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!”

LA marijuana dispensary workers join labor union

Associated Press, 3-24-2012

LOS ANGELES — Marijuana dispensary workers in Los Angeles have joined a labor union to fight for their jobs in an industry that the federal government considers illegal.

Workers at 14 pot shops have formed the “medical cannabis and hemp division” of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770. The 35,000-member union also represents grocery clerks, pharmacists and health care workers.

“This is the next step in professionalizing and stabilizing this new sector of the health care industry,” Local 770 President Rick Icaza said at a news conference Thursday. “This is a positive step towards successfully integrating compassionate care into our system of health care.”

Los Angeles currently caps the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, but the City Council is considering a full ban in light of a court decision that limits its ability to regulate them.

Icaza said the union would use its considerable political weight to pressure officials to find an alternative to a total ban.

That help will be welcome, said Yamileth Bolanos, president of the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance, which represents dispensaries.

“It’s time to bring in some big guns,” she told the Los Angeles Times ( ). “Not only are they threatening access for patients, they’re also trying to take jobs away from our employees.”

Pot clinics flourished in California after voters in 1996 voted to permit people to cultivate and possess marijuana for what became nearly any medical reason. As hundreds of dispensaries opened, cities and counties struggled to interpret the state law, which was light on specifics.

Some communities sought to outlaw the pot clinics under existing zoning and other ordinances, while others tried to regulate them.

Court rulings have further muddied the waters. Last month, a state appellate court ruled that cities cannot use nuisance ordinances to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

A Los Angeles-based appellate court last year struck down Long Beach’s attempt to license marijuana stores, ruling the local ordinance conflicted with federal law. And another appellate court upheld Riverside’s right to close and prohibit dispensaries despite the state’s medical marijuana law.

Early on in the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department said prosecutors wouldn’t focus on pot dispensaries that were following state medical marijuana laws even though the entire industry was considered illegal under federal statutes.

But that attitude has changed, with federal prosecutors arguing that many ostensibly nonprofit clinics are raking in money by supplying marijuana to people without a medical need.

Since last year, federal prosecutors have warned California clinics that they are illegal, filed criminal and civil charges against some owners, and threatened to seize properties that are leased to pot growers. About 140 dispensaries in more than 20 Southern California cities have been told to shut down since October when federal authorities began their statewide effort.

The crackdown hasn’t dissuaded some communities from welcoming pot shops. Earlier this month, Oakland officials granted approval for four new medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, bringing the total to eight. Officials said the four dispensaries would generate $1.7 million in annual tax revenue for the city.

How Many Pot Patients Calif. Has Is Anyone’s Guess

Lisa Leff

Associated Press, Mar 24, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California has seven times as many residents as Colorado, but nearly nine times fewer medical marijuana users, at least on paper.

And as far as record-keepers know, the most populous state, home to the nation’s first and most liberal medical marijuana laws, also has a smaller number of pot patients than Arizona, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana and Oregon.

If those statistics look off-kilter, they should. The reality is that no one knows how many people are legally using marijuana in California because the state — with hundreds of pot stores and clinics that issue medical marijuana recommendations — does not require residents to register as patients. Of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis, it is one of only three without such a requirement.

Now, with California’s medical marijuana industry laboring under a renewed federal crackdown that has forced many storefront dispensaries to close, a state lawmaker has recently introduced legislation that, if passed, would give authorities a much clearer count of the drug’s bona fide consumer base.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, a San Jose Democrat, the bill would require anyone who wants to claim a legal right to use marijuana for health reasons to apply for a county-issued identification card. Marijuana patients also would have to say if they plan to grow their own pot or to purchase it from a patient collective, and name the collective.

The changes are designed to make it easier for police and sheriff’s deputies to identify who can legally consume and grow marijuana and who is using medical marijuana laws as a cover for illegal drug possession or dealing, said Randy Perry, the Peace Officers Research Association of California lobbyist who wrote the bill.

“We are not saying people shouldn’t be smoking it or eating it. The people have spoken, and that’s legal,” Perry said. “We are simply trying to organize it a little bit so our law enforcement officers won’t have to arrest people who can legally have it and won’t have to confiscate their legally grown marijuana plants when there is a lot of crime and a lot of criminals they need to be going after.”

California already has a state-run medical marijuana patient database and program under which counties are required to issue ID cards to eligible patients. The program was adopted by lawmakers in 2003 as a way to protect legitimate medical patients from arrest when caught with marijuana in their cars. The registry system was seen as a way to add a measure of control to California’s voter-approved law seven years earlier decriminalizing marijuana for medical use.

The registry was made voluntary, however, and relatively few patients have signed up. The California Department of Public Health reports that during the fiscal year that ended last June, the state had only 9,637 valid card holders.

