Santa Cruz 11 Court Date Earlier 8:15 AM 7/14 Dept 6


NOTE BY NORSE:  At least two HUFF members (myself and blogger Becky Johnson) were targeted as part of the Santa Cruz Eleven group, requiring dozens of hours of court time, jobs and income lost, and perhaps most important a freezing fear descended on the community around Direct Action organizing.  I encourage folks to show up in support of the Final Four of the Santa Cruz Eleven.

The four are charged with “felony vandalism” for having been in a vacant Wells-Fargo bank bujilding (still vacant four years later), some as journalists, some as supporters of housing for the homeless and a community center, some in opposition to Wells Fargo’s still unpunished foreclosure fraud, some as observers.  No evidence has been presented since this case was first charged in 2012 that any of the SC-11, or any of these four committed vandalism.   Instead the prosecution will argtue that simply being in a building after a trespass warning is given where others commit vandalism “aids and abets” the vandals.   The prosecution is using a strategy where “the process is the punishment” by making the defendants appear again and again.

It’s a phony and dangerous trial being used to silence dissent and spread fear among activists.  And perhaps curry favor with the Wells Fargo Bank and the police–who were forced to back down and may have felt they had egg on their face.

Robert Norse

Santa Cruz 11 Heads Towards Trial

Court Date Tomorrow 7/14!  9am Dept 6

Support still needed for the Santa Cruz 11!

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday 7/14, at 9 am in Department 6 of the Santa Cruz Courthouse defense attorneys for the remaining 4 of the SC11 will be discussing possible pre-trial outcomes of the case with prosecutor Greg Peinado.

This is the first court date of the month that may prove to be a big one for the remaining defendants. With trial potentially starting in just two weeks, let’s show up in support! Just being there can really make a difference to those charged, especially as it has been years since the occupation that led to all of this. Court can be really isolating and uncomfortable, let’s make sure our friends know they are cared for!

This is also an opportunity to show the City that we are still paying attention and care about what is happening.

Tomorrow, there seems to be the possibility of attorneys coming to a pre-trial settlement (plea bargain or deal), or at least making steps in that direction. As of yet, Peinado has not offered anything to the defendants, and has often said he has to consult with his “higher ups” in before making or responding to offers of settlement. This is a continued practice after being criticized in court for coming to hearings without the power to do anything, therefor wasting the time of the judge and defense attorneys as well as tax payer money.

It seems that the defendants are preparing to go to trial while also being open to resolving the case beforehand if the City were to offer something they could agree to. The prosecution has pushed for a large restitution in this case and held on to the felony charges despite having the power to resolve this case by dropping or lowering the charges and restitution.

It has been a question throughout this case of where the motivation and power lie in the prosecution. Bob Lee and his ties to Wells Fargo were influential, but now he is no longer with us. Who is in charge? Who is asking for the continued prosecution and seeking of restitution? Is it Wells Fargo? Or City of Santa Cruz officials?

Regardless of the answers to these questions it is up to us to show each other that we care when the City and State repress activists and members of our community. It is up to us to find what is inspiring about this situation, or create that inspiration for ourselves.

See you tomorrow friends!

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It’s a mystery! The Disappearing Records of Bob Lee’s $34,000 Wells Fargo Loan

NOTE BY NORSE:   The use of prosecutorial terror to chill activism in Santa Cruz after the decline of the Occupy movement in the winter of 2011-2012 is particularly significant to homeless people.  It was at the courthouse and adjacent San Lorenzo Park campground that homeless locals, community activists, and travelers established a Sanctuary Village of their own.  It was makeshift, grubby, struggling, and plagued with all the problems homeless people usually face.    It wasn’t Middle Class Pretty.   However it provided a refuge for more than a hundred homeless folks at its height for two months (including toilet facilities–now scarce to non-existent in most of Santa Cruz).  See “Occupy Santa Cruz Helps Those Fallen Through the Cracks” at  &  “Occupy Santa Cruz Addresses Sanitation Concerns” at     It was trashed by police who gave refugees no place to go–since sleeping is illegal at night and “lodging” illegal all the time.  See “Police Raid and Destroy Occupy Santa Cruz Encampment in San Lorenzo Park” at .

