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Activists Disengage from City Police Spying Process
by Rico Thunder
Monday Jul 24th, 2006 10:18 AM
For this reason, I will no longer engage with the Council on this issue. It has become abundantly and painfully clear that the Council has nothing to offer those of us working on protecting people's rights to express dissent locally.
RE: A letter to council members on the issue of Police Spying

Dear Councilmembers,

The new police policy on police spying is a failed product resulting from a failed process.

Unfortunately, you never understood the gravity of this issue. At the heart of this is nothing less than our rights to free speech and free assembly, right to privacy, and right to due process.

Let's be very clear: The people of this community got together to create a grassroots New Year's parade to replace a defunct city-sponsored event. It was to be an act of peaceful civil disobedience with the clear political intention to challenge the Draconian event permit process. Santa Cruz police made a rash decision to infiltrate the group in order to gather information for public safety reasons. Armed undercover officers infiltrated the planning meetings in a private home, created dossiers on organizers and others involved, gathered information about other events, tipped off other agencies, and participated significantly in the meetings.

From the very beginning the comments from the City Council ranged from Cynthia's sentiments that lawbreakers get what they deserve to Ed's comments that it was a "tempest in a teapot" to Ryan's absurd assertion that we shouldn't rush to any conclusions because the police officers involved have due process rights. Only Tony and Tim, to their great credit, were on the right side of this issue.

The Council failed to engage the process. The city council was dragged kicking and screaming to this issue and showed reluctance, foot dragging, and duplicity in doing the right thing. Only after Bob Aaronson's conclusion that police had violated the civil rights of parade planners did the public safety committee do an abrupt turnaround. In Mike's words -- a reversal of everything he'd said earlier -- I think we have nothing really to talk about since we are all on the same page here.

You fell down on your responsibility to protect the civil rights of Santa Cruz residents. From the beginning, the council could have taken a strong stand and passed an ordinance that prohibited police monitoring of peaceful groups without strong evidence of criminal activities. Instead the council abdicated their responsibility to the City Manager and City Attorney who predictably created a policy that put few restrictions on police power.

The city failed to even apologize. Sherry Conable's repeated and simple request that the city simply apologize to parade planners was first argued against and finally ignored.

The Council and the City Managers cut the stakeholders out of the process. After the abrupt turnaround of the March 29th PSC meeting, we were promised a transparent process working hand-in-hand with the ACLU with plenty of public comment. But a month later after several canceled meetings, the city still needed frequent prodding to not ignore the issue. And when the city manager and attorney did finally sit down to write a policy, they sidelined the ACLU discarding the draft policy prepared by Mr. Schlosberg and ignored his substantial objections, and rushed through a grossly inadequate policy with no public comment.

Apparently, in Santa Cruz the right to free speech, free assembly, and right to privacy are worth protecting at the national level, but when these rights are threatened in our own community, the Council has shown that it has neither the interest nor the will to protect citizen's civil liberties.

It is clear that the city is not willing to negotiate this process in good faith. From the beginning it was clear that the Council had little interest but stilling the embarrassing public relations nightmare this has become. This city has delivered nothing more than adamant dismissals, empty assurances, broken promises of a remedy, a closed-door process, and a useless policy.

For this reason, I will no longer engage with the Council on this issue. This is not petulance, but a clear realization of where we stand. It has become abundantly and painfully clear that the Council has nothing to offer those of us working on protecting people's rights to express dissent locally.

I've lived in this community for twenty years. This is the first time I've taken up an issue before you. The results do not bode well for Santa Cruz. I am ashamed of you.

Rico Thunder

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Norse
Monday Jul 24th, 2006 9:34 PM
Councilmembers in Copland
by Rico
Tuesday Jul 25th, 2006 6:56 PM
I was tempted to not bother you with this, but then I thought I owed it to you after I bored you with my letter to council yesterday. Here is the Mercury News article about last night's meeting of the Public Safety Committee meeting.

City adopts policy on police spying
By Ken McLaughlin
Mercury News

It's better than a sharp stick in the eye, I guess. It's always nice to know that your rights were noted before they steamrolled over them. The message here seems pretty clear, no? Pretty much what we've been saying all along:

Its our city, not seven semi-elected folks who meet now and then to tell us what we can and can't do. We don't expect them to approve. But then we're not asking for their approval either. In our city, we give ourselves permission to celebrate. We give ourselves the okay to bring music and dancing and art out into the streets downtown.