In Colorado, by contrast, the state with a medical marijuana regime most similar to California’s but where patient registration and annual renewal is mandatory, the total number of patients holding valid ID cards as of December was 82,089. If California’s patients were registering at that rate, there would be more than 615,000 of them.

Medical marijuana-related businesses are ubiquitous in parts of California. But just three cards were issued for every 100,000 residents last year, putting the state below every state with a mandatory patient registry. New Mexico, with one of the most stringent medical marijuana laws, issued 21 cards for every 100,000.

In California, records show the pot growing region known as Emerald Triangle— Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties— had among the highest rates of registrations in the state.,

Health department officials declined to discuss the registry’s unpopularity, but the reasons for it are hardly a mystery. Although the system was set up with extensive privacy protections, such as identifying patients by numbers instead of names, many people are reluctant to enter personal information on a government database since marijuana still is illegal under federal law.

Medical marijuana advocacy groups have done little to dispel the fears, and some doctors who specialize in writing marijuana recommendations have fueled confusion by providing plastic ID cards that many users mistakenly assume offer the same protections as the county-issued ones until they are in a traffic stop, said San Diego criminal defense lawyer Melissa Bobrow.

“I can understand the reluctance of patients to go on this list, but at the end of the day you want to think of the reality and what the worst-case scenario is,” said Bobrow, who represents pot patients facing drug charges. “The world doesn’t have the budget to go after everybody smoking marijuana in California, even in an economic boom. Is it possible the database could be breached? Anything is possible, but it is so unlikely why not give yourself that extra level of protection?”

The bill requiring California’s pot patients to register is likely to meet fierce opposition from medical marijuana advocates, who have gone to court to block state and local laws limiting how many plants people can legally grow and regulations dictating where and how pot shops can operate.

Retired state Sen. John Vasconcellos, who sponsored the legislation creating the voluntary marijuana patient registry, predicted current lawmakers would be pre-empted from making the program mandatory, even if they approve the bill. The Legislature in his view cannot override voters who established at the ballot box that eligible patients only need a doctor’s recommendation to be legal.

Vasconcellos — himself on the marijuana registry— said he opposes making it mandatory. But he expressed surprise that so few Californians have availed themselves voluntarily of the “free pass” the system was supposed to provide. He was incredulous that in his own Santa Clara County there were at least 150 pot shops a year ago but only 198 residents with current registrations.

“I’m proud to have my card,” he said, “and I’m saddened people don’t feel like they can trust the integrity of the governmental process.”

Santa Cruz County unemployment at 13.6 percent despite the addition of 1,300 jobs

JONDI GUMZSanta Cruz Sentinel:   03/23/2012

SANTA CRUZ — Another 1,300 jobs were added in Santa Cruz County in February, but the labor force grew as well, putting unemployment at 13.6 percent compared to 13.5 percent in January, according to figures posted Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

Unemployment is higher, 15.3 percent, in Monterey County, and lower, 8.8 percent in Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley tech companies.

Santa Clara County is ahead of California, which has a jobless rate of 11.4 percent and nearly matches the nation at 8.7 percent.

Locally the jobs picture is improved from a year ago, when unemployment was 14.8 percent, and two years ago, when it was 15.5 percent.

Santa Cruz County reported 92,300 jobs in February, up 1,300 from January.

All of the increase came in nonfarm jobs, with 500 in private education and health services, 200 in business and professional services and 200 in retail and wholesale trade.

Construction, devastated by the collapse of the real estate market, increased from 2,600 to 2,700. Since the numbers are rounded up to the next 100, the increase could be smaller but even so it’s the first gain since March 2011.

The industry was consistently at 2,800 jobs from April to November of 2011, dropping back to 2,700 in December and 2,600 in January.

The last time this sector saw more than 3,000 jobs was in October 2010.

“Looking at month over, all but the farm jobs are either zero or positive,” said state labor analyst Jorge Villalobos.

All of the numbers were similar to 10-year averages, except in private education and health services, which added 200 more jobs than usual.

Compared to a year ago, Santa Cruz County has added 3,100 jobs, up 3.5 percent.

The leisure and hospitality sector is much healthier compared to a year ago, adding 1,300 jobs including 800 in food service and drinking places. The rebound is smaller in Monterey County, which has a strong tourism component but over the year added only 600 leisure and hospitality jobs including 300 in food and drinking places.

Other gains were in professional and business services, private education and health services, retail and manufacturing.

The reason unemployment inched upward despite an increase in people working in Santa Cruz County and commuting elsewhere is the size of the labor force.

The February labor force was reported as 151,200, up from 149,100 in January. Villalobos said one possibility is that previously discouraged workers when surveyed said they are looking for work and thus are counted in the labor force.