by Becky Johnson (posted by Norse)
Saturday Aug 23rd, 2014 10:10 AM

One of D.A. Bob Lee’s principal demands in the Santa Cruz Eleven cases has been “restitution” to Wells Fargo Bank. Why are there “no records” of a $34,000 interest free loan to DA Bob Lee’s 2010 re-election campaign from Wells Fargo Bank? On Wednesday August 20th, Judge Steven Siegel held a hearing on a motion by attorney Alexis Briggs to uncover the records of Wells Fargo’s 2010 loan to Santa Cruz District Attorney Bob Lee. Lee has been relentless pursuing 11 activists at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a peaceful occupation of a 5 year-vacant Wells Fargo-leased bank building. 7 of the defendants, some of whom lost jobs, housing, and health because of this vendetta against the Occupy movement, had all charges dismissed after a grueling year of merry-go-round court appearances. The Final Four defendants still being hounded have been to court nearly 50 times, according to defendant Brent Adams.

Wednesday’s hearing in Judge Steven Siegel’s courtroom was a continuation of a hearing from the week before. Alexis Briggs, attorney for Cameron Laurendau of the Santa Cruz Eleven filed a motion on behalf of her client to recuse District Attorney Bob Lee from the case & have the State Attorney General take over the prosecution of the remaining four defendants.

At that hearing, a well-suited representative from Wells Fargo, Hani Ganji, appeared before the Judge to provide records, if any, of any financial relationship between the Bank & Bob Lee in the past 5 years.

In 2010, Bob Lee was running for re-election for his District Attorney for Santa Cruz County position. He submitted papers to the County elections board as required by law that he had taken out a loan from Wells Fargo Bank for $34,000. About six weeks later, he filed an addition affidavit claiming that $32,000 of the original $34,000 loan had been paid off. He also checked the box indicating that zero interest had been charged. This possible preferential treatment by the bank towards Lee prompted the motion.

DA Bob Lee was not in court, despite being the subject of the motion, and sent County Counsel, Mr. Sheinbaum, to court on his behalf, who explained that Lee “was ailing.”

The Hani Ganji told the Judge, “Wells Fargo has searched for any loans in the last five years and we didn’t find any records.”

Sheinbaum told Siegle that Lee had no records of the transaction, either, but that there was “a perfectly innocuous explanation” for the lack of records.

Siegle admitted he was “not clear how that works.” “Not only do we have no record of that loan. We have no records of any loan in the last five years.”

“It’s a mystery,” admitted Sheinbaum, “but there are several perfectly innocuous reasons for the lack of records.” When asked for even one such reason by Briggs & Defense Attorney Lisa McHaney, he did not offer a single response.

So did Lee submit fraudulent records to the County Elections department? Did Lee get a $34,000 interest-free loan from Wells Fargo and they have destroyed the records? Or even worse, did Lee get the loan & upon his victory, was gifted $32,000 8 months before he charged 11 local activists and whistle-blowers with felony charges and sought over $25,000 in “damages” from them for occupying an empty bank building, leased to Wells Fargo for three days and turning it into a community center.

Is Lee lying? Is Wells Fargo lying? Are they BOTH lying?

Upcoming, defense attorney, Brian Hackett has another hearing seeking to recuse DA Bob Lee for “misdemeanor shopping,” when Lee revealed to three defendants “There were $30,000 in damages! Come up with the money and we can talk” about reducing the felony charges to misdemeanors.”

Siegel set a continuance of the hearing for next Wednesday, Aug 27th and 9:00 AM in Department 6

(Full Disclosure: I am one of the Santa Cruz Eleven defendants. My charges were dropped in 2013 for lack of evidence)


Alexis Briggs provides more details of the hearing in a interview at (56 minutes into the audio file).

In 2012, D.A. Bob Lee was quite candid in stating it would be “a whole new ballgame” if the defendants paid off Wells Fargo: See “Impromptu Conversation Between DA Bob Lee and Two of the Santa Cruz Eleven” at reading

More Barnstorming for D.A. Bob Lee’s BigTop Attack on the Occupy Movement: Hearings Resume August 13 and 27


D.A. Bob Lee failed to disqualify Judge Paul Burdick for bias in a motion filed this last spring in the case of the Santa Cruz Eleven. [See “Assistant D.A. Files Motion to Recuse Judge Burdick–Again” at & “A Week Later The Sentinel Does Drive-By Coverage of the Santa Cruz Eleven” at & “Santa Cruz Eleven Trial Postponed Indefinitely” at defense lawyers for the Final Four of SC-11 have responded with a motion to disqualify Bob Lee. Hopefully this will avert a felony trial that will cost taxpayers $100,000 or more and write an end to a political prosecution that has cooked up felony charges against activist reporters and local leftists.


