S.F. Occupy activists evicted from building

Ellen Huet and Erin Allday
SF Chronicle, April 3, 2012

Police on Monday evicted and arrested nearly 80 Occupy activists who had taken over an empty San Francisco building the night before and had stockpiled bricks and supplies with the apparent intention of staying long-term.

Officers in riot gear stormed the two-story building at 888 Turk St. at about 1:15 p.m. after tearing down a barricade protesters built to block the main entrance, said police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak.

The building, which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, has been used as a music education facility by the archdiocese-associated nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral High School.

Occupy protester Beth Seligman said Monday morning that a few hundred people came into the building and stayed the night, but police said they believed that only about 80 people were inside Monday afternoon.

Activists said they chose to take over the building because they believed it has been vacant for five years and should be used as a center for health services and education instead of standing empty.

George Wesolek, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the activists were wrong about the building’s vacant status. The building was used for regular music classes until as recently as 18 months ago, Wesolek said. The archdiocese was also considering leasing out the building and using the revenue to help with financial aid for low-income Sacred Heart students, he said.

“This is definitely not a vacant building,” Wesolek said. “It’s not forgotten. It has a purpose.”

Late Sunday night, the archdiocese signed a citizens’ arrest for the occupiers on charges of trespassing and graffiti. By Monday afternoon, police said it had become clear the protesters were planning to stay in the building for quite a while, Andraychak said.

Demonstrators had “stockpiled” bricks and cans of paint on the roof of the building, he said, and they blocked windows and doors with plywood and stacks of chairs.

After police broke through the main door, protesters fled deeper into the building, barricading doors and stairways along the way, Andraychak said. One man jumped from a second-floor window to avoid police, but was caught soon after, he said.

There were no injuries during the arrests, Andraychak said.

The interior of the building on Monday afternoon, after the protesters had been removed, was covered in spray-painted graffiti and posters and photographs from previous Occupy events. There were signs on the walls to designate sleeping areas, “media free zones” and smoking rooms.

Protesters left behind sleeping bags and backpacks, guitars and a tambourine. A half-eaten sandwich sat on a crate in one room, and in the kitchen were boxes full of fresh fruits and vegetables. In one large room on the second floor, a bowl of dog food sat next to an empty bottle of tequila.

“They had no intention of leaving,” Andraychak said.

Mayor Ed Lee, who has been criticized for being indecisive in his handling of the Occupy encampment at Justin Herman Plaza in late 2011, said before the arrests Monday that he was deferring to Police Chief Greg Suhr on plans to oust the protesters.

The mayor said he sympathized with the Occupy protesters’ concerns over vacant buildings, but suggested they compile a list of vacant properties and share it with city officials rather than going the attention-grabbing route and taking them over.

“Identifying a building is one thing,” Lee said. “When you occupy it and it’s not in a condition of livability, it could be a danger for everybody.

“I personally would love to see every vacancy in the whole city have some plan and activity going on in it,” Lee added. “I hate seeing vacancies in storefronts.”

The Times They Are A’Changing

Spike Murphy; UCSC Student Guide Mar 29 (Spring), 2012

UCSC activism through the years

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” – Mario Savio, political activist & key member of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, Dec. 3, 1964

If anything captures the spirit and sentiment of the decades of activism at UCSC, it’s the above quote. For more than 40 years, members of the UCSC community, students, staff and faculty, have fought to make their University and Santa Cruz itself more equal and egalitarian, to forge a community that puts people above profits and encourages anything and everything that’s “outside-the-box. “ Let’s hop in the way-back machine and look at how UCSC was first transformed into a melting pot of ideas and cultures.

Like all good activism stories, it starts in the ‘60s. A few years after UCSC opened its doors in 1965, then-governor Ronald Reagan came for the Regents meeting. He was greeted by three days of protest with students and citizens from around the county in an uproar about, well, everything Reagan was doing. At the front of this movement was the Santa Cruz Black Liberation Front, demanding that College VII be named after El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcom X) and that the College be a black college, not just in curriculum and focus, but in the makeup of everybody living, learning and working there.

Enter Herman Blake, at the time the sole black faculty member at UCSC and someone with a personal relationship with El-Shabazz. He pointed out that all kinds of people were being oppressed in California and convinced the SCBLF to endorse a plan to make College VII an Ethnic Studies college.

The first gay male teacher in the history of the nation came out at UCSC, as well as the first gay woman professor to come out.

The remainder of the sixties was relatively quiet, aside from a graduation ceremony being interrupted to give an honorary diploma to the imprisoned Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton; a little more than a decade later he would come to UCSC to get his PhD. The Academic Senate would also approve the Ethnic Studies program (though not the re-naming of College VII).