After all, it was a last night celebration. A last night of waiting for governments, institutions, or anyone else to entertain us, satisfy us, bring us security, freedom, or joy. We reclaim our streets and usher in the new year with our own celebration.

So you wanna do a parade again this year or what? Who's gonna help un-organize it?

(Photo: Last Night Parade Fills Pacfic and Laurel
by Indymedia Photographer Bradley)
by DIY Spirit
Thursday Jul 27th, 2006 11:02 AM
"A last night of waiting for governments, institutions, or anyone else to entertain us, satisfy us, bring us security, freedom, or joy."

Well, why should we *petition* them to "muzzle their [police] dogs?" The DIY spirit would tell us to deal with the cops ourselves as well--and NOT by whining about their abuses to City Council members or the "police auditor" or the corporate media OR the ACLU. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was a hundred times more DIY and effective than any policy ever adopted by any city, any law ever passed by any legislature, any Constitution ever written by any group of stuffy lowers, any U.N. ever created in the aftermath of a Dresden or a Nagasaki. I hope that Rico will live up to his words and disengage from the snakepit of the City Council, and I hope that all the liberal activists in this town will learn their lesson and change their tactics (but most likely, they'll still be raising their feeble voices in protest even from the bottom of their mass graves). Robert Norse, what are you doing? Fuck politics!
by it takes all kinds
Friday Jul 28th, 2006 8:33 PM
Hey --

I just wanted to clarify... this letter is from Rico to the City Council. Rico speaks for himself, not anyone else. I think that is half the point, too. Sometimes when we depend on spokespersons or representatives, our voice is lost in the process.

Also, what is this DIY Spirit post all about? I really don't understand what you're trying to get at. Warsaw Uprising??? What does that have to do with this situation? I fail to see your correlation.
by Steven Argue
Tuesday Aug 1st, 2006 12:26 PM
I'd like to thank Rico Thunder for his good work on this issue. I would also like to point out to those who would like to criticize his "engagement" with the City Council that such actions are sometimes the best way for people to learn that our "friends" in government are not.

Here is a Liberation News letter of endorsement of that last protest that was held against the City Council on this subject:

Liberation News endorsement of march a gainst police spying

Once again our concerns are poo-pooed by the local capitalist politicians, the local gendarmes of a system based on repression, war, exploitation, sexism, racism, imperialism, homophobia, and environmental degradation.

As usual our Democrat Party City Council members, most especially Cynthia Mathews, Mike Rotkin, Ed Porter, Ryan Coonerty, and Emily Reilly, voted to not get in the way of the repressive functions of the Santa Cruz Police when the people found that they were being spied on for legal political activities.

This should be of no surprise to anyone. These are politicians of the same Democrat Party that voted to go to war. Locally their function is to both funnel opposition to the war into the useless and nationally pro-war Democrat Party while at the same time using their police as a repressive force against those who are calling for real change.

The left in the United States as well as in Santa Cruz has been the victim of all kinds of political repression, spying, and other disruption done by the FBI as well as local police. From the FBI's murders and frame-ups of Black Panther Party members to their bombing of Judy Bari, all information gathered is dangerous in the hands of our predatory and terrorist government. Likewise the spying and disruption of the left by the infamously brutal Santa Cruz Police is intolerable and should be recognized within the correct political context of the need to build a revolutionary socialist alternative to the war and repression of the Democrat Party.

Liberation News stands united with the upcoming July 5th demonstration against police infiltration.

Sincerely, Steven Argue
For Liberation News

Here is an ealier Liberation News letter on the issue:

An open letter to the Santa Cruz City Council in protest of police infiltration:

It is an outrage that the Santa Cruz Government has been found to be infiltrating legal political activities in Santa Cruz through its police department. These police agents lied about their names, contact information, and reasons for attendance in planning meetings. Their purpose was to spy on and potentially disrupt the legal political activities of activists organizing a New Years event that includes an anti-corporate and anti-war message.

This COINTELPRO type interference against the left by the supposedly liberal Santa Cruz City Government is an intolerable violation of the Democratic rights of the people of Santa Cruz.

The U.S. government, including the Santa Cruz Police, spy on, disrupt, and use violence against the left for one reason: They are afraid of and opposed to democracy.
Since the boss of the Santa Cruz police are the City Council we demand that the City Council make a public apology for this violation of basic democratic rights, fire all officers involved including Lt. Rudy Escalanate, and give a promise not to not carry out similar activities in the future.