Attorney Alexis Briggs has informed me of the following:

On Wednesday August 13th at 8:15 AM in Dept. 6 she will be appearing with her client Cameron Laurendeau to discuss whether Wells Fargo and/or Bob Lee are producing documents regarding their financial relationship. Wells Fargo reportedly contributed a substantial sum of money to Lee’s re-election campaign–as did former Mayor Katherine Beiers (who admitted being in the building but was never charged).

On Wednesday August 27th at 8:15 AM in Dept 6, all four attorneys and the Final Four of the Santa Cruz Eleven will appear for a judgment on the earlier motion by all four that D.A. Bob Lee be removed from the case because of his financial interest or the appearance of impropriety (as I understand the issue). If he is, the matter willl be referred to the state attorney general to see if they chose to prosecute. Judge Burdick will decide that day or issue a ruling later.

Additioonally Jesse Rubin, Frank “Angel” Alcantara’s attorney will argue other motions–which I’m still trying to secure a copy of.

In a videoed exchange from two years ago, Lee acknowledged he wanted the Santa Cruz Eleven to “pay back” the money that Wells Fargo claimed that other (uncharged and unnamed) activists created by “vandalism” in the bank. [See “Impromptu Conversation Between DA Bob Lee and Two of the Santa Cruz Eleven” at .] “Vandalism” is in quotes because while the bank was grafittied and some furniture damaged, the padding of the “costs” was rather obvious as was the political nature of the vandalism. In addition the disproportionate destruction wrought by Wells Fargo both locally and nationally was ignored.


Judge Burdick issues sanctions against DA’s office

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

October 10, 2012

Original Post

Banner from a rally held by the Brown Berets of Watsonville
in support of the Santa Cruz Eleven. 
Photo by Becky Johnson May 4, 2012

by Becky Johnson
Oct 9 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — I went to court this morning. There was much confusion. At my August 20th hearing, I had thought that only Franklin “Angel” Alcantara and Cameron Larendeau were required to be at this hearing. But my lawyer called me yesterday, apologized for not being able to come to the hearing himself, and told me one of the other attorneys had agreed to appear on my behalf.

When I got to court, only Angel and Cameron’s names were on the court docket. Wonderful. Someone screwed up again, I thought. I wonder who.

They call our case “The Occupy Case” which is ironic, considering all the arguments that went back and forth to disassociate the 75 River Street Occupation of a long, empty bank building from Occupy Santa Cruz and its encampment in San Lorenzo Park. In the end, OSC stood up and formed a working group to provide support to the Santa Cruz Eleven as we came to be called.

In my own case, I had a lot to do with the encampment in San Lorenzo Park and very little to do with the 75 River Street building takeover, but this case is not about facts and evidence.

We are now down to seven defendants. Bradley Stuart Allen, Alex Darocy, Grant Wilson, and Ed Rector have all had their charges dismissed due to lack of evidence against them. Judge Burdick had also found the case against Cameron and Angel to be lacking evidence, but ADA Rebekah Young refiled against them.  This hearing had been scheduled by Cameron’s attorney, Briggs, and Angel’s attorney Ruben.  But Ruben wasn’t there. Nor was Briggs. Lisa McCaney, appearing on their behalf asked Young “Where is the additional evidence that you said you had to refile charges against my client?” A photograph referred to in a police report has still not been produced.

Young replied that she had been “confused” as to which motion would be resolved that day. She wasn’t the only one!  Burdick had sharp words for Ms. Young.

“Its my understanding that I’ll be ruling on her motion independent of any discovery violations under discussion. Violations of due process and the procedural morass that has brought us to this point.”
This “point” being ten months into the legal process, eight months after sheriff’s came to my home and arrested me while I was cooking pancakes, and still two more months to go just to get to my preliminary hearing. And I am eager to get to that point too, where I believe I will too be able to dispense with the specious charges against me. You see, the DA has no case against me.

“I apologize. I’m not prepared to argue her motion.” What else is new in this case?

“The people here have a right to a preliminary hearing, not an additional discussion and no new facts,” Burdick told her.

“Your honor, I believed the two sole witnesses at the preliminary hearing to be sufficient.”