Jury convicts Santa Cruz man of four counts of illegal lodging

by Jessica M. Pasko
Santa Cruz Sentinel 03/22/2012

SANTA CRUZ – A Santa Cruz County jury has convicted Gary Johnson of four counts of illegal lodging for sleeping on a bench outside the courthouse.

Johnson, 47, was sleeping next to a sign proclaiming that sleeping is not a crime, a reference to the state law against lodging outside. He and his supporters argue that the state is infringing upon his constitutional to protest the law, which they believe persecutes the county’s homeless population.

After a two-day trial, a jury on Thursday morning found Johnson guilty on all counts. He could face as much as six months in jail per charge when he is sentenced next week.

Johnson was arrested four times in December and January after refusing sheriff deputies’ orders to pick up his sleeping bag and move along. Deputy Daniel Robbins testified during trial that Johnson was arrested twice during one deputy’s shift, first about 10 p.m. and then after being released from jail about four hours later.

Johnson was convicted of the same charge last year, a misdemeanor violation of a state law against lodging outside, after the Peace Camp 2010 demonstrations. The conviction is being appealed.

The county in November instituted a curfew prohibiting anyone not on county business from being at the County Governmental Center from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The county’s principal administrative analyst, Dinah Phillips, testified that the action was taken after safety and sanitation problems during the Occupy Santa Cruz demonstrations.

“Poverty continues to be crime,” Ed Frey, Johnson’s attorney, said after the verdict. “The judge narrowed the issues that the jury could consider so severely.”

Frey was precluded from using the necessity defense, a legal defense that under state law argues that criminal conduct took place to avoid an even greater harm. Johnson was protesting the law to protect the rights of homeless who have nowhere else to sleep, he argued. Prosecutors rejected that argument and Frey was not allowed to use it in the trial.

“There is nowhere you can sleep legally if you don’t have a property right, so poverty is a crime,” Frey said.

Judge John Gallagher denied Frey’s request to allow Johnson released from custody pending his sentencing on March 29. Prosecutor Shannon Murphy had argued against Frey’s request, citing Johnson’s history of disobeying the law.

“I’ve been angry for a long time about the way you treat homeless people,” Frey told the judge Thursday.

Man on trial for sleeping on bench outside Santa Cruz County Governmental Center

Santa Cruz Sentinel 03/20/2012

SANTA CRUZ – Trial testimony began Tuesday for a 47-year-old man accused of four counts of illegal lodging for sleeping on a bench outside the courthouse at the County Governmental Center, beside a sign proclaiming that sleeping is not a crime.

County officials and sheriff’s deputies disagree with that statement, however, and Gary Allen Johnson was arrested four times in December and January after refusing deputies’ orders to pick up his sleeping bag and move along.

Johnson was arrested twice during one deputy’s shift, first about 10 p.m., and then after being released from jail about four hours later, deputy Daniel Robbins testified.

Defense attorney Ed Frey asked whether Johnson was obstructing or damaging something. Robbins said he was not.

Johnson was convicted of the same charge last year, a misdemeanor violation of a state law against lodging outside, after the Peace Camp 2010 demonstrations.

He was out of custody pending an appeal when he began sleeping on the bench in December.

After repeated arrests, a judge set his bail at $5,000 and Johnson is being held in County Jail, Frey said.

Frey, 71, said he took Johnson’s case pro bono, because he believes the law is unjust and unconstitutional.

“There is nowhere you can sleep legally if you don’t have a property right, so poverty is a crime,” he said. “People have a right to sleep. Many, many constitutional provisions give that right.”

Frey also said that “lodging” is too vague a description of the illegal behavior.

Prosecutors Shannon Murphy and Judith Jane Stark-Modlin called the county’s principal administrative analyst as a witness.

Dinah Phillips testified that the county in November instituted a curfew prohibiting anyone not on county business from being at the County Governmental Center from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. That action was taken after numerous safety and sanitation problems during the Occupy Santa Cruz demonstrations, she said. Those demonstrators erected a large campsite on city property adjacent to the county buildings and a smaller camping area on the courthouse steps along Water Street.

Several no trespassing signs were posted with the curfew hours, Phillips said.

Frey asked if the county had consulted anyone about the constitutional rights that might be violated by such a curfew, and she said they had, that county counsel had advised them it was within their rights.

Murphy asked sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Freitas, who had warned Johnson, whether Johnson had said he had any purpose for being there other than protesting, or whether he said he did not have anywhere else to go. He did not, Freitas said.

Johnson, a tall, thin man with dark gray hair and a beard, said quietly beside his attorney Tuesday.

Testimony in the jury trial is expected to continue through Thursday, in front of Judge John Gallagher.

