Santa Cruz student-journalist observes a movement that hits home
As Sarah Naugle and four fellow student-journalists watched hundreds of Oakland School District teachers in matching shirts rally together for Occupy Oakland’s Nov. 2 demonstration, she battled with something inside. She’d driven in from Santa Cruz to report, not participate. She had every intention to remain an unattached observer, she says, but the scene hit home.
“It’s getting to be increasingly more difficult to separate yourself from [the Occupy movement] because you’re realizing that so much of it is not just one aspect of your life but pieces of your entire life,” says Naugle, whose mother is a teacher with master’s degree in special education. “It’s just getting closer and closer to every facet of my home.”
Oakland is one of the most active sites in the Occupy movement that has swept the globe, and teachers make up a significant portion. Nearly 20 percent of Oakland’s teachers scheduled substitutes and took a personal day out of their own vacation time to join the demonstration, according to a Nov. 2 report from ABC Local San Francisco.
Naugle lives in Santa Cruz, where she works at the Penny Ice Creamery and co-owned Picnic Basket Restaurant. She attends UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) where she works as the campus desk editor for the student-run newspaper, City on a Hill Press (CHP). Naugle was on the job for CHP at the Nov. 2 demonstration.
As a young journalist who has covered student movements, Naugle says she is inspired to see the Occupy movement spread throughout the UCs.
“Recent events, such as the Occupy movements across the country, the occupations at each of the UCs, and the overzealous—to say the least—police response, have really necessitated a reexamination of our nation’s academic, economic and law enforcement systems,” Naugle writes in an email to GT, referring in particular to the widely publicized police use of pepper spray on nonviolent UC Davis student demonstrators on Nov. 18.
“As an editor who has written about and followed student movements for a few years, I am excited and inspired to see the wide array of critical and pressing concerns, which have for a long time been separate, joining together and creating a stronger movement,” she says.
As the Occupy movement trudges into winter, the rain and snow are not the only downpour on the cause. Amid complaints around the country of health and safety hazards at protest camps, a series of hard police actions fell on nationwide Occupiers in November. Police armed with tear gas and clad in riot gear cleared out Oakland’s encampment for the second time on Nov. 14. Oakland’s police staged a previous raid on the Oakland encampment Oct. 25, but Mayor Jean Quan allowed protesters to re-establish the tents. However, Quan allowed officials to complete their raid in November.
The raid at the Occupy Oakland camp came a day after police in Portland, Ore., arrested more than 50 people while closing down its camp.
Occupy Wall Street—mother to the innumerable branch-off occupations—lost its tents and sleeping bags in a police raid on Nov. 15. The Society Of Professional Journalists condemned the arrests of reporters carried out by the New York Police Department during this raid, which many are calling a media blackout.
Following a break-in and occupation of a vacant bank building on River Street, Santa Cruz police chief Kevin Vogel pledged to crack down on the occupiers on Sunday, Dec. 3. The following day at the Occupy Santa Cruz camp at San Lorenzo Park, after a photographer was accosted for taking photographs of the camp, according to police, two were arrested. Two more Occupy Santa Cruz participants were arrested early Monday, Dec. 5 after chaining themselves to the courthouse steps on Water Street. On the previous day, deputies warned the group about possible trespassing citations if the group stayed there overnight.
For Naugle, who is just beginning her career in journalism, the lack of a strong press presence at the Occupy headquarters is all the more reason for reporters to show up.
When Naugle’s mother tried to dissuade her from attending the Occupy Oakland action on Nov. 2, noting that it would be dangerous, Naugle asked her mother in response what she had thought of news coverage of the protests so far.
“My mom said, ‘I think it’s pretty poor, and scary, and I can tell they’re misrepresenting things,’” says Naugle. “I said, ‘That’s why I feel like I need to go.’ I don’t trust what I’m reading, and it’s my obligation to be there and correctly report.”
Naugle notes, for example, that she believes the number of Occupiers reported present in Oakland on Nov. 2 was inaccurate.
“I couldn’t believe how many were reporting 3,000,” she says. “I was at the very front and I looked back and couldn’t see the tail end of it. That’s not 3,000. It was closer to eight or 10,000. I couldn’t even make out individual bodies they were so far away. … It was really sad and really scary to watch the police and the mass media deliberately construe things, and not accurately report.”
Despite increased police raids, Naugle thinks the Occupy movement will continue.
She uses the example of the Kerr Hall occupation at UCSC in 2009, part of a series of UC-wide occupations, in which many students were charged and fined. Students were protesting increased cuts to the education budget in California.
“Kerr Hall really knocked the wind out of those people,” says Naugle. “I don’t think the two are directly correlated, but I think it’s pretty ironic that the next occupy movement that’s sprung up has been all over the entire nation. It really is crazy to me that everyone had this lull and it came back even stronger. I think that with this stuff it’s going to be a long, long, long process. … There’s always going to be something to report on with this.”