“She says she has additional witnesses who can identify Mr. Alcantara and Mr. Larandeau but none have been forthcoming,” McCaney charged.

“Work has been extremely sloppy and we don’t have viable opposition papers.” But then inexplicably he said “I’m going to deny the motion to dismiss.”

Burdick asked if there were any other discovery issues. Attorneys complained about an empty file on one of the disks, but Young insisted that that was how the file came from the SCPD. None of the attorneys mentioned that the videos released many months ago did not have soundtracks, but now, on videos released August 20th, the sound was back but without explanation. Of course this meant the attorneys (and defendants) must now go back and watch over 25 hours of videotape again in order to LISTEN to the dialogue of police engaged in while recording to see if there is more evidence there.

Hackett, appearing on behalf of Norse’s attorney David Beauvais said that Beauvais had repeatedly requested for procedural manuals on instructions for police on crowd control, use of tear gas, and their policy concerning 1st amendment issues.

Young answered that the SCPD “has no first amendment policy.” Burdick seemed puzzled by this. “There must be some manual or procedures for crowd control and the use of chemical agents.”

Should it be achieved by subpoena? one of the defense attorneys quipped.

Burdick ignored this and just instructed Young to “look for those.”

Then Burdick announced that he had contemplated what the appropriate sanctions against the DA’s office should be springing from his statement on August 20th. He ruled that the sanctions would be to bill the DA’s office for additional expenses that out of county attorneys only had when they were required to come to attend additional hearings due to Young’s failures to provide discovery in a timely or forthright manner. There would be no relief for defendants dragged to every hearing on threat of arrest, missing work, school, time with loved ones and incurring costs.  Attorneys are paid, defendants are not.

The remaining defendants face a preliminary hearing on January 7th at 9AM in Dept 6. A readiness hearing is scheduled for January 4th also at 9AM.


In other cases, Linda Lemaster’s 647 ( e) “lodging” trial launches October 15th at 9AM in Dept 1 before Judge Rebecca Connolly. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 8:30AM in Dept 1 Oct 10th. Both cases will be heard at Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean St. Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060

Occupy protester guilty of vandalism

by Henry K. Lee
S.F. Chronicle Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Occupy protester has been convicted of felony vandalism for throwing a chair and smashing the windows of an Oakland police building near City Hall.

Cesar Aguirre, 24, of Elk Grove (Sacramento County) was convicted Monday by an Alameda County jury and could face up to three years in state prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 10.

Testimony showed he was dressed in black clothing and was wearing goggles and a dust mask in the early morning hours of Nov. 1 when he used a metal folding chair to break the windows of the Oakland police internal affairs and recruiting office on Frank Ogawa Plaza about 1 a.m. Nov. 3.

A police officer witnessed the incident from a parking structure. Aguirre had glass shards on his sleeves when he was arrested.

Authorities said he broke six windows and a door, causing $6,654 in damage. The city has sued Aguirre to recover the cost of repairs.

The incident happened amid rioting in downtown Oakland following a peaceful demonstration on Nov. 2.

Occupy Oakland: focusing or fading away?

Matthai Kuruvila and Demian Bulwa
S.F. Chronicle, Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Occupy activists have assailed a federal government they say colludes with the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. But on Monday when the president came to raise money in downtown Oakland – home of the nation’s most militant Occupy movement – the protesters did little to respond.

President Obama, who attended a big fundraiser at the Fox Theater, was met primarily by a group of medical marijuana advocates. Some Occupy protesters joined them and later marched, but their actions were a stark contrast to events in the past that drew thousands.

Whether it’s a sign of a movement that’s lost steam – or is merely evolving – is still unclear.

“We don’t know where it goes, but we’re in the early stages,” said Matt Smaldone, 38, a West Oakland resident who has been involved in Occupy Oakland since the beginning. “I don’t think we’re at a risk of things stopping, because the economy is not improving.”

More than nine months after setting up an elaborate tent city outside City Hall, leading to infamous clashes with the police, Occupy Oakland is again trying to reinvent itself without the unifying force of the encampment and in the face of critics who question their aggressive tactics.

Thinking smaller

Large-scale actions – like shutdowns of the Port of Oakland in November and December – don’t appear to be the future. Instead, the movement has fragmented into smaller groups focused on issues like school closures, foreclosure prevention and a fatal police shooting in May.

That means doing things that often involve neighborhood organizing, which happens far from downtown. For some, that’s a sign of progress.

