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City Manager and Vice-Mayor Stonewall OSC Activists
Yesterday 40-50 protesters marched and assembled at City Hall in support of Occupy Santa Cruz. At issue was an ultimatum in the form of a "permit' presented to some members of OSC a few days before. The document required them to accept a series of harsh conditions by Monday November 7th or face unspecified consequences. I was present in the City Offices during the group meeting and recorded some of the dialogue in the City offices between city officials and the community that went there in search of answers. They got nothing other than vague offers to talk further with no guarantees of safety for the camp and the protest.
City Manager Martin Bernal came out and confronted persistent and sometimes angry questioning from OSC protesters who marched to City Hall yesterday in search of answers. Bernal late last week sent an apparent ultimatum-to-disperse by November 7th in the form of a “permit” to activist Steve Pleich. The text of the permit--what some called an “eviction order”--included a variety of unacceptable demands (cutting the number of tents by half, banning use of the county bathrooms, requiring financial liability, setting November 16th as an end point,--to name a few). View it at http://occupysantacruz.org/2011/11/04/city-constrains-osc-to-terms-of-unrequested-permit/ .
The General Assembly's responded with a letter which they read in their “mike check” voice (one person reading and the group repeating, sentence by sentence. The letter amplified the OSC General Assembly's belief that “The First Amendment is our permit”. http://occupysantacruz.org/2011/11/06/response-to-citys-unsolicited-permit/ .
The City Manager's permit and letter to OSC included several pictures of poo-poo—making the “permit” appear more of an accusation of malfeasance than an authorization. Though no citations have been issued for public urination of defecation that I know of, the poopoo pictures intimdated that OSC rather than the human necessities of ongoing surivival camping was to blame. The City's 1500-2000 homeless have been camping out around the City and specifically along the levee for decades. The city's joke shelter system only has room for a fraction of the homeless and has a 2-6 week waiting list).
When asked to document the 'poopoo problem' or other complaints, Vice-Mayor Lane initially said he was offended that his word was being questioned and suggested he might withdraw from the discussion.
Then he and Councilmember Beiers declined to release city e-mails which might confirm or contradict his claim. Such e-mails are open to the public, supposedly, according to the Public Records Act. Lane claimed these e-mails (and "confidential" phone calls) document urgent "problems" at Occupy Santa Cruz justifying the terminally restrictive "permit".
Beiers said she'd received no complaint e-mails. When I asked again for Lane's constituent e-mails (which he is required to disclose to the public), Lane smirked and directed me to file a Public Records Request, saying "you know how to do that, Robert." He said that he would not release them voluntarily. In the past, some Councilmembers have destroyed their e-mails rather than make them public.
Beiers said she would "ask" other Councilmembers, but not forward them directly or ask the staff to do so. A Public Records Act request can take 10 days or more to process.
My last such request on October 23 received a partial response on revealed only three communications between staff members and no complaints from the public.
Lane further declined to agree to introduce a resolution reassuring the community that City Council would direct Bernal to direct SCPD Chief Vogel not to engage in the Oakland PD-style violence nor attempt to crush the camp.
He did please some OSC members by saying he'd come to the General Assembly meeting that night—and some said he did make it briefly but said nothing and kept a low profile.
Bernal declined to order Parks and Recreation to open its closed-at-night San Lorenzo park bathroom. Lane and Beiers made no offer to recommend this be done either.
All in all I was hopeful that participants saw how unresponsive-to-hostile Council members and the all-powerful City Manager were taking any kind of meaningful action (or even symbolic paper action) supporting Occupy Santa Cruz, the importance of stopping police brutality, and the primacy of the Constitution and guaranteeing the rights of peaceful protesters.
But for anyone who's been around for any length of time and watching the Council, they should know this is no surprise. I encourage people to search for earlier articles I've written under “SCPD”, “Coonerty” (the outgoing mayor), and “Rotkin” (the former Mayor) to get some sense of the darker underside of “progressive” Santa Cruz.
I hope to play some audio of the dialogue between Bernal, Lane, and the protesters Thursday evening 6-8 PM on Free Radio Santa Cruz at 101.1 FM (http://www.freakradio.org). The show will be archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb111011.mp3 .
Call in to 831-427-3772 anytime to give updates (if anyone's in the studio).