action, the UC Santa Cruz administration suspended the six students from entering all campus facilities, which has left them without access to their homes, food plans, health care, and education.
Read More with Photos | See Also: UCSC Student Union Assembly Condemns Denial of Due Process to the Highway 17 Six
Previous Coverage: Students Shut Down Santa Cruz Highways and UCSC Campus During 96 Hours of Action
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.
Student protests have been held regularly at UC Santa Cruz since November of 2014, when the University of California Regents voted to increase tuition by more than 25% over the next five years.
Organizers described the purpose of the 96 Hours of Action in an event announcement: "This is a call to action for students of all Universities, Community Colleges, High Schools, Middle Schools past, present, and future to stand up for free public education and shut down the racist, classist, corporate, militarized police state. The same people benefiting from racial oppression are the same people benefiting from education debts. The state of California is failing its people by investing in police and prisons instead of public education. It's time to reject this assault on our communities and stand together for education and the end of police violence....Stand with your California's students to demand a free, non-oppressive, non-corporate education. We call upon your collective voices and bodies to end this state-sponsored violence against black and brown individuals, end this war against low-income communities, shut down the school-to-prison pipeline, and prioritize PEOPLE OVER PROFITS! STUDENTS OVER SUITS!"
96 Hours of Action Begins at UC Santa Cruz (3/2) | Hwy 17 Blocked for 4 Hours by UCSC Activists Protesting Tuition Hikes & Police Violence (3/3) | UCSC Students Block Traffic and Shut Down Highway One in Santa Cruz (3/3) | Marching to the UCSC Police Station During 96 Hours of Action (3/4) | 96 Hours of Action Concludes at UCSC with Successful Campus Shut Down (3/5)
See Also: An Open Letter about Student Protests at UCSC
Previous Coverage: UCSC Student Walkout Ends with Rally on Roof of Administration Building
|| UC Santa Cruz Students Occupy Humanities & Social Sciences Building