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altSANTA CRUZ > Police weigh how to approach the illegal River Street occupation

As of Friday, Dec. 2, protestors remain inside the building at 75 River St., which they originally occupied on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

 

The group that is occupying the building states that this activity is separate from the Occupy Santa Cruz movement, as not all Occupiers are involved. On Thursday night, tensions were high as many protestors expected police to show up any moment to try force them out of the building after being informed by a county representative over the phone that this would happen. However, the night passed by without any Santa Cruz Police Department presence other than the occasional squad car that would drive by and get yelled at from protestors who were outside. By the end of the night, several tents had been put up in the front yard of the building, which is positioned across the street from Wells Fargo bank.

One onlooker named Cole Wilsea, who was at the Oakland occupation of the abandoned social security office when the Oakland riot police tear-gassed protestors there, said he felt that police reactions to the Occupy movements were “very relative of the cities they are in.”

“The Oakland police took an aggressive, radical stance because that city sees so much violence every day,” he said. “Santa Cruz is more progressive, so I don’t think the SCPD is going to do anything as drastic as went on in Oakland. Santa Cruz seems to be trying to put on the friendliest image possible while trying to evict people, but obviously the protestors aren’t leaving after just a mere warning that they will be evicted.”

In an open letter to the community sent on Friday, Dec. 2, SCPD Chief Kevin Vogel said that it is neither the interest nor intent of the department to enter into conflict with the protestors, however “we also will not let them stay in this location.” Below is an excerpt from the letter.

“On Wednesday afternoon, without communication or notice to our agency, a group of approximately 30-40 people took over the vacant bank property at River and Water. Within a short period of time another 150 or so people gathered outside in support of the illegal action. We are extremely concerned over this action and view it as a significant escalation over their activities for the last six or so weeks. We've attempted to maintain open communication and dialogue with the Occupy Santa Cruz group and always support one's First Amendment right to peacefully protest. However, you in no way have a First Amendment right to break into a building and squat on private property. We agree with many of you that this is a complete disregard for private property rights and we're deeply troubled by many of their comments that show remarkable entitlement and lack of interest in serious dialogue. 

During the evening we attempted, with the limited staff we had on hand, to secure the front door so no additional people would enter the building. We wanted to provide a notice of trespass and start a formal dialogue with those responsible. However, we were met with threats, encouragement from those within the building to those outside to break through our line and a fortification of the entrance. Our officers observed anarchists, such as those that we believe were engaged in the May Day riot downtown, within the agitated crowd. We knew that there would be no way to ensure the safety of our officers or the protesters if we stayed. 

Our first interest is in dialogue to end this peacefully. Yesterday we went down there with a cell phone and provided it to Brent Adams, someone that has been in the media as a leader or representative. We are well aware that if we are forced to go in to clear out the building that officers and protestors may be hurt. This is not our interest or intent. But we also will not let them stay in this location. It is completely unacceptable that they are blatantly disregarding the law and we know that the longer this goes on the more confrontational it can become. Please be assured that we are developing contingency plans to protect people and property.“

Stay tuned to Good Times for more on this as it develops.

Comments (5)Add Comment
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written by anon, December 03, 2011
The Oakland occupation referenced was of the former Traveler's Aid Society building, which was essentially a homeless services center that was foreclosed upon and had sat empty and un-used with it's glass storefront shattered for a while. That building, like 75 River, was located just a short distance away from the main occupy camp.
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written by Becky Johnson, December 03, 2011
This empty building, a testament to wreckage the banks, especially Wells Fargo, have left across our landscape, has been sitting empty for over 3 years. It has not provided one job, supported one business operating from within, nor provided any tax revenue to the City. Nor has the City's Redevelopment Agency, set up to combat blight, even put this building on their agenda. Instead we are told that "property rights" allow this and that an absentee landlord, keeping an empty hulk in the middle of our downtown for over three years has the RIGHT to demand our SCPD evict the new tenants? Where do THEY get off? They need to hire their own private security firm to do that.

Our police have more important work to do.
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written by SCLocal, December 02, 2011
Hmmm if I broken into a building I'm sure that I would get arrested. Such disreguard for personal property has no place in our town. Would you like it if someone put a tent on your front yard and refused to leave. Then break ito your house and stay for a few days. Get real Santa Cruz
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written by IN MY OPINION, December 02, 2011
I sent you a message a minute ago and I'm asking that my email or name is not posted...I've had repercussions in the past from posting on controversial issues...thank you!!
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written by IN MY OPINION, December 02, 2011
This act does not represent the "Occupy Santa Cruz" movement format at all, it's merely a bunch of people making a lot of trouble for everyone in the community. To all of you in that building, what is your point here? This is not a "peaceful" protest, but an illegal act of aggression and disrespect. So, if I was to go on vacation this month and leave my house vacant for a few weeks, and because I DO have a home and you DON'T, does that make it OK for you to break and enter into my home and squat there until I get back? I applaud the SCPD for not having a knee-jerk reaction to this event knowing that there could be injuries on both sides. I also support the SCPD in whatever measures they need to take to send these people on their way to have their pointless tantrum in some other community.

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