“It’s a good thing people are focused less on spectacles and doing more community organizing work,” said Steven Angell, 23, an Occupy Oakland activist since January. “Those are much more important, particularly for Oakland.”

But some critics of Occupy Oakland said the group had lost much of the support it had last year, in part because some members put so much energy into confronting police.

‘Mayhem’ criticized

“They would get support if they would fight for a cause, not just cause mayhem,” said Nancy Sidebotham, 67, who helped organize Stand for Oakland, a group of citizens and merchants that spoke out against Occupy Oakland. “They need to go after the banks or the economy. Pick something and go after it. Don’t try to go all over the map because you can’t get it together.”

Members acknowledge that their numbers have shrunk, and not just at public actions. General assemblies, held twice a week, have drawn fewer and fewer people, prompting moves to reduce from 100 the size of the quorum needed for a vote. In Occupy Oakland’s heyday, some meetings attracted more than 1,000 people.

Wendy Kenin, a 40-year-old Berkeley resident who is on Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, said a core group at the assemblies is “holding the space for the continuation of the movement. It might not look like the massive uprising of last year, but it’s still active. There are going to be ebbs and flows.”

Several people, though, said that frustration and burnout had chipped away at the movement and that divides had opened due to violence and infighting – sometimes, ironically, over how to spend donated money.

Some people who participated in Occupy Oakland felt it was important to rally against the police, particularly after they arrested protesters. But others saw a useless series of skirmishes that could have been largely avoided, and that distracted from the core message of economic inequality.

On Monday, Spencer Mills – who helped pioneer live, online broadcasts of Occupy Oakland events – criticized protesters for past tactics like throwing rocks at police.

“Please, come off that high horse & tell me what you have accomplished with violence & property destruction in Oakland,” he wrote on Twitter. “Actually, it has accomplished things. #OPD can better justify its budget,@JeanQuan gets the high moral ground & (Occupy Oakland) drifts in obscurity.”

Blaming the establishment

Many Occupy activists said tension is inevitable in a big social movement. They said the internal discord has been heightened by outside forces, particularly police and the press.

“The establishment did such a great job demonizing the Occupy movement that a lot of people who are unhappy with the economy are too afraid to show up,” said David Meany, 32, of Pleasant Hill, a self-described pacifist who has been coming to Occupy Oakland since nearly the beginning.

Rachel Dorney, 24, of Oakland, who moved into the original City Hall encampment, said she had been less involved in recent months, in part because of internal strife. But she, too, believed Occupy would not fade away.

“I don’t think it’s dead,” she said. “I hope it’s not. Whatever happens, we can’t go back to how it was (in America). Things have definitely changed. It’s an idea, and I think a lot of times people forget that. Whatever happens, we haven’t failed.”

Unruly Oakland meeting over Occupy, ‘violence’

Matthai Kuruvila
SF Chronicle, May 26, 2012

Councilwoman Pat Kernighan said she will push forward an ordinance banning possession of shields, sticks and other “tools of violence” at demonstrations even though a vitriolic discussion of the issue shut down a public meeting this week.

The unruly Public Safety Committee meeting was cut short on Tuesday when Kernighan, who chairs the committee, decided that members of Occupy Oakland threatened the safety of the sole public speaker who supported the ordinance. Kernighan and the speaker left with a police escort.

The man, who identified himself as a 26-year resident of downtown Oakland, had said that protesters’ behavior “borders on terrorism.” Occupiers then charged him and grabbed his microphone. One man came up to his face and said, “You’re not going to make it home.”

“That’s when I closed the meeting,” Kernighan said.

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Kernighan and City Attorney Barbara Parker, would ban shields, fire accelerants, clubs and hammers, which have been used repeatedly in protests to commit vandalism or attack police. Possession of those items could result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The councilwoman said she will modify the proposal to address concerns raised by some speakers at the meeting, including clarifying what is banned. Prohibiting shields is the most controversial element. Police say protesters have used shields to charge officers and protect those who hurl objects at police. Occupiers say the shields are essential to protect themselves from police, who have been captured on video shooting bean bags at visibly peaceful protesters.

Kernighan said she is exploring whether smaller shields might be acceptable, such as 2 by 2 feet.

