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Cleaning the Slate

altSANTA CRUZ >  OSC discussions in the aftermath of River Street occupation

On Saturday night, Dec. 3, protestors left the building they had inhabited at 75 River St. after confirming with the Santa Cruz Police Department earlier that afternoon that they would leave after cleaning up. Police reported that when they arrived at 9:30 p.m., nobody was inside, but that there was substantial damage to the interior of the building.

The offshoot group that held the building since Wednesday, Nov. 30 spoke with the rest of Occupy Santa Cruz on both Saturday and Sunday about various issues, including the divide between the OSC General Assembly and the building occupiers over the actions taken that Wednesday night. OSC members who were opposed to the actions taken by their fellow protestors were mostly concerned about the safety of people inside the building and back at the courthouse, as well as losing support from the city due to the actions of the building occupiers.

The OSC press release about the 75 River Street occupation states: “While the Occupy Santa Cruz General Assembly does not support the uncensored and autonomous action of reclaiming 75 River Street, OSC does support the need for community space. Individuals are encouraged to participate in any and all direct actions their conscience compels them to support. Because some OSC individuals do support the reclaiming of 75 River Street, OSC invites the entire community including 75 River, business owners, city officials and unions to discuss the issue of reclaiming public and unused spaces at OSC’s General Assembly at the Courthouse at 2:30 p.m. for the next four weeks.”

During the smaller meeting on Saturday, Dec. 3 and the larger public one on Sunday, Dec. 4 OSC members cited rumors about people involved in the River Street occupation who wanted to set fire to the building, as well as people who intentionally broke glass and sprayed graffiti. At this point, these rumors have not been proven as truth. What was certain is that OSC members who were against the River Street occupation were upset with their fellow protestors over putting people in harm’s way.

“There were a number of reasons why we decided to leave on Saturday, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the rest of OSC pled with us on Saturday morning to make sure nobody got hurt,” one man who declined to give his name told GT. “SCPD had been in contact with us via a cell phone, and they made sure to remind us that they were not opposed to using force to get us out of the building.”

He went on to say that he felt that what he and the other building occupiers did was “epic,” and that their actions have inspired other Occupy movements, specifically in Seattle where people recently took over an abandoned warehouse.

The main point that all people present at the meetings emphasized was the importance of maintaining the solidarity and integrity of OSC. Occupiers acknowledged that this weekend brought a physical setback to their movement, but not a necessarily a moral one.

The physical setback being referred to not only involves the loss of the building on River Street. On Sunday morning, Dec. 4, county sheriffs removed the Geodesic Dome (dubbed the “Interplanetary Occudome”) that had become an OSC landmark where it sat in front of the courthouse steps, as well as a number of tents that were on the front lawn. They placed a temporary fence around the front area of the courthouse. At the time of this writing, the encampment in San Lorenzo Park still remains intact.

One OSC member explained to the rest of the group during Sunday’s meeting that he felt that the county had wanted to remove the dome ever since their movement started and that their actions on Sunday were unrelated to the River Street occupation. He felt that OSC had been “misled into the guise that the county was going to tolerate [them].” On that subject, another OSC member stated that they had been told by the sheriffs that they would get their confiscated property back later in the week.

By the end of the meeting on Sunday, all of OSC agreed that the occupation of the building on River Street seriously addressed a need for community space. “More students came down to check out the River Street occupation this week and it’s because different types of actions attract different types of people,” said one attendee. “A diversity of tactics is a good thing, and this week gained the Occupy movement a lot of attention.”

The meeting also touched on ideas for future actions, including addressing foreclosures. “We have the hearts and the guts to defend people with foreclosed homes,” another attendee said. “And if you think that what we did was not successful, then this very conversation we’re having right now with more people than ever before proves you wrong.”

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