Cathy KellySanta Cruz Sentinel: 02/21/2012
SANTA CRUZ – Four men appeared in court Tuesday to face charges stemming from the takeover late last year of a vacant River Street bank building – including longtime homeless rights activist Robert Norse, who came to court dressed in a blue bath robe with a teddy bear affixed to his waist between the robe and its sash.
Grant Garioch Wilson, Franklin Cruz Alcantara and Bradley Stuart Allen pleaded not guilty to two felony charges of vandalism and conspiracy and two misdemeanor trespassing charges.
The arraignment for Norse, named in court documents as Robert Norris Kahn, was continued to Feb. 29 after he asked Judge Ariadne Symons for time to hire an attorney.
Norse also asked the judge about her instructions to “cooperate” with police in the meantime, saying he operates a “cop watch” program that could be construed as some type of interference with police.
“That doesn’t sound like a problem,” Symons assured him.
The other three men were appointed attorneys and Symons ordered them back for a March 5 preliminary hearing.
Attorney Art Dudley, who represents Alcantara, also asked for clarification of what “cooperation” with police entailed.
The judge said he was to obey police orders and not run from them or lie to them.
Allen’s attorney, Ben Rice, asked for a hearing to reconsider a condition set by Symons that Allen stay away from the River Street building. The hearing was scheduled for Friday.
Outside court, Rice said his client works as a photojournalist, but that he could not further discuss the grounds for challenging the order.
The men are among 11 charged in connection with a nearly three-day occupation of the building.
The others are Cameron Stephens Laurendeau, Becky Johnson, Brent Elliott Adams, Desiree Christine Foster, Edward Rector, Gabriella Ripley-Phipps and Alex Darocy.
The District Attorney’s Office announced the charges Feb. 8, after weeks of investigating who was involved in occupying the former Coast Commercial Bank. The building is owned Barry Swenson Builders, records show.
On Nov. 30, a group describing itself as an “anonymous, autonomous group acting in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz” burst into 75 River St. declaring they would turn into a community center. The group left the building peacefully after about 72 hours, marked by numerous negotiations with police, including an initial confrontation with officers in riot gear.
In announcing the charges, District Attorney Bob Lee said his office “remains committed to enforcing the law, protecting private and public property and holding people accountable for the destruction and illegal occupation of property.”
In an editorial submission in the Sentinel Sunday, Norse said the activists at the vacant bank had a posted no vandalism policy. He stated that those charged are “largely if not entirely alternative media journalists who regularly and sympathetically report police repression; including several bloggers, two photojournalists, a radio broadcaster, and several spokespeople.” (NOTE: The greater portion of this is missing from the online article, starting from the third word in the second sentence!…Media tampering, perhaps?)