Then come the ‘70s and shit gets real. The U.S. invades Cambodia, and students across the country drop everything and rally against the national war machine. This is the beginning of an anti-war movement at UCSC that continues to this day. Highway 1 and 17 are shut down multiple times throughout the ‘70s by student protestors. After Nixon resumes bombing in Vietnam, thousands march on the county building and demand the Board of Supervisors sign a resolution disapproving of the war – which they do. We also see the first protests against the UC’s weapons labs at Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos; these would continue for decades, with the protestors sometimes numbering as high as 10,000 people.

This is also the decade when UCSC entered the gay rights and women’s rights fight, and during the ‘70s, an explosion of gay rights groups and clubs start on campus. The first gay male teacher in the history of the nation came out at UCSC, Sociology professor Alan Sable, as well as the first gay woman professor to come out, Nancy Shaw; The Women’s Studies major is fought for and added to the curriculum, and the Santa Cruz Women’s Health Collective is formed on campus (this eventually becomes the Women’s Health Center downtown). In 1971, thanks to the thriving L

GBT movement at UCSC and the lowering of the voting age to 18 from 21, there’s a dramatic change in the political makeup of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz has its first Pride Parade, and it becomes the first county to prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. When the anti-LGBT Briggs initiative is voted down in ’78, Santa Cruz has the highest percentage of “no” votes in the state. Sadly, only weeks later, San Francisco Supervisor and Gay Rights Superhero Harvey Milk is assassinated; 40,000 people, including many members of UCSC’s LGBT community, hold a vigil for him outside of San Francisco City Hall. When his murderer is let off with ‘voluntary manslaughter’ saying he ate too many Twinkies the night before (I wish I were kidding about that, I really do), UCSC students and even a professor join hundreds in SF in what will become known as the White Night Riots.

In 1976, the Third World and Native American Coalition forms, to unite students from various minority communities and advocate for their educational rights (TWANAC is now known as the Ethnic Student Organization Council). A year later, more than 1,000 students, organized by TWANAC and CAIR (Coalition Against Institutionalized Racism), occupy the central services (Hahn) building and demand that UC divest from South Africa, reject the Bakke decision outlawing Affirmative Action, support the Third World Teaching Resource Center and undo an increased SAT score requirement for admittance. The administration’s response was to acquiesce to their demands. Ha! Just kidding! Four hundred protesting students were arrested.

In 1980, UCSC fired Ed Castillo, the only instructor teaching Native American studies. Nearly 600 people from TWANAS and other groups marched on the Chancellor’s office and made five demands to be met in five days. When the administration issued an unsatisfactory response, 25 students from TWANAS volunteered to go on a hunger strike until their demands – aimed at creating and maintaining Native American and Third World studies at UCSC – were met. After five days, the university agreed to the students’ demands in writing. (Unfortunately, according to TWANAS, the administration failed to make good on what they’d agreed to.)

Meanwhile, gay rights and women’s rights would continue to advance steadily throughout the ‘80s. The county and the UC would continue to grant more rights for same-sex couples, and Santa Cruz would elect the first gay mayor in the country, UCSC Alum and eventual Santa Cruz AIDS Project founder John Laird. The number of LGBT groups on campus and in the city would continue to grow. The LGBT movement capped off the decade with the grand opening of the GLBN Community Resource Center in the Merrill recreation room.

The first Take Back the Night! March started at UCSC in response to a string of murders of female students by multiple serial killers, and the first Women’s Studies tenure track position was created at UCSC, as well as a feminist Studies grad program. Later that same year, women’s rights activists from the campus and all over the country staged major protests at the Miss California pageant that had been held in Santa Cruz since the 1920s. Former Sports Illustrated model Ann Simonton famously wore a dress made of meat while protesting the pageant, and the entire protest was documented in the film Miss . . . or Myth? The Miss California pageant would never return to Santa Cruz, moving to San Diego the next year.

During this whole time, the anti-nuke efforts at UCSC had been growing exponentially. Groups staged demonstrations on campus, rallied support and staged larger and larger protests at the UC weapon labs. In 1983, the UCSC Academic Senate voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with the UC’s nuclear weapons labs. At one point, 6,000 protestors encircled the Lawrence Livermore lab completely while holding hands, prompting the Department of Energy to buy a new 196-acre “buffer zone” around the property.

The ‘90s were a milder decade by comparison, with Highway 1 only being shut down once in protest of Desert Storm. After more than 25 years of students demanding it, Women’s Studies finally became a Department.

