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Courthouse Steps Now Free Speech-Free at Night; SCPD Threats Downtown; Offices Close

by Robert Norse
I interviewed Abbi and Camille after my radio show earlier tonight in front of the County Building where they walked back and forth shivering in the cold, but determined to assert their right to assemble in public with grievances in front of a public building. Half a dozen Occupy Santa Cruz activists stood nearby (but on the narrow sidewalk generally, in fear of citation or arrest if they joined Abbi and Camille for any length of time on the concrete area in front of the courthouse). No news media, no liberal protest. Just deepening surrender of basic civil rights. Abbi posted an audio (actually a video, but one that can't really be seen--though it can be heard) on Occupy Santa Cruz (facebook). I reprint it here with my comments.

Camille joined at least five other political prisoners in jail last night--according to this account by her companion in "crime" Abbi below.

Earlier tonight, the General Assembly of 30-50 met, as they have for the last 2 1/2 months nightly on the Courthouse steps in front of Water St. They created no disturbance, damaged no property, threatened no one. They were approached by deputies, I am told, at 7 PM and told that they were "acting illegally", but as a "special favor", they would be allowed to remain until 8 PM without being ticketed and/or arrested for 602 L of the state trespass code.

Stunning here is the casual notion that individual sheriffs can choose to enforce or ignore the "laws" (actually the edicts of Chief Administrative Officer Susan Mauriello, since the Supervisors have taken no legislative action to limit the right to protest in front of the courthouse). It's an infuriating form of hypocrisy--since the suggestion that this is being done as a "favor" to those assembled is unlikely--it's rather more likely another intimidating tactic to thin the crowd and make the give the sheriffs less paperwork and the jail less expense. Since confronting the crowd with threat of arrest as a group would be more likely to provoke determined (though peaceful) resistance.

Still more stunning is the robotic arrogance and blindness of sheriff's deputies in (a) carrying out this direct violation of the higher law--the First Amendment of the state and federal constitutions--the Right to Assemble Peaceably for a Redress of Grievances, and (b) committing the even more profound seizure of unjust authority by claiming that they--the sheriffs--can now decide who and when folks can assemble as a "favor". This "we apply the laws when we like and interpret them as we choose" approach has been repeatedly used by sheriffs since Occupy Wall Street arrived at the steps of the County Building on October 7th--with a continually shifting (and relentlessly narrowing) definition of civil liberties.


Abbi Samuels 12:49am Dec 9 [posted by Abbi at

We now have a curfew on our first amendment right of free speech.

Tonight, during our General Assembly, Sargent Fish came by and said that they would let us stay until 8:00pm.

Camille and I decided to stay past 8:00pm. At 9:00pm, we got ticketed for trespassing. There were about 10 protesters supporting us on the other side of the sidewalk, the supposed 'legal' side.

My phone that was videotaping this ran out of batteries while we are being given trespassing tickets so it is only 10 minutes long.

At 10:00pm, three different cops came back and arrested Camille. She stood her ground. I decided to stay on the other side of the sidewalk, the supposed 'legal' side and supported her as well as 4 others.

When I am more prepared, I will take the stand on the 'illegal' side and get arrested.


Earlier in the day at the Parks and Recreation Department, I, Becky Johnson, Linda Lemaster, and a number of other OSC activists tried to register a complaint with the Parks and Recreation Department during normal business hours. We were confronted with the Chief of Police in full uniform with five officers and a deputy-chief and a locked office.

My subsequent attempt to pick up DVDs of a recent City Council meeting for my radio show that night was blocked by locked office doors. Even though staff were within and this was after the lunch break during normal business hours, worker Rosemary Baisley ignored my knocking on the door.

Photographer Alex was detained as he took pictures of the gang of police (a larger gathering, I was told, earlier in the day that lay in wait for the peaceful protest).

When I attempted to cross the street to more closely "copwatch" Alex's detention and interrogation as he was surrounded by the cops, Chief Vogel called out that I would be cited for "jaywalking", though there was no traffic on the street and no traffic control devices at either corner (required for a jaywalking citation under the vehicle code). Vogel shouted in an authoritarian tone at Becky Johnson, trying to video by standing two inches off the curb in an unused parking spot that she would be cited unless she stepped back on the sidewalk (it is not illegal to stand in a parking space that is not being used). This threat along with the presence of the armed goon squad deterred us for a few minutes, but we finally crossed the street,, inviting the chief to cite us if he felt that was needed (he did not).

Alex was being "detained" and threatened with arrest in a demand that he present identification--apparently as part of the expanding 75 River St. "investigation"--of the vacant bank building peacefully held and then peacefully relinquished for three days in spite of police provocations. Vogel initially greeted me with suggestions that I was involved in criminal activity for having entered the building as a journalist---along with others. I asked if he'd also be investigating Councnilwoman Beiers, City Manager Bernal, and others who went into the building to see what was going on, prior to any posting of "no trespass" signs. He stiffly and angrily turned away saying "we're done here".

Hopefully Alex will be posting some photos of this surreal scene.

A few minutes later two motorcycle cops pulled over two bicycles biking up Center Street across from the library for going through a stop sign and detained them for fifteen minutes (alarming two older women--tourists from Montreal--who I spoke to afterwards).


As I audioed the harassment of the two bicyclists, five of Vogel's guard approached us from the rear and stood "at the ready". One of them pointed to a political button which had fallen off my jacket onto the sidewalk, and demanded to know "Mr. Norse, are you littering?"

The button read "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet renounce controversy who want crops without ploughing the ground." --Frederick Douglass (1817-1895).

Some more of the quote: 'This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress....

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. "

For the full speech, see

However--appreciate the generosity and broadmindedness of the SCPD--I was not cited for littering.


Those interested in a March of Shame on Monday or Tuesday to the Supervisors, Mayor's Office, SCPD, and Sheriff's Department, please contact me at rnorse3 [at]

Please post any news of police repression or citizen resistance that has happened to you or that you've witnessed.
Add Your Comments
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
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Robert Norse
Tue, Dec 27, 2011 9:45AM
Robert Norse
Mon, Dec 19, 2011 8:35AM
Becky Johnson
Sun, Dec 18, 2011 9:03AM
Becky Johnson (posted by Norse)
Wed, Dec 14, 2011 10:10PM
Tue, Dec 13, 2011 3:54AM
Becky Johnson
Mon, Dec 12, 2011 2:29PM
Mon, Dec 12, 2011 10:42AM
Becky Johnson
Sun, Dec 11, 2011 12:40PM
Sun, Dec 11, 2011 10:16AM
Sat, Dec 10, 2011 8:43PM
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