Frey said his client could face as much as six months jail time for each of the four violations, if found guilty.

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.”

Hikers AND bikers should enjoy Pogonip

As We See It:

SC Sentinel:   03/14/2012

We get that hikers in Pogonip don’t want to share trails with mountain bikers.

We also get that bicycle advocates push hard for what they want, often get it because they are good at organizing and applying pressure, but sometimes leave a trail of resentment behind them.

But their plan to pay for and build a 4-foot-wide trail in the city’s Pogonip greenbelt adjacent to UC Santa Cruz and Highway 9 is one that should be accepted, even if some of the touted benefits of the path are a bit overstated.

The 1.5-mile trail has already been approved by the advisory Parks and Recreation Commission, and next will be taken up the Santa Cruz City Council, either in two weeks or at another date, probably in April.

The proposal for the trail is the culmination of a longtime dream by the biking community, who want more trails in city-owned property. A Sentinel poll last week showed overwhelming support for the bike trail. The trail through Arana Gulch, another Santa Cruz greenbelt, was supported by bicyclists, whose efforts paid off when the state Coastal Commission finally approved the path earlier this year.

The Pogonip trail proposal winds its way up a couple of social hills. One is already occupied by a vocal environmental/conservationist community, veterans of the efforts in decades past to establish the greenbelt. This group likes the quiet and relative unobtrusiveness of allowing only pedestrian access.

These folks have legitimate concerns about environmental problems associated with bikes. It’s more than likely that the hikers and horseback riders who prefer Pogonip the way it is now in terms of trail use will not use the new bike trail. That’s OK. They can continue to use existing trails.

The other issue is the prevalence of crime in Pogonip — specifically drug use and drug dealing, especially heroin and methamphetamine.

The situation got so bad that the Sentinel devoted much of a special report two years ago to investigating the so-called “Heroin Hill” that was making Pogonip off limits except to narcotics officers making arrests.

Since then, aided by money from a tax city voters assessed on themselves, police and park rangers have made major inroads in the Pogonip drug trade. While down significantly, however, vestiges remain.

Another issue in Pogonip has been illegal camping, a problem that continues, as transients and people seeking a place to sleep outside of the long arm of the law often pitch tents in the greenbelt. Unfortunately, this prohibited use also is often accompanied by illegal campfires occasionally leading to wildfires, trash left behind and a host of other environmental degradations.

Will a bike path solve these issues? Yes and no. Yes, in that the more public use, the better. That’s why citizen groups trying to drive out illegal activities from public spaces back the biking trail.

No, because mountain bikers speeding by are not really going to deter wily drug dealers, not to mention illegal campers, tucked back in the shadows and trees.

But this is public property, and a bike path absolutely fits in with public use and access. So we support both pedestrian trails AND the biking trail. While the city obviously does not have the money to make the bike trail happen, bike-path advocates say they’ll raise the $25,000 or so needed to complete the trail and provide the volunteers to maintain it. Based on their track record, they’ll do both — and we urge the council to approve their proposal.

Attorneys for two accused in 75 River St. takeover say their clients were there as journalists

Santa Cruz Sentinel:   03/09/2012

SANTA CRUZ – Two men facing charges in connection with the takeover of a former bank are slated for a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Their attorneys say the men are photojournalists and were working in that capacity when the alleged violations took place.

Alex Darocy, Bradley Stuart Allen and nine other people are charged with two felony counts of vandalism and conspiracy, and two misdemeanor counts of trespassing. The charges stem from the takeover of the building at 75 River St. late last year. In that incident, a group claiming to be acting “anonymously and autonomously” but in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz remained in the building for nearly three days before leaving peacefully.

Darocy and Allen, who pleaded not guilty to the charges last month, are photojournalists who have done work for a number of outlets, including Santa Cruz Indymedia, according to defense attorneys George Gigarjian and Ben Rice.

Allen has worked as a freelance photojournalist covering social issues for more than a decade, Rice said. His attendance of Occupy protests in Santa Cruz were in the capacity of a photojournalist, with the sole purpose of documenting events through his photography, he said.

Likewise, Girgarjian says his client was documenting a news event.

“Alex is an established photojournalist and we’re in the position that he was there in that capacity,” Gigarjian said of the charges.

Rice has reached out to the National Press Photographers Association, of which Allen is a member.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the organization, said he has been dealing with similar situations around the country as dozens of journalists have been swept up in mass arrests at protests.

“I think the normal tension between the police and the press has been exacerbated by the Occupy movement,” he said, adding that the organization is hoping the court will dismiss these charges.

Gigarjian and Rice opted to split off their defendants from the nine other defendants for the purpose of the preliminary hearing. The rest of the defendants are scheduled to begin their hearing in April.