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Snapshots of a Riot

blog_dirt