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Indybay Feature

Bogus Attack on Journalists Around November Protest Goes On and On

by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
701 Ocean St. County Courthouse Dept. 7
Continued Arraignment of Becky Johnson and Robert Norse
The two reporter-activists, long involved in publicizing the city's criminalization of poor and homeless people, are accused of "conspiracy to vandalize", "felony vandalism", and two counts of trespass. The building in question was a 3 1/2 year vacant Wells Fargo-leased bank at 75 River St., peacefully occupied for 3 days by scores of community members in late November and early December last year.

This symbolic protest, which Johnson and Norse sympathetically reported on, was done at a time when city authorities were moving to displace several hundred homeless people from a nearby campground with no alternate shelter.

The vacant bank is reportedly under lease by the Wells Fargo Bank, a corporation under investigation in San Francisco for multiple foreclosure frauds that received billions of taxpayer bailout funds, responsible for displacing many from their homes here and elsewhere.

The prosecution is part of an ongoing pattern of repression against Occupy Santa Cruz and those who report sympathetically. Activists whom police dislike have been selectively targeted, while other reporters and community members like SC Patch reporters, Council member Katherine Beiers, and City Manager Martin Bernal "guilty" of the same "trespass" behavior face no charges.

Johnson seems to have received particular hostile attention from Judge Ariadne Symons. Symons has repeatedly refused to appoint an available alternate public defender sympathetic to Johnson (Jonathan Gettleman), but instead repeatedly appointed absent attorneys who later declare they don't want the case. This has sent Johnson back to court again and again.

Johnson noted in a recent e-mail: " Judge Symons has held 4 hearings so far in order to appoint a public defender. On Friday [March 9], she scheduled a fifth hearing for Wednesday, March 14th to appoint a PD/prelim. set hearing.  ...

"I never entered the building,  but have already been handcuffed and removed from my home while cooking breakfast for my ex-husband who is recovering from cancer, jailed for a day, shackled and brought before Ms. Symons---the judge who signed the warrant for my arrest." 

"Now, due to pending felony charges I am unable to earn a living and my landlord has changed his mind about renewing my lease.  All punishment prior to conviction, and apparently, the point."

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