Here's our full reportback to our Guerilla-Drive-In community after GDI was targeted by SCPD:
As the sun set Friday evening, the normally dark and dingy area under the Soquel Ave. bridge was buzzing with excitement. The fans in the projector were spinning away, the concrete wall finally glowing a bright blue, and I thought to myself: "This is why I live here. This is amazing and I can't see how anyone could argue otherwise." It was a special event for Guerilla Drive-In as we were showing the work of a local film maker, Cheri Lovedog. "The Jesus Factor" was shot in Santa Cruz and was created with a cast and crew mostly made up of locals, some of whom were sitting in portable lawn chairs waiting to see the most recently cut and mastered version of the film. Clay, the film's editor, grinned as it seemed that we had gotten past the final technical hurdle for the evening and the film would begin just as the sun was announcing that it was the proper time for an outdoor film.
This was only part of the reason why this particular Guerilla Drive-In was feeling especially positive and community-oriented. Upon arriving to the location, many of us discovered that the area had been badly littered with plastic bags, dirty and unwanted clothing, and containers of partially eaten food. It was clear that the area under the bridge hadn't received much attention lately. As a few of us started gathering some of this trash, I was amused by the thought that we would leave this river-side space looking that much better after filling it for the evening.
Finding a source of power for all the equipment also tends to be a challenge at this location. Thankfully, some neighbors (who were having a dinner party and wouldn't even be able to come down to see the showing) offered to provide a power outlet from their home. They had heard and read about the Guerilla Drive-In project and were glad to help. Another person who arrived to see the film retrieved an extension cable from his car as soon as it became clear that the sum of all our extension cables would be unable to reach the location of the projector. Other audience members offered flashlights to help locate equipment and even batteries to power the remote control needed for the dvd player. Another audience member brought a large grocery bag full of popcorn and was passing it around to share with the entire group. It felt so much like it was a community effort not only to create this film but now, also to share it with others and transform this space under the bridge into an event-- and into something better.
Within the first 15 minutes of the film, this evening we had created came to an abrupt halt as an officer from the Santa Cruz police department descended on the group. He demanded to speak with 'the person in charge'. I immediately think, "Does he mean the person who is putting this event on? ...because I think all 40-50 of us did." He then asked if we had obtained a permit for the event, which we did not. He then made claims that a sound complaint had been made and we were going to have to shut down the film immediately. When further probed regarding this, the officer explained that even without any sort of sound complaint he would be shutting down the event because we did not have a permit and we were in an area that is off-limits after sunset. The officer then walked back to his patrol car and watched as we announced to the group that we were going to have to shut down the film and potentially restart somewhere else. As we were discussing the locations at which we could possibly continue the event, the officer began to walk back down to the area under the bridge. He wanted to verify that we were in fact leaving-- as if to say that we were taking too long to discuss how we might go about salvaging our evening.
Keep in mind that Guerilla Drive-In has been showing free films under the Soquel Ave. bridge for many years without incident. Also, this event was widely discussed for many weeks and was even the subject of a recent article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Guerilla Drive-In has transformed dark and unused spaces into safe and warm community events for 8 years. After 150 free films to the community, Guerilla Drive-In is being targeted by the Santa Cruz Police. There is an obvious crackdown underway on all DIY activities in public spaces. This is the second time in two weeks that the authorities have been directed to shutdown our showings.
There are certain groups in town who purport to be all about building community but have focused their energy on shutting down the community created by Guerilla Drive-In. These groups say they are all about safety, but ignore that having people enjoy unused and dark public spaces makes them safer. It is hard not to feel their efforts aren't really about control -- control of public spaces, control of events that happen in our shared communities, and control of people who move through them.
We need a community response to this madness.