In 1990, the Coalition on Democratic Education took over McHenry Library and by doing so managed to get ethnic studies courses listed in the Schedule of Classes and the creation of a Dean of African-American Student Life position. Starting in the mid-‘90s, the Affirmative Action Coalition would work to keep Prop 209, which would end Affirmative Action in the UC system, from passing on the ballot, even at one point shutting down the campus with protestors for seven hours. Although their efforts would not defeat the proposition, they won an agreement from the Chancellor (after surrounding the Hahn building with protestors) for a seven-point plan to preserve the campus’ diversity in the wake of Prop 209.

In 1991, during holiday break, logging begins at Elfland, an Ohlone Indian sacred site on campus. A day-long student protest follows, but the area is logged and Colleges Nine and Ten are built nonetheless.

The early part of the decade sees multiple large anti-war protests take place on campus in response to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with well over 1,000 people at many events. Anti-war coalitions form on campus and begin working on getting military recruiters OFF campus. One of the main organizations to come out of this period would be Students Against War (SAW) who would finally succeed, in 2006, in driving military recruiters off campus.

This period also marks the beginning of labor groups organizing the students on their behalf. Numerous days of action and protest on behalf of UC workers and employees dominated the last decade on campus, with numerous concessions made to UCSC workers.

During the mid- to late-2000s, student protests escalated. A striking example was when students protested a regents meeting on campus in the mid-2000s. This became the first time UC police pepper-sprayed students, with one student, a young black woman, suspended from the UC for three years; only through persistent protests over the next few months is she allowed to return. Then, the national media reveals that the Pentagon had been spying on UCSC activist groups, SAW in particular, with the help of the administration and members of local law enforcement. An international uproar follows – along with many student and community protests – and the Chancellor eventually convinces the Pentagon to take SAW off their credible threat list.

When the economy took a screaming nose-dive in 2008, tuition skyrocketed and the largest program and resource cuts yet would happen and are continuing. The language program was gutted; community studies was nearly obliterated and social sciences, the arts and humanities bore the brunt of the rest; 120 faculty positions were eliminated in 2008-2011 with an equal number of TAs axed; the Rape Prevention Education program is closed.

These massive cuts spark the beginning of the Occupy movement, one that would eventually spread in sentiment and execution across the country and around the world. Protests, hunger strikes and even a shutdown of campus all occur, as well as the pepper-spray and police brutality sent around the world by the international media (and thousands of cell phones).

Every step of progress, every right gained and equality recognized at UCSC came about because of the people, the community and organizations there; many of those organizations are still around, waiting for you to show up so that you can all take a brave stand and be heard again.

We can make this machine cease to function, shut it down, until they listen, until they have to listen. Neither violence nor diplomacy speak to the machine; in fact, violence feeds it. But when you stop the machine from working, when we use our bodies and our minds, our voices and our love to stop its gears and mechanisms, it will hear us. And we can say, in one voice as a community united by our differences: “Unless we’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

Homeless hacker’ stiffs city attorney

Don Wilson, Soquel

SC Sentinel “As You See It” –  3-16-2012

I see that the “homeless hacker” has fled to Canada, leaving Santa Cruz Attorney Ed Frey stuck with having to pay off his $35,000 bail bond. I am not surprised. Ed Frey has been sticking his personal, financial and ideological neck out for other people for years. If there is a seemingly hopeless cause and somebody trying to further that cause, Ed Frey probably will be involved. Somebody ought to start a collection to help Ed Frey out of this mess.

Occupy Arcata Heights Ends With A Splatter

Kevin L. Hoover – Arcata Eye Editor

Anderson Valley Advertiser, March 14, 2012

Tom Vanciel's Occupy Arcata House. Photos by KLH | Eye

Tom Vanciel’s Occupy Arcata House. Photos by KLH | Eye

K STREET – The house is still there at 1250 K Street, replete with painted slogans and redolent with animal waste. But the numerous two- and four-legged occupants who lived in and around Tom Vanciel’s urban homestead are gone, this time for good… probably.

Vanciel is casually known as “Yak Man” for his strolls around town in the company of his yak. Sometimes he is accompanied by roommate Samuel Sanchez, known to casual observers at “Goat Man” for his town treks with his goat companion.

In recent months, Vanciel and Sanchez have been joined at the house by kindred spirit Geronimo Garcia, whom one neighbor referred to as “Chicken Man,” for the flock of fowl which lived in and around his residential bike trailer in the driveway.

Last Thursday morning, Arcata Police stood by as the house’s water service was turned off. But the yak, goat and chicken men had already departed.

The house is now owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Freddie Mac, which foreclosed on it last year. Though ownership transferred last Oct. 27, Vanciel and his flock refused to depart until last Thursday morning.

Samuel Sanchez and Tom Vanciel roam about town with their companion animals.

By the time it was vacated and secured last Thursday night, the $300,000 property had become an animal farm, inside and out. A dozen or so goats, a yak, chickens and possibly a cow had been living there with their human companions. The impacts of the dense habitation on the single-family residential home are easily seen – and smelled.

The backyard, once a carefully tended wonderland, is a defoliated, waste-drenched bog. Former resident Rebecca LaCasse recalled when Mildred Moore, now deceased, owned the home.

“It was full of old roses, big old camellias and fragrant rhodies, it had a round-a-bout path through mounds of oxalis,” recalled LaCasse. “There were scads of daffodil and narcissus, Japanese maples…it was like a beautiful forest grove.”

“She had created a beautiful garden with a small pond in the back, full of established plants and trees.” remembered Kate Christensen, who also lived there for a time. “The inside of the house was in good condition. Hardwood floors in great shape.”

Those hardwood floors, as well as the walls, closets and even the bathtub are presently covered in pools of housepaint. Thursday morning, the gray paint was still wet throughout the house, with the largest splatter in the front bedroom spelling out “LOVE” in capital letters.

Straw and animal feces are strewn about– mingled with the wet paint in places – and the stinging stench of urine pervades the house. Bedrooms host abandoned personal knick-knacks and animal enclosures, while walls are covered in slogans advocating peace, liberty and understanding. “STOP HATE” is written in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror.

A mixed-media, mixed message – love through vandalism? – in paint, straw and other random objects in the front bedroom.

Since 2010, Vanciel has been ignoring warning letters from the City about Land Use Code violations for keeping the farm animals at the suburban home. Last May, he and his animals departed to the Southwest for a time, but the rugged individualist and his animal entourage returned to the home he purchased with his wife Nancy in August, 2007.

When his wife moved out a couple of years ago, say neighbors, Vanciel’s eccentricities surfaced and magnified, as did negative encounters with authority. Facing foreclosure by Bank of America, Vanciel’s  angry suspicion of the society around him intensified, and he dug in.

Tapping into the energy around last fall’s progressive quasi-insurgency, Vanciel rechristened his home “Occupy Arcata Heights.”  The in-town animal ranch, plus the modifications to the property, brought inevitable attempts at enforcement of Arcata’s Land Use Code in the neighborhood which is  zoned Residential Low-Density.

Each City complaint or letter from the bank only seemed to deepen Vanciel’s resolve and bring forth more conflict with neighbors, who were increasingly alarmed at the goings-on at his home.

The final spiral began several days before last Christmas,  when Vanciel got a letter from the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) warning him of imminent eviction.

This was followed by another round of warning letters from the City, with a rare Nuisance Abatement agenda item slated for next week’s City Council meeting. As late as last week, City Building Official Dean Renfer was still corresponding with Freddie Mac officials about violations at the house.

A letter dated Monday, March 5 notes building code violations over an addition to the garage roof, since removed, and the presence of large animals in violation of the Land Use Code.

Neighbors said Vanciel had constructed a 24-foot-tall “meditation tower” in the backyard at one point. Last April, a neighbor complained that Vanciel had built a fence on his property, even nailing boards to the neighbor’s house.

To Vanciel, the objections were a ruse to legitimize theft of his property and to silence his objections to government wrongdoing. In repeated complaints to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, he claimed that toxic emissions from Rich’s Body Shop across the street had exacerbated his health problems, physical and mental. None of the alleged violations were ever verified.

“He’d call whenever he got a whiff of something,” said Al Steer, compliance and enforcement division manager. “He’d call up and start screaming, and I don’t put up with that.”

Nonetheless, Steer dutifully checked out the complaints.

“I went over two times and sent three officers on six occasions,” he said. “There was a minimum of 10 visits. On no case was there any exceedence of any kind of emission limit.”

Vanciel also believes that fluoride in drinking water has corrupted the thought processes of those who consume it, making them obedient to government control. A neighbor passing by last weekend was told – loudly – she was in the grip of delusion by the “fluoride tea” that composes Arcata’s drinking water.

Conversations with passersby followed a similar pattern – initially cordial, but swiftly escalating into shouting as Vanciel, Sanchez and Garcia would lose their composure.

“He tends to run to the high side,” Steer said.

Like Occupy emplacements at Arcata City Hall and in Eureka, the K Street occupation station was riven by internal dissension as well as rocky relations with the outside world.

A neighbor reported loud arguments in the backyard, with Vanciel telling Garcia to stop drinking and warning him that he would be evicted. Somewhat comically, Garcia replied that Vanciel couldn’t evict him from a property he didn’t own, the neighbor said.

Other neighbors said that Garcia spent three nights up on the house’s rooftop haranguing the neighborhood over various issues. “He was very loud for a long time,” said next-door neighbor Michael Winkler, who happens to be Arcata’s mayor. “Then the cops came and after that, not a peep.”

A sign reading “Geronimo Motel” soon appeared in the house’s front yard in apparent mockery of the former City Council candidate’s continued occupancy.

Neighbor Eliot Baker’s experience was typical. “I tried to talk to them during a loud fight they were having in the yard recently, waking me up by screaming at each other and slamming things around,” Baker said. “They told me to fuck off because they were role-modeling fighting without guns. After an attempted lecture on the Constitution I just walked away.”

Tom Vanciel

Despite heading up a City government which Vanciel had termed a “fascist puppet dictatorship,” the affable Mayor Winkler maintained neighborly, non-political relations with the irascible crew. He said Garcia told him that Freddie Mac had obtained a court order evicting everyone on March 8.

With the house now vacant, Freddie Mac will presumably make repairs and put the property back on the market. The damage, while unsightly, is mostly superficial and reversible.

But that resolution leaves some questions unanswered. Unknown for now are the present whereabouts of Vanciel and associates. Another riddle for many is the contradiction inherent in Vanciel’s ways – ardently advocating love, but usually with severe, hair-trigger hostility.

“I see a disconnect between the slogans plastered all over their house and their complete and utter lack of respect and willingness to build community with their neighbors,” Eliot said. “Love isn’t just something you write or say, it is something you do.”

Winkler said Vanciel was doing the best he could in uniquely challenging circumstances, pursuing his ideals despite severe emotional and financial hardship. “He had some difficult challenges,” Winkler said, noting that Vanciel’s wife had left him two years ago. “The Occupy movement gave meaning to his life,” Winkler observed. “His home was a center for his alternative lifestyle and a place to express his beliefs, his outrage at the economic and social conditions in the community.”

Contacted last week, Vanciel was suspicious of the inquiry. “To use the metaphor of five minutes to midnight before atomic destruction, he wrote in an e-mail, “May  I ask why  it is you’ve waited  to offer help?”

Vanciel went on the explain his relationship with his animal companions, and their joint mission in Arcata: “The Sacred Holy  Yaks that Sam and I accompany and shepherd from the evils of this murderous society are not to be approached by meat eaters, tobacco smokers, alcohol drinkers, gun bearers or imperial fascists. These are special spiritual envoys from Tibet. We are blessed to accompany  them on their spiritual mission. They are here to purify and bless the mess you call Arcata.”

Occupy Education: Dozens Of Protesters Demonstrating In State Capitol Arrested

Associated Press 03/5/12

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Highway Patrol officers arrested dozens of protesters who refused to leave the state Capitol Monday night after repeated warnings, capping off a day of protests over cuts to higher education that saw thousands descend upon Sacramento.

CHP Capt. Andy Manard said police expected the number of people arrested to be 68. They would be charged with trespassing, he said.

Police started pulling out protesters who remained in the Capitol rotunda around 7:30 p.m., more than an hour after they began warning them with a bullhorn to leave. Protesters chanted “We’re doing this for your kids,” as they were lifted up by the arms one-by-one, handcuffed with plastic ties and led them away.

“We gave them about seven or eight opportunities to avoid arrest,” Manard said. “We wanted to give them every opportunity to leave. Having that many arrests puts a stress on the jails too.”

He said the protesters would be taken to the Sacramento County Jail.

Several lawmakers watched from a second-floor balcony.

Hundreds of protesters remained outside the Capitol, along with hundreds of officers in riot gear who flanked the building. A CHP helicopter circled overhead throughout the day and evening. Manard said there were 210 officers for Monday’s events.

Those arrested were part of a daylong protest over state budget cuts to higher education that have led to steep tuition increases and fewer courses at California’s public universities and colleges.

The sit-in was staged after thousands of protesters swarmed the Capitol lawn, waving signs and chanting, “They say cut back, we say fight back.”

“We were expecting to have a good future, but things are looking uncertain for a lot of families,” said Alison Her, 19, a nursing student at California State University, Fresno. “I’m the oldest in my family and I want my siblings to be able to go to college, too.”

Organizers had hoped that 10,000 protesters would demonstrate against rising tuition rates and demand that state lawmakers restore funding for higher education. But the actual turnout fell short.

After the rally, hundreds of students lined up to enter the Capitol and filled conference rooms and hallways inside. Some met with lawmakers to lobby for increased funding for higher education, while others headed for the rotunda.

CHP officers allowed several hundred students to settle on the black and white marble floor of the rotunda before all four hallway entrances to the area were blocked. Another hundred students sat down in a hallway, communicating with fellow protesters by call and response.

Protesters spent two hours debating in call and response whether to stay after 6 p.m. and get arrested. They developed a list of core demands to present to lawmakers, including taxing the rich, educating prisoners and funding free textbooks.

A statue of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus was decorated with signs reading “Stop the fee increases” and “Occupy education.”

Four people were arrested during the day, CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader said. Three women were arrested for failing to obey an officer’s order after trying to unfurl a banner on the second floor, and a man was arrested outside the building for being in possession of a switchblade knife, the CHP said.

Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement that the protest highlights the need for California voters to approve a tax increase he has proposed for the November ballot.

“The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a written statement. “That’s why it’s imperative that we get more tax revenue this November.”

Brown’s initiative would fund education and public safety programs by temporarily raising income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year and temporarily increasing the sales tax by half a cent.

The University of California Student Association has endorsed a rival initiative that would tax millionaires and earmark the revenue for education. The California Federation of Teachers and state PTA support that initiative.

Buses brought hundreds of students in from as far away as the University of California, Riverside, 450 miles south of Sacramento, for Monday’s march.

The crowd was a sea of red and white, as many wore T-shirts that said “Refund our Education” and “March March.”

Tuition has nearly doubled in the past five years, to $13,000 for resident undergraduates at University of California schools and to $6,400 at California State University schools. Community college fees are set to rise to $46 per unit by this summer, up from $20 per unit in 2007.

Sam Resnick, 20, a history student at Pasadena City College, brought a tent with him to the rally.

“We want to show the state government that we care about our education, and we’re not going to leave until they make it a priority,” Resnick said.

Despite participation from outside groups, including Occupy movement protesters and supporters of the millionaire’s tax, student organizers tried to keep the focus on education cuts.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, urged the students in a speech to use social media to spread the word about how much debt they are forced to take on to attend public colleges and universities. Perez and other Democrats support Brown’s tax proposal.

“For thousands of students across California, the debt is too much to take on and the bill is too high,” he said.

But at one point, the crowd drowned Perez out, chanting “Show us.”

Planting seeds at food awareness rally: Activists gather at Town Clock

By STEPHEN BAXTER – Sentinel staff writer


The Food Not Bombs crew dishes out stir-fry, beans and rice at Monday’s… (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ – Mirroring food activism events nationwide on Monday, about 30 people gathered at the Town Clock to try to empower residents about their food choices.

Leaders of the “Hoe Down” event pushed for more local, organic agriculture. They dished up free servings of spicy potato, bok choy and carrot stir-fry to passersby, handed out fliers and listened to lectures about organizations such as UC Santa Cruz’s Demeter Seed Library.

Members of Occupy Santa Cruz organized the event and worked with groups such as Food Not Bombs and the Homeless Garden Project.

“We need to build our local food systems,” said Roxanne Evans, who helped organize the event. “That’s why we wanted to bring these groups together.”

The Occupy camp in San Lorenzo Park served food to activists and the homeless before authorities dismantled the camp Dec. 8.

Since then, its members have tried to keep food issues in the spotlight. Evans said there are many Santa Cruzans who grasp the environmental consequences of eating food that has been treated with pesticides and trucked in from outside the county.

However, she encouraged more people to grow their own organic food or buy from local farms and farmers markets.

Andrew Whitman, a UCSC undergraduate who runs the seed library, talked about its mission to preserve biodiversity on the Central Coast and give free seeds to gardeners. Whitman has tried to gather the most robust, locally adapted seeds for heirloom fruits and vegetables.

The program allows gardeners to borrow those seeds, plant them, and return more seeds to the seed library.

“Our main goal is to get seeds out to people,” Whitman said.

The project is a response to genetically modified seeds. Those seeds have boosted production but have been controversial for their effects on human health, wildlife and the environment.

Some participants at Monday’s event collected signatures for a state ballot initiative that would require foods to be labeled if they are genetically modified.

Evans runs TerraGnoma Community Demonstration Garden in Seabright. She offers produce and educational events in return for a little help with the garden.

Evans said she hoped more people would stop and think about their food choices.

“We don’t really eat, we fuel up,” she said.”The reality is that food is a celebration.”

Four charged with taking over River Street building make first court appearance

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?)

Occupy, Oakland blame each other for violence

Demian Bulwa and Justin Berton
SF Chronicle – Monday, January 30, 2012

Oakland officials and Occupy protesters confronted the fallout from their increasingly toxic conflict on Sunday, a day after the tensions reignited in chaotic, often violent demonstrations that resulted in at least 400 arrests. Once again, each side blamed the other for sparking the violence.

City officials took stock of the damage from Saturday’s clashes, which included injuries to three police officers and several protesters, as well as vandalism inside City Hall.

There, dozens of protesters had broken in with a crowbar, grabbed an American flag, and ignited it on the front steps.

“It’s like a tantrum,” Mayor Jean Quan said while showing the damage inside the building, which included a broken model of City Hall she estimated to be 100 years old. “They’re treating us like a playground.”

Quan said Occupy Oakland had “refused to be nonviolent” and, as a result, was “turning off the rest of the movement.” She said police would step up efforts to obtain restraining orders against some protesters to keep them from approaching City Hall.

Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan, at an afternoon news conference, said 14 outside police agencies had provided mutual aid to Oakland. He did not know the exact number of people arrested.

Outside City Hall on Sunday, some activists who had gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza condemned the officers who responded aggressively Saturday to stop Occupy Oakland from seizing the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and turning it into a headquarters for the movement.

They accused officers of using batons, beanbag bullets and tear gas without justification.

“Whatever qualms people have with Occupy Oakland, it’s the police who have committed the most egregious violence,” said Scott Johnson, a 34-year-old Oakland resident. “They instigated the violence by not allowing us to take over an unused building.”

Future action

Later Sunday, at a “general assembly” in Ogawa Plaza, a few hundred people discussed a variety of proposals for future action, including a call for a general strike on May 1.

But the disorganized nature of Saturday’s demonstration, and the hours-long street skirmishes that were broadcast on television and the Internet, left some protesters with mixed feelings.

Some said the building takeover was poorly planned and that they did not condone the actions of those who vandalized City Hall or threw rocks and other objects at police.

“Today we need to clean up again,” said Rachel Dorney, 23, who said she was pushed to the ground by a police officer during the rally. “I know that people are pissed at the cops and that’s how they act out, but it just hurts Oakland.”

Others said the movement in Oakland has strayed too far from the core message of economic justice.

Officer Johnna Watson, a police spokeswoman, said the officer who suffered the most serious injuries was struck in the face by a bicycle, suffering a cut. A second officer was cut on the hand, she said, and a third had a bruise.

She said some of the arrested protesters were released after being processed through County Jail, while others – including those suspected of felony assault – would be held until they post bail.

Jordan said at least three journalists were temporarily detained Saturday, including Gavin Aronsen, an editorial fellow at Mother Jones, who was taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin before being released.

Watson displayed items she said were recovered from protesters, including knives, mace, scissors and a tear gas canister, as well as a large shield that protesters had used while clashing with police.

The shield was 7 feet wide and 4 feet tall, with corrugated metal siding over a wood frame. Seven metal handles were bolted to the frame, and the words “Commune move in” were painted in red and black.

‘New territory’

“They’re well-built, they’re maneuverable and they’re effective,” Watson said of the shields. “We have to change our police strategies. This is new territory for law enforcement.”

Watson said her department needs its officers to return to their regular duties. Oakland has had five homicides since Friday night.

The police focus on Occupy activists was a cause of concern for Isaac Kaly, who said his Oakland church, Kingdom Life International Ministries, had been broken into late Saturday or early Sunday by burglars. Kaly, an assistant pastor, said church officials called police at 9:45 a.m. Sunday but were told that officers were too busy to respond.

“They said they would come out (Monday) to take a report,” Kaly said. “Everybody deserves service. That’s why we pay the police.”

Saturday’s demonstration, which brought more than 1,000 people downtown, began on a festive note. After a brief noon rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, Occupy supporters, accompanied by a small marching band, filled the street with banners.

Jordan said he did not consider the rally to be peaceful, however, because of marchers’ plan to seize a building and because some of the protesters slashed tires as they walked.

Secret destination

Most marchers had no idea where they were going, because organizers kept secret the building they hoped to seize. Tensions rose as marchers arrived at the long-shuttered convention center just south of Lake Merritt and began tearing down fences.

Police ordered marchers to disperse after someone in the crowd threw what appeared to be a smoke bomb at the officers. The protesters refused, touching off the first of several confrontations.

Police pushed the crowd back down 12th Street toward downtown, and eventually the demonstrators ended up where they had begun – back at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Their numbers smaller than before, the marchers set out from the plaza a second time after dark, heading north. Again it was unclear where the group was headed.

At one point, around 6:30 p.m., police cornered marchers near the YMCA at 24th Street and Broadway, and some of the protesters burst into the building, surprising people working out in the gym.

Nineteen people were arrested earlier in the day. Jordan said 44 people were arrested inside the YMCA, with scores more taken into custody outside.

Police said the mass arrests were necessary because protesters failed to obey orders to disperse. But some protesters said the arrests were made unlawfully, before they had a chance to follow police orders, and suggested that they might take legal action against the city.

Occupy Oakland activists rally for former pariah

Demian Bulwa, SF Chronicle – Monday, January 9, 2012

Occupy Oakland protesters are rallying behind Marcel "Khali" Johnson, a mentally ill man who was arrested during a demonstration outside City Hall last month. Photo: Courtesy Adam Katz / SF

Occupy Oakland protesters are rallying behind Marcel “Khali” Johnson, a mentally ill man who was arrested during a demonstration outside City Hall last month. Photo: Courtesy Adam Katz / SF

PLEASANTON— One obstacle Occupy Oakland faced after building a City Hall encampment came not from authorities but from within – a mentally ill homeless man with a long prison record who witnesses said beat fellow campers in fits of rage. Some were so frightened they moved out.

No one called the police on the man, who called himself “Kali.” Instead, he was banished in an act of freelance justice, with a protester knocking him unconscious with a two-by-four Oct. 18. Police cleared the tent city a week later, and Mayor Jean Quan has cited the incident as a motivating factor.

Times have changed. On Monday, dozens of Occupy Oakland protesters went to a courthouse in Pleasanton to rail against prosecutors for filing assault charges against Marcel “Kali” Johnson, 38. Some said they forgave him and have come to see him as a good man who needs support, not more prison time.

“That’s the beauty of Occupy,” said Laleh Behbehanian, a UC Berkeley graduate student trying to help Johnson. She spoke after telling activists how they can visit him, in groups of four, at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Improved behavior

Johnson returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza outside City Hall a couple of weeks after being knocked unconscious, witnesses said, and did better this time, helping out before police swept through the camp a second time Nov. 14.

Johnson was one of several demonstrators arrested on minor charges there Dec. 16, as Occupy Oakland sought to maintain a 24-hour-a-day vigil. The next day, at Santa Rita Jail, Johnson was accused of assaulting an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy.

According to an affidavit by the arresting officer, Deputy Clifford Malihan, Johnson struggled as a second deputy, referred to as W. Chase, tried to handcuff him and move him between housing units.

Malihan wrote that Johnson first tried to strike Chase in the head, then got behind him and wrapped his arms around him. Malihan said he performed a leg sweep, causing Chase and Johnson to fall, and punched Johnson repeatedly.

Malihan said Chase suffered cuts, bruises and neck pain, while a third deputy suffered a minor concussion from an inadvertent baton strike.

Not-guilty plea

Johnson pleaded not guilty Monday and is scheduled to return to court Feb. 6. Alameda County prosecutors say he has six felony convictions, including one for domestic violence and two for robbery that count as strikes under California’s “three strikes” law, meaning he could face up to 25 years to life in prison.

However, Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said prosecutors had decided – at least for now – not to seek a “three strikes” sentence.

Johnson’s supporters said they believed the alleged assault would not have happened if he had been given proper psychiatric care. Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said the jail had treated Johnson appropriately but would not elaborate, citing Johnson’s privacy rights.

“Are they going to blame someone else for everything he’s done in his criminal history?” Nelson said. “Throughout the course of Occupy we’ve been accused by them of many things regarding the custody and control of inmates.”

‘It’s a family’

Activist Rachel Dorney, 23, said she had tried to calm Johnson in the early days of the Occupy camp, and when he returned after being beaten, she was scared.

“Then, once you’re in our camp, and you’re helping people out, and you’re talking and not being so aggressive, it’s a family,” Dorney said. “And you have to support everyone.”

She added, “There’s a larger issue with the system. The city won’t support people who have mental issues or who are homeless, and they come to us.”

Jaime Omar Yassin, 42, said Johnson had a political awakening through Occupy.

“He’s exactly the kind of person you would hope would get a second chance,” Yassin said, “and contribute his experiences and knowledge to the movement.”


Police arrest Occupy SF protesters

SF Chronicle, December 20, 2011

- Photo: Dylan Entelis, The Chronicle / SF

– Photo: Dylan Entelis, The Chronicle / SF
Occupy SF protester Mark Schwartzis arrested outside the Federal Reserve Building in downtown San Francisco on Monday. Schwartz was one of three protesters issued citations by police for allegedly violating the sit/lie ordinance. Police have complained recently about the drain that all the protests are putting on city resources.