November 21, 2011 - Santa Cruz - Occupy Santa Cruz denies responsibility for human feces found downtown, and the Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Department denies responding to the incident. On Saturday, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, in an article about the occupation, reported the discovery of "200 pounds of human feces near the county Veterans Memorial Building." The report came from the Santa Cruz Sheriffs department alleged to be a list of nearly a hundred incidents relating to Occupy Santa Cruz, but included unconfirmed rumors, legal activities such as panhandling, and incidents that happened weeks before the occupation started.
The Sheriffs list claimed that a hazardous material team responded to the incident, but the city department responsible denies it. "It is typically something our department would respond to," said Tim Fillmore, program manager at City of Santa Cruz Environmental Health. "We have not had any recent complaints about human feces behind the Vet's Hall in Santa Cruz and we have not investigated such a complaint."
Though the Sentinel article pointed out that there is no evidence that linked the excrement to the camp, the report was rapidly picked up by press nationwide. Elizabeth Burchfield, a member of Occupy Santa Cruz pointed out, "The poop was allegedly discovered behind the Veterans Building, one bridge and several blocks away from Occupy Santa Cruz and furthermore appears to be made up."
Since late October, the occupation's general assembly agreed to use treasury funds from community donations to pay for portable toilets and a hand washing station. There are currently three portable toilets at the camp to address the sanitation needs of the growing encampment.
In this city where few public restrooms are available, human feces were frequently found in town long before Occupy Santa Cruz started their protest at the county courthouse in October. This is likely the result of Santa Cruz city policies that close all public restrooms during the night.
"Finding adequate sanitation facilities are a constant challenge for homeless people," said Burchfield. In an economy where unemployment is at record highs, homelessness in Santa Cruz County is up more than 18% since 2009. According to the 2011 Homeless Census & Survey conducted by Applied Survey Research there are nearly 9000 Santa Cruz citizens who experience homelessness each year almost 3.5% of the county population.
Early last week, Santa Cruz Police officials reported an outbreak of contagious disease at Occupy Santa Cruz, later admitted to be mere rumor. After a visit by county health officers, no tests for scabies or ringworm were ordered or conducted.
"We've seen this tactic used at occupations all over the country in recent weeks," said Burchfield, "Police and city officials exaggerate health and safety concerns, then use these claims as a pretext for attacking the occupations. It's an attempt to portray protesters as homeless, hippies, drug users, violent people, and anarchists.
Occupy Santa Cruz has gathered 24 hours a day everyday since October 6th currently occupying the county courthouse steps on Water Street. Occupy Santa Cruz is part of the worldwide Occupy Movement. Occupy Santa Cruz General Assemblies are held daily at 6pm, and on Sundays at 2pm at the county courthouse steps.
# # #