The politicians that we are holding directly accountable and expect responses from are: Cynthia Mathews, Tony Madrigal, Mike Rotkin, Ed Porter, Tim Fitzmaurice, Ryan Coonerty, and Emily Reilly.

Sincerely, Steven Argue
For Liberation News

In response to CC sent to SEIU Local 415 President, he sent the following letter to the City Council:

Dear Council Members,
If there is any truth to the allegations that City of Santa Cruz Police have infiltrated groups conducting legal activities, I insist that you publicize the truth, stop this spying activity, and discipline any City employees who engaged in or ordered these outrageous infringements on residents civil rights and privacy.

Sincerely, Jeffrey Smedberg

Letters from City Council Members Mike Rotkin and Tim Fitzemaurice

Dear Jeffrey,

The city's Public Safety Committee will look into this, but so far at least on the surface, there is no reason to think that the Police were doing anything other than attending a public meeting to get logistical information related to public safety (e.g. potential car and pedestrian conflicts) concerning an announced demonstration downtown in which the planners of the event refused to talk to the police about their plans or apply for a permit. Other than a vague anti-authoritarianism, the non-organizers of the event, never expressed any particular political intentions for their event. I can assure you that there is no Police program to infiltrate or report on the activities of groups (viz. plural) in town in general.

As best I can determine so far, there is no evidence that the Police were gathering any information at the meeting they did go to about the individuals there or their politics, organizational affiliations, or anything else which would constitute an infringement of anyone's civil liberties. But our committee will look further into it at our February meeting. As chair of the Public Safety Committee, I have already asked the Police Chief to present a report on the incident at our meeting on February 27th, 4pm in the Courtyard Conference Room behind the Council Chambers at City Hall.

Mike Rotkin

While Green Party City Council member Tim Fitzemaurice has been bad on past issues regarding the police, as well as voting for the sleeping ban that makes it illegal for the homeless to sleep at night, he has stood up a little on this issue. The reason for his stand is to assure the public about how they can trust the repressive Santa Cruz Police. As Fitzemaurice states, ?People need to trust their police force. As you inferred we need to assure people about the extent and the use of these strategies, in the past and in the future.? -Steven Argue

Response to Mike Rotkin from Tim Fitzemaurice:

Dear Mike,

I think this response obscures a few details of some importance. Isn't giving false names at a meeting in a private house an extraordinary measure, or is it standard operating procedure, when did the alternative parade become a demonstration, & what is a political intention? I think if you saw it as a "demonstration" it must have had a slight political tint for you. I assume there is no "Police program to infiltrate groups" but our assurances need to go beyond that.

It seems to me that we should be trying to be a bit further above board than this. Do we need a policy that says we will do this in only non-political instances where health and safety is a concern? Why would the police assume this discretionary power about political intentions? How will they make the decision that something is not political? That isn't their job. The use of this strategy requires a clarification of the standard of police conduct that we can assume from now on. What do we call it? The rules of engagement?

I hope that the Public Safety Committee will take this incident seriously and not prejudge the outcome. Many in the community have expressed their concern about this incident. They want an honest and an insightful assessment of what happened and why and how these tactics will be used in future. It could serve to put some people at ease if we assess this accurately and make the facts clear. Otherwise you know how people will let this suspicion cloud many future public discussions. You know that an obscure and vague use of undercover officers at public meetings will not be a useful attribute or tactic to ascribe to our police force. People need to trust their police force. As you inferred we need to assure people about the extent and the use of these strategies, in the past and in the future.

Tim Fitzmaurice
by Rico
Monday Aug 7th, 2006 3:24 PM
Critical as it is, the point made by DIY Spirit is right. And Steve is right too that engaging the system now and then is a good way to remind us that making significant change within the system is not going to happen. It is an important process of radicalization.

For me, I think it is important to try lots of things all the time. Change comes from relentless and energetic challenges to illigitimate authority. Real change, rather than placating crumbs comes of a refusal to compromise.

I'm glad we did what we did. I'm glad we had a parade that didn't ask the city to allow us permission to celebrate. I'm glad we exposed the cops. I'm glad we embarrassed them and demonstrated their duplicity and paranoia. I'm glad we were able to show that the city council does not have the courage or the power in this town to do the right thing.