She said the revised ordinance will make it clear that camera tripods and monopods are not clubs, and that water bottles are legal for protesters to carry. “Water bottles and cameras are not a problem,” she said. “It’s the items that have been consistently used for vandalism – the paint projectiles, the fire accelerants, the large wrenches and hammers. There is zero reason for any of those things to be brought to a protest march.”

Police searches

Kernighan said she will also clarify that police cannot freely search demonstrators for banned items and that they will have to follow laws requiring probable cause to search people and their bags.

Those changes do little to resolve the problems with the proposed ordinance, said Jesse Trepper, a member of Occupy Oakland’s antirepression committee.

“I don’t want to give them more ways to criminalize protest,” Trepper said. “The things she’s complaining about, like property damage, are already crimes.”

Typically, council items have to be approved in committees before coming to the full council. Because Tuesday’s meeting was canceled before a vote, Kernighan said she will use a procedural move to bring the ordinance to the full council, probably in six weeks.

Uproar grows

The disrupted meeting has caused a growing furor at City Hall, with city staff and elected officials angry at Occupiers but also at Kernighan, who they blame for not keeping a better handle on the meeting.

Occupiers repeatedly hurled a misogynistic slur at Kernighan, while she told them to “shut the hell up.”

“I should have shut the meeting down earlier,” Kernighan conceded.

Yet Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who was not at the meeting, said the shutdown made the city look like “a circus” or “The Jerry Springer Show,” a television program notorious for having audience scrums.

“We cannot allow a group of people – clowns – to shut down a meeting,” he said on Thursday. “It’s the responsibility of our administration and the police to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Council President Larry Reid said it was the worst public meeting he’d seen in 30 years and walked out before it ended. Reid told De La Fuente: “I promise you: It will not happen again.”

Charges reinstated for two defendants in takeover of former bank building

By Jessica M. Pasko – Santa Cruz Sentinel


Santa Cruz police officers inspect the back doorway of the vacant… (Kevin Johnson/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ – Charges have been refiled against two of the defendants accused in the takeover of a vacant bank building last year.

After a preliminary hearing in April, Judge Paul Burdick dismissed the charges against Franklin Cruz Alcantara, Cameron Laurendeau, Grant Wilson and Edward Rector, citing a lack of evidence. At the time, prosecutor Rebekah Young announced her intentions to re-file against Alcantara and Laurendeau. She said she had more evidence that hadn’t come out in their first preliminary hearing.

The new charges are the same as the previous ones, two misdemeanor counts of trespassing, felony vandalism and felony conspiracy to commit vandalism and trespass, Young said.

The two were scheduled to appear in court Friday morning for arraignment on the new charges, though their supporters maintain the two defendants hadn’t been informed of the appearance. Young told the court she had mailed a notice to appear to both of them.

Cruz rushed into court late and entered a plea of not guilty, but a bench warrant will now be sought for Laurendeau, who lives in Oakland and did not show up Friday.

A preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday for five of the other defendants in the case was vacated because defense attorneys say the prosecution hasn’t turned over all the evidence to them. Defendants Becky Johnson, Robert Norse, Brent Adams, Gabriella Ripleyphipps and Desiree Foster are due back June 1 to set a new date for the hearing.

Judge Burdick also dismissed charges against Bradley Allen and Alex Darocy earlier this month. Their attorneys said the two were photojournalists who had been photographing the action as a news event.

A total of 11 people were arrested in connection with the takeover of the former Wells Fargo building at 75 River St. in late November and early December. Acting “anonymously and autonomously in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz,” an undetermined number of demonstrators entered the building with the announced intention of turning it into a community center. Demonstrators continued to occupy the building for almost three days amid numerous negotiations with police before eventually leaving peacefully.

A number of protests and demonstrations have been held in support of those charged, asking the District Attorney’s Office to drop all charges, and a website called has been set up.

The Long Foreclosure Fight

Good Times, Wednesday, 23 May 2012 – Patrick Dwire

news1County supervisors urge banks to suspend foreclosures

The state legislature is broken. Not only is it broken, but it has also prevented local governments from doing what can’t seem to get done in Sacramento—such as providing homeowners with legal protection from banks conducting fraudulent foreclosures. That was the consensus of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors at their May 15 meeting, when they adopted a resolution “urging” (but not requiring) local banks to suspend foreclosures until beefed-up, borrower protection laws are passed by the state legislature. The laws are known collectively as the “California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights.”


