THE CORE OF THE CASE
After 10 1/2 years, the case against Santa Cruz City Council for falsely arresting Robert Norse twice finally goes to civil trial.
The three Mayors who face trial are Chris Krohn, Tim Fitzmaurice, and Scott Kennedy (who has since died).
A video of the first false arrest (for a silent brief mock-Nazi salute that the Mayor didn't even see) demonstrated a decade ago how abusively heavy-handed, repressive, and unnecessary the arrest was to "prevent disruption".
The second arrest (a selective one for whispering in the audience--which cannot be heard on the city's own official record) targeted Norse while ignoring other whispered conversations.
PUNISHMENT FOR CRITICS
Both arrests were actually punishment for content severely criticizing the Mayors.
In both cases, Norse was arrested, handcuffed, removed from the chambers, taken to jail, held there for half the night. No charges were ever filed by the District Attorney. Police refused to take Norse's counter-complaint against the Mayor for making a false police report.
These are only two in a long list of incidents where City Council Mayors created new policies cutting short public comment to discourage and silent critics like Norse.
Norse was also the specific target for his persistent criticism of Council policies denying shelter and civil rights to homeless people in Santa Cruz.
The core of the case involves the power of the Mayor to define "disruption" as a violation of any of the Council's vague rules, some of which are made up by each successive Mayor. This is an illegitimate power, which the Council is reluctant to give up.
Links describing the issues and some of the history of the case can be found at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/10/19/18724111.php
("First Amendment in Santa Cruz? Can Mayors Cut it Short?").
An archived two-hour discussion of the arrests are at http://ksco.com/saturday-special-2/31359-the-saturday-special-october-20th-2012-robert-norse-meets-dr-bill-wattenburg
Many of the legal papers in the case can be found at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_21683823/robert-norse-case-set-trial-settlement-still-possible
To see the alleged "disruption" (the silent brief mock-Nazi salute) on which the City has spent $150,000+ already, go to http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Robert+Norse+Nazi+salute&view=detail&mid=4F2A7A28CA0D15CA656B4F2A7A28CA0D15CA656B&first=0
To get a sense of the context in which this mock-Nazi gesture arises (which isn't often), check out http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/11/09/18698345.php
The city attorney has spent over $150,000 on this case and as recently as last week refused to settle. The estimated cost of the trial to the city will be another $20,000. If the city loses, it is likely to appeal (again) unless there is broad public outcry.
For those interested, jury selection begins Wednesday morning (October 31st) Attorneys estimate the trial should take at least three days: Wednesday, Thursday, and the following Monday. This is a civil trial for damages before an eight-person jury which must find a unanimous verdict by a preponderance of the evidence.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND ACTION
An interview with one of the attorneys can be accessed at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb121028.mp3
(approximately 3 hours into the audio file).
Those who wish to protest the City's wasteful expenditure of money and abusive priorities can contact the Mayor and City Council at 832-420-5020 or by e-mail at citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
If you have faced or witnessed bad treatment at Santa Cruz City Council, contact Norse at 831-423-4833 (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com
) or call his twice weekly radio show (Thursdays 6-8 PM, Sundays 9:30 AM - 1 PM) at 101.3 FM, http://tunein.com/radio/FRSC-s47254/
This case is still important because the current Council continues its abusive treatment of the public through cutting back public comment and other mechanisms that make meaningful dialogue difficult if not impossible.