Local Leaders Support Occupy Santa Cruz

Occupy SC gets attention of local residents and elected officials
By Alan Sanchez
City on a Hill Press
October 27, 2011

Photo by Nick Paris.

Occupy Santa Cruz ended its second full week of protesting with three events over the weekend. The events drew hundreds of community members in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement which is sweeping the nation and capturing the attention of average Americans, politicians and political pundits alike.

On Friday, at least 100 people congregated at the Water Street entrance to the courthouse, where the movie “V for Vendetta” was screened.

Along the concrete stairs leading up to an ad-hoc movie screen sat protesters and community members who came out for some free entertainment.

On Saturday, Occupy SC maintained camp in San Lorenzo Park, and participants spoke and tabled at WAMMFest.

Occupy SC ended the weekend with a human chain around the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse on West Cliff Drive, home of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Local media estimated 150 people participated in the demonstration.

Mary B., a surfing museum attendant who prefers to remain anonymous, showed up to work just after the protest started.

“They were blocking the entrance,” Mary B. said after saying she asked them to move off the porch, but felt they were “OK on the lawn.”

The protest, which was originally scheduled to go from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., was over before 2 p.m. One participant said she felt there was not a lot of energy, which was why people left the demonstration early.

Police, who often check in with the Occupy Santa Cruz protesters at their base-camp in San Lorenzo Park, were not present at Sunday’s demonstration.

Santa Cruz Police Department spokesman Zach Friend said the department was aware of this past weekend’s events, but no formal coordination between protesters and the police department took place.

Many police departments across the U.S. have taken action against protesters in the “Occupy” movement. On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that 130 protesters were arrested in Chicago, 11 in Cincinnati, and more than a dozen in Philadelphia. More than 100 protesters participating in Occupy Oakland were arrested on Tuesday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“The Santa Cruz Police Department has a different operational philosophy than many departments,” Friend said. “It is important to us to take a balanced approach to enforcement.”

Despite community support for Occupy Santa Cruz, tension has been brewing between protesters and the police department, which warned protesters last week it will issue citations if the protesters do not accommodate other parties who want to use the park.

“Moving forward, we need organizers to maintain open lines of communication, obtain permits for events and respect local laws and environmental needs,” Friend said. “We have received feedback from a small number of the participants that they want police action so they can receive greater media attention … We simply want organizers to maintain a respectful attitude toward the community, laws and expectations we all have for a successful outcome.”

Local elected officials like Mayor Ryan Coonerty and Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), sympathize with the protesters.

“There is a lot to be angry about,” Coonerty said, “and I appreciate that people are engaging and advocating for a change to our economic policies.”

Occupy Santa Cruz protesters have led several marches around town to protest in front of the national banks, which have been primary targets in demonstrations for the broader “Occupy” movement.

On Nov. 5, protestors are calling for a national Bank Transfer Day. The idea of transferring money from national corporate banks to community banks and credit unions is popular among the “Occupy” movement’s protesters.

Coonerty sympathizes with the protesters, but said it is important to respect the employees at the local branches of the national banks because “they are hardworking members of our community, and should not have to take the abuse for the actions of CEOs they had nothing to do with.”

“[It is important from]an economic sustainability standpoint to keep as much capital as we can in the community,” Coonerty said. “I think if people move their money in large numbers it will send a message.”

Local congressman Farr, who is “very supportive” of the protesters and a member of the Progressive Caucus, donated cash two weeks ago when members of the caucus passed around a hat on the floor of Congress to collect money for the Occupy protesters in Lafayette Square, a park located directly north of the White House.

At a press conference the Congressman commented on creating green jobs in Santa Cruz and the “Occupy” movement.

“I think this is what the people on Wall Street are about,” Farr said. “They want America to be focused on doing things like this rather than just taking care of their bank accounts.”

Farr feels the movement is getting people to focus on things other than “the wonder of wealth, or the worship of wealth.”

As Republicans continue to block the president’s job bills, the latest unemployment figures remain high in California at a whopping 11.4 percent, and 10.1 percent in Santa Cruz County.

Farr suggests students get internships at places they want to work so they get a job when the economy begins to pick up again.

“Your lifetime isn’t going to be remembered by how much money you made when you got out of college,” Farr said. “Your lifetime is going to be remembered by what you accomplished in life, and that’s not just going to be about money. That’s going to be about a lot of other things.”