by Robert Norse
Thursday Mar 12th, 2015 8:28 AM
HUFF voted last week to support SCRAM’s 3-10 protest at City Council and urge folks to attend. They rejected my proposed amendment to encourage SCRAM to become more specific and local in its concern about local police abuse, militarization, and lack of transparency.
HUFF has in the past few months, hopeful of raising a real activist and community focus on local police abuse, held four protests at Cop Corner (Laurel and Center–next to the SCPD station) urging an end to racial and class profiling, concealing stats on use of force, and political backroom power in city government,. We have documented disproportionate racial citations by Officer Bradly Barnett. We continue to press for more information on what contracts the SCPD has made with other agencies (still held back by City Hall).
Though we’ve been doing this for many years, the recent Ferguson protests seemed a particularly important time to raise these issues. It’s also been part of HUFF’s continuing concern about the blatant homeless profiling going on downtown and elsewhere.
I provided writer, FRSC broadcaster, and police accountability activist John Malken with Public Records Act information, finally wrested from the bowels of the SCPD, that seemed to indicate the stated “deadline” of December 31,2014 was not a real one, i.e. that there really was no hurry to order the BearCat.
At the Louden Nelson forum on the BearCat, I arranged with KSCO owner Michael Zwerling to put BearCat opponents on a two-hour KSCO show. I was able to provide missing audio from the 1-13 meeting missing from the City’s official recordings at the risk of potential arrest and seizure of my equipment under the Council’s new “decorum” rules.
Yesterday I had to announce to HUFF members at our weekly Wednesday meeting that HUFF had been dropped from the SCRAM Coalition and removed from its literature as a support organization in a closed door meeting to which HUFF had not been invited.
I was told afterwards by phone that I personally “twisted people’s words” and “had burned my bridges”, apparently tainting the HUFF organization. When I asked for more specifics, particularly about anything having to do with the BearCat issue, I got none. No one in HUFF was given any credit or acknowledgment for their work.
Sherry Conable, principal spokesperson for SCRAM, declined to give any specifics when I confronted her at the Tuesday meeting. Other members were similarly silent or vague. In the past, Conable has made it a point to try to exclude me from various groups she’s led, so perhaps this is simply part of a continuing pattern.
I have concluded–though given the blanket of silence, it’s hard to know with any certainty–that SCRAM wants to appeal to local Democratic Party folks like Rep. Farr and the Democratic Central Committee (from which it recently received endorsement) and present a smooth image that does not seem broadly or deeply critical of the SCPD and its political allies on more fundamental matters.
Farr initially backed this backdoor/backroom initiative by the SCPD initiative and did not inform the community. Yet at the Council meeting SCRAM activists took time to read his letter in its entirety–including Farr’s false statement that there was a December 31st deadline. While much of Farr’s letter was positive, Farr essentially passed the buck to a hostile City Council.
I’ve suggested that SCREAM needs to be more creative, direct, outspoken and high-profile in its protests. I’ve suggested they have to move behind the BearCat issue to address local police abuse specifically and the need for deeper change here. There are diminishing numbers and an increasingly tamed group at the biweekly protests at City Hall. Opponents are settling for half an hour of speakers with Mayor Lane ignoring those waiting to speak before an oblivious City Council. Why not expose the real powers in the Community behind the BearCat decision more directly and visibly like the City Manager, the Police Chief,and Farr himself.
I as an individual and HUFF as a group certainly supports such liberal projects as declaring Santa Cruz an NDAA-free zone, dumping the license surveillance software, and, of course, returning the BearCat. However, as national Black Lives Matter activists have repeatedly pointed out (and Michelle Alexander eloquently discussed on the 3-4 Democracy Now! show at http://www.democracynow.org/2015/3/4/michelle_alexander_roots_of_todays_crisis )–strong action in the streets and at the grass roots is key.
Berkeley activists recently got its City Council to make (on paper at least) some significant changes to its department (See http://www.thestreetspirit.org/berkeley-city-council-takes-action-on-police-abuse-finally/).
We certainly need to dump the BearCat, but dumping those who support more necessary fundamental changes, is a step backwards.
And, of course, elitist smears of more radical activists either out of personal animus or an attempt to move to the center pisses me off. It’s particularly loathsome when it happens behind closed doors in a group preaching to the Community about transparency and due process.
These are my views though, I believe, they reflect the opinion of some others in HUFF. Some prefer to keep this issue quiet in the interests of solidarity around BearCat opposition. I believe it has significance for both activists and the broader community.
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