Public nuisance or radical experiment in direct democracy?
The mood at Occupy Santa Cruz (OSC) General Assembly meetings was angry and defiant early last month, especially after protesters heard eyewitness accounts of the violence in Oakland and Berkeley. But the atmosphere became noticeably calmer and less defensive after the City of Santa Cruz’s injunction to shut down OSC was appealed to federal court on Nov. 15. The decision by U.S. District Judge Howard R. Lloyd whether or not to hear the case, and the arguments relating to federal jurisdiction, principally the First Amendment, is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2012 in San Jose.
The appeal delayed a State Superior Court hearing scheduled for Nov. 16 in the Santa Cruz County Court House, which seem to cool down the militant rhetoric of preparing for an eminent, forcible eviction of the Occupiers of San Lorenzo Park. The appeal to federal court of what Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone described as a “routine public nuisance suit” has also gained the web-based attention of Occupy movements across the country. It is a big question, after all: Does the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly include OSC?