The county’s resolution, which is almost identical to a resolution adopted by the City and County of San Francisco last month, falls far short of what many housing activists believe is necessary. They would prefer to see the county mandating an outright moratorium on foreclosures until a program of independent legal review and certification of legality is established.

County Counsel Dana McCrea advised the Board of Supervisors that authority to mandate such a moratorium or require more stringent legal review in the foreclosure process is “almost entirely” preempted by current state law, and the county would almost certainly be sued, probably successfully, if it were to adopt such measures.

“This speaks directly to why people have so little faith in government,” Supervisor John Leopold said at the May 15 board meeting, explaining his frustration with the “lack of legal space” at the county level to seriously challenge banks on potentially fraudulent foreclosure practices.

“Not only is the banking lobby making the likelihood of passing the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights very, very low in Sacramento—it comes as no surprise to me that these same moneyed interests have had their way preempting local government from initiating their own, more stringent local protections,” Leopold said.

Apart from the fact there are between 100 and 150 foreclosure filings per month in Santa Cruz County, there are two other developments that have enraged local activists and inspired the pressure they have brought to bear on local politicians for more protection against fraudulent foreclosures. The first is a forensic audit of 382 foreclosures conducted by the City and County of San Francisco Assessor-Recorder that found 82 percent of the foreclosure cases studied were legally defective, with at least one clear violation of law, and a majority had substantial evidence of fraud, including back-dated, “robo-signed” or fabricated documents, as well as false claims of beneficiary status.


news1-2Since the March to Stop Foreclosures (above), which was led by Occupy Santa Cruz’s Foreclosure Working Group in March, the number of local groups and organizations joining in the effort to end the foreclosure crisis continues to grow.

The second development is the drastic reduction in foreclosures in Nevada that are a direct result of a new state law requiring a notarized affidavit of authority, signed by a bank official, as a requirement of filing a foreclosure, along with clear documentation of the bank’s legal right to foreclose. The law includes severe criminal penalties for any fraud. This state law reduced foreclosure filings in Nevada, formally the nation’s leader in foreclosures, by 76 percent since the law took effect last October, according to Foreclosure Radar, a foreclosure data research firm.

“In light of the City of San Francisco’s Assessor’s report,” Supervisor Ellen Pirie said, “I’m incredibly frustrated and angry… I’m shocked that our legal system, which allows banks to foreclose without judicial review but seems to allow these fraudulent activities without any real supervision, and there’s nothing we can do about it. I don’t understand why our state legislators are not as angry as we are, and [aren’t] more willing to do something about it.”

The supervisors aren’t the only ones angry about the recent, stepped-up lobbying against the California Homeowners Bill of Rights by the banking industry in Sacramento. So is Gina Green, a spokesperson for the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), a nonprofit advocacy organization that has been a leader in the fight against predatory lending to low-income communities. After more than three years of hard work advocating for borrower protections in the mortgage industry—protections now included in the California Homeowners Bill of Rights—Green said the frustration is high at CRL because this legislation is getting blocked by a few, key members in the state assembly and senate, both Democrat and Republican, who she says have apparently come under the influence of the banking lobby.

Green says CRL is “ready to take the gloves off, and start naming names of those members in the state legislature who are blocking the California Homeowners Bill of Rights legislation.” She goes on to say that this legislation is desperately needed, as shown by the extent of fraudulent practices brought to light in the nationwide law suit brought by 49 State Attorney Generals against five major banks last year, in which banks finally settled for $24 million in damages in February. But the banking industry continues to have a “near lock of influence in the California State legislature,” Green says.

Growing Grass Roots

Jeri Bodemar, a self-described “old activist” and member of the Santa Cruz Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), says the foreclosure crises just “grabbed her.” As a result, she started doing outreach and organizing and began talking to Joy Hinz, a lead activist and organizer of the local Occupy Foreclosure Working Group.

Hinz, along with several members of the working group that originally spun off from Occupy Santa Cruz, have been attending County Board of Supervisor meetings regularly for the last several months, and encouraging the supervisors during Oral Communications to take action to protect families from foreclosure.

Meanwhile, Bodemar was impressed by a KPFA radio show featuring C.J. Holmes, the founder of Home Owners For Justice, a nonprofit organization waging a statewide information and organizing campaign to stop foreclosures. Bodemar and Hinz invited Holmes, who is also a long time Sonoma County real estate broker, to Santa Cruz, and co-sponsored a recent training workshop and public information event about fraudulent foreclosures practices.

In addition to a training workshop for “citizen fraud investigators,” in which about 10 people were given an overview of what expert foreclosure fraud investigators look for, Holmes gave a three hour presentation to about 50 people at the Quaker Meeting House the evening of May 15, the same day the county supervisors adopted the foreclosure ordinance.

Holmes provided an in-depth analysis of how much the mortgage lending industry has changed over the course of her 25-year career in real estate brokerage, and showed that most of this change, made obvious by the combined Wall Street financial crises and collapse of the real estate market, has been for the worst. Holmes provided a fast but deeply researched summary of how the relatively safe, stodgy, local mortgage lending industry of 30 years ago was transformed into a Wall Street investor-driven casino of mortgage-backed securities, with players from all over the world.

One of the bottom lines, according to Holmes, is that the lack of accountability of banks in the foreclosure process is directly liked to the lack of accountability in the securitization of mortgage-baked securities sold on Wall Street, which was made technically possible by the industry created “MERS” recording system. Because the market crashed so hard and so fast, according to Holmes, banks had to resort to “extra-legal” techniques like robo-signing and forging documents to keep up with foreclosures once the “house of cards” began to collapse.

A key problem that Holmes said should be a “take away” from her talk was that the system continues to collapse, with a huge inventory of unsold, bank-owned homes, and that the idea that housing market will eventually stabilize under these conditions is misguided.

“It’s time for us to get out of the box that banks have put us in,” Hinz said after the presentation. “The banks have been setting us up for years, and gaming the system every step of the way. People are beginning to wake up and realize what’s been done to them, and realizing they can’t win playing by the banks rules.”

UC police arrest 9 as they clear Occupy the Farm

Michael Cabanatuan and Ellen Huet
SF Chronicle, May 15, 2012

A three-week-long protest on UC Berkeley agricultural research land in Albany came to a quiet close early Monday when police cleared out a small group of protesters who had set up an urban farming camp.

University police officers in riot helmets arrested nine people after giving protesters 10 minutes to leave the Gill Tract near Marin and San Pablo avenues about 6:15 a.m. When officers fanned out across the fields, the few protesters who had not obeyed the police order scurried off the property and onto San Pablo, which authorities had closed to traffic.

Two protesters were arrested on suspicion of trespassing, said Lt. Eric Tejada, a police spokesman.

Work crews moved in shortly after 7:30 a.m. and began removing activists’ tents and supplies as several dozen protesters watched from the sidewalk. Seven were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly after they refused to move off San Pablo Avenue, said Dan Mogulof, a UC Berkeley spokesman.

The Occupy the Farm activists, who are loosely affiliated with the national Occupy Wall Street movement, had agreed to stop sleeping at the camp over the weekend. But most had not left the property and refused to negotiate with UC Berkeley administrators, Tejada said.

“UC has been in long negotiations, but the negotiations have never proven to be fruitful because they (the activists) literally never came to the table,” Tejada said.

Some decide to stay

One of the protesters, Ashoka Finley of Richmond, said he had been standing guard when police arrived. Finley said some protesters had decided they would rather be arrested farming than flee from police.

“We made a conscious decision to be inside,” he said.

Crews used a bulldozer to clear away more of the camp at midday, including a wooden structure frame labeled as a chicken coop. Protesters gathered against a fence and police responded by lining up inside, but no protesters re-entered the tract.

End of standoff

Lesley Haddock, an organizer of the protest, said the group wanted to cultivate crops, not camp on the property.

“We are going to be back on the farm one way or another, either outside looking in or inside cultivating our crops,” she said. “We’re not giving up on this land.”

Monday’s action was the culmination of a standoff that began when activists moved onto the tract April 22 as a protest against planned commercial development and housing nearby. They were pressuring the university to preserve part of the tract, which has been the subject of development debates for years, for agricultural study and urban farming.

The protesters tilled 2 acres on a site used by the College of Natural Resources for research. They planted vegetables, set up a drip system and pitched tents.

Last week, the UC Board of Regents filed a lawsuit against 14 protesters, claiming they and others had conspired to cut through chains that secured gates and trespass onto the Gill Tract.

The suit says a 24-hour-a-day encampment is not consistent with agricultural experiments, and that the demonstrators are delaying an annual corn planting.

“It’s impossible to do good science when you have a few dozen untrained, unsupervised and uninvited guests roaming around an open-air lab,” Mogulof said.