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ACLU Statement of Support and Petition for "Journalists, Local Press and Activists"
Eleven local activists have been charged with a variety of offenses arising from the occupation of a vacant bank building last fall. We have two primary concerns regarding this prosecution. First, at least some of the defendants are journalists who were present to report on the protest. We condemn any attempt to criminalize their exercise of the crucial First Amendment right to gather and disseminate information about this newsworthy event. All charges based on this constitutionally protected activity should be dropped immediately.
Petition: 11 people are facing 2 felonies each. Sign the ACLU's Statement of Support!Target: Honorable Paul P. Burdick, Judge of the Superior Court, County of Santa Cruz
Sponsored by: Brent Adams
Eleven people are being charged with a total of 23 felonies for the take-over of a long vacant bank building in early December. It is known that 200 - 300 people entered the building over the 3 days of the occupation, but the District Attorney has singled out journalists and well known outspoken critics of the police department.
The ACLU has drafted a STATEMENT OF SUPPORT of these defendants and I ask you to sign on and endorse this letter. The more community support we get in this manner, the more likely it is that the DA will drop these extreme charges.
PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR NAME.
Statement of SupportEleven local activists have been charged with a variety of offenses arising from the occupation of a vacant bank building last fall. We have two primary concerns regarding this prosecution. First, at least some of the defendants are journalists who were present to report on the protest. We condemn any attempt to criminalize their exercise of the crucial First Amendment right to gather and disseminate information about this newsworthy event. All charges based on this constitutionally protected activity should be dropped immediately.
Second, it appears that some of the defendants may have been charged due to their past adversarial relationship with law enforcement officials. The Constitution requires that the enormous power of government be exercised fairly and even handedly, and not be based on the identity or past actions of the defendants. The District Attorney should re-examine the basis for the charges, and the Court must ensure that these activists are not being selectively prosecuted.
Very truly yours,
Chair, Board of Directors
ACLU–Santa Cruz Chapter
Letter from ACLU of Santa Cruz County
to ACLU of Northern California
ACLU of Santa Cruz County
123 Liberty Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
April 4, 2012
ACLU of Northern California
39 Drumm Street
San Francisco, California 94111
The following case summary and request for support is being submitted on behalf of the entire Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and its more than 2,000 members:
As you may know, several of our local activists have been charged with a variety of offenses arising from their alleged involvement with the occupation of a vacant bank building late last fall. That matter is referenced as Santa Cruz County Superior Court Case Number F22196. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted an amicus Letter Brief on behalf of one of the defendants in early March. I have attached a copy of that brief for your review, and the pdf may also be found online at Santa Cruz Indymedia on the Indybay.org website.
There are several reasons why we believe that Northern California should rise to the defense of these members of our community individually and as a group:
First, all of these defendants are either journalists, members of our local press, and/or activists committed to the Occupy Movement––and particularly Occupy Santa Cruz. Therefore, we believe that civil liberties are being broadly threatened by the continuing prosecution of these cases.
Secondly, none of these defendants "occupied" the premises in the same sense that those who remained on the property for several days did. (See Reporters Committee Letter Brief, page three, paragraph 4.) Indeed, these defendants were participating in constitutionally protected activities either as news gatherers or as supporters of the activists inside the occupied building.
Thirdly, in our opinion, the charges being pursued by our local District Attorney are over broad and overreaching in consideration of the facts. Each of these defendants has been charged with (1) felony conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor (Penal Code Section 182(a)(1); felony vandalism (PC Section 594(b)(1); misdemeanor trespass by entering and occupying (PC Section 602(M); and misdemeanor trespass and refusing to leave private property (PC Section 602(O). The facts in support of these charges as adduced through discovery provided by the District Attorney are both scant and unpersuasive even in the absence of any civil liberty considerations.
Fourthly, it is also our opinion that these defendants are being selectively prosecuted in a manner directly related to the existing adversarial relationship several of these defendants have with both our local police department and the District Attorney's office. According to reports published and/or broadcast by local news media, anywhere from 150 to 300 individuals entered and exited the bank building during the 75-hour occupation, including local elected officials. And, yet, only these eleven defendants have been charged.
Fifthly, we believe that significant civil liberty issues arise on the facts of this case. Although we are mindful that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and free assembly do not confer immunity from prosecution on those who choose to participate in arguably unlawful activities, it is of critical importance that clear distinctions be made between the exercise of the aforementioned rights in the context of direct political action. In our view, these defendants posed no threat to public order or private property by their actions either as chroniclers of the events or as ardent supporters of the occupiers and the occupation.
It is therefore our considered opinion, duly ratified by a unanimous vote of our Board, that an amicus Letter Brief appropriate to these facts and circumstances be submitted to our Superior Court on behalf and in support of the named defendants. Although the submission of an amici curiae brief is procedurally unusual at the non-appellate level, it is not barred by existing case law and may serve to provide the presiding Court with relevant information.
Should Northern California agree to draft and submit such a brief, it may be addressed to:
Honorable Paul P. Burdick
Judge of the Superior Court
County of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Courthouse
701 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Of course, you and your staff will need to independently review and assess the merits of this case in light of our shared mission to defend civil liberties. Please feel free contact to me directly via e-mail or by phone should you have any additional questions.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, Santa Cruz Chapter ACLU, I thank you for your consideration of this matter of local importance and concern.
Very truly yours,
Chair, Board of Directors
ACLU–Santa Cruz Chapter
we signed "11 people are facing 2 felonies each. Sign the ACLU's Statement of Support!"
I think that given the circumstances, and the spirit of solidarity that these protestors demonstrated for a cause that supports our ever increasing population of poverty stricken Americans. It has become important to tolerate different nonviolent forms of protest. These people were protesting the fact that the Banking system was bailed out with money contributed by the Tax Payers of the United States, yet they have foreclosed on many working citizens in our neighborhoods. I think occupying an empty bank fits right into this theme, and did do not much damage or hurt anyone. By dropping these charges, it will send a message that we value the people of our community that are trying to make a difference for the poor working man.
I agree with the actions of non-violent activists and support their actions regarding the bank protest. It is unfair to target certain individuals and punish them, for speaking for the majority of americans. Please see that the case is thrown out.
Our local culture is inclusive and forgiving - UCSC named themselves City on a Hill and professors consider Santa Cruz The Leftmost City. Eyes are on us, even iPhone's Siri recognizes Santa Cruz. How about a less moralistic, more pragmatic resolution? The charges themselves demonstrate the county's sense of affront. It's enough. Let's dismiss all the related charges and cases and not file any more!
D.A. Bob Lee is using his office to stifle peaceful dissent.
Felony charges are unjustified for trespassing on a vacant property. Considering that the sincere purpose for those involved was an act of political free speech and that many others were also there and NOT charged any charges at all are unjustified.
Dear Sir, During this time of the Occupy Movement, as you know, there have been thousands and thousands of peaceful demonstrations WORLDWIDE. These brave patriots here in our city of Santa Cruz made a valid point with their Occupation of the vacant building, leaving once that point was made, hurting no one whatsoever. There is a time and a season for these demonstrations and it was exactly when needed. These courageous people do not need to be in prison, they need to be heard; they echo the voices of millions on this planet we share and call HOME. In this day and age of war and occupation, the points to be made sometimes need to be theatrical-- as in these people never intended to lay down and stay there for good, only stand up peacefully for the beliefs of so many over the entire globe. Please lower or drop the charges. Sincerely, Patricia Wieder, a mom in Soquel.
As if eleven activists charged with fabricated felonies wasn't enough, Bob Lee is apparently seeking new victims.
Stop the war on journalists and activists and start attacking the problems we are pointing out!
This is a farce, and a gross miscarriage of justice. It is transparently obvious that the DA is trying to "make an example" of the few most outspoken members of the community in an attempt to suppress dissent. The prosecution of this case is clearly at odds with public interest, and charges should be dropped immediately!
This is oppression of the worst sort. Surely you know that activists vote.
Don't prosecute journalists for covering a story, and don't prosecute activists just because they aren't liked by city officials.
These are not felonies, and trying to make an example of these patriotic individuals is nonsense, and can only backfire in the long run.
These felonies are heavy-handed and unjust. Some of these folks who were charged were simply journalists covering the occupation of this long vacant bank building. It isn't right to make examples of them, as 200-300 others had entered the building over the 3-day occupation.
I would feel safer as an American citizen if Santa Cruz County's District Attorney's office were proceeding with greater care for our Nation's and state Constitutions this matter.
It is absurdly obvious that the DA is trying to make an example of these people because they are intelligent enough to be critical of the police department, and utilize journalism to raise awareness and create community dialogue. This is extremely valuable to the people of Santa Cruz, and is a protective right.
Good Lord, what has this country come to, when journalists not of some people's choosing are charged with felony when covering a human protest?
Please drop the charges! These allegations are ridiculous and a poor use of governmental, local funds!
To the District Attorney: What, exactly, are your criteria for PICKING ON PEOPLE???
Judging from the preliminary brief including the pictures and videos, the Santa Cruz DA HAS NO case.
I don't know why Santa Cruz is wasting money on this case, in clear violation of the defendants' constitutional rights. There are so many things our city and county needs, and yet time and money are spent on these spurious cases. Let these people go!
My wish would be for justice being distributed equally for all. Selective prosecution with political motives does not align with my notion of what a just judicial system would look like.
We are a nation born on the principles of freedom. Let's stand up for that.
Solidarity! Thanks for putting your bodies against the gears of the machine.
Please stop harassing these people. The occupy movement is attempting to take back the government for the people of whom you are a part of. Journalists have an obligation to cover the peoples' news. Stop acting like some dystopic totalitarian state agency.http://www.thepetitionsite.com/549/146/902/11-people-are-facing-2-felonies-each-sign-the-aclus-statement-of-support/
Sign the ACLU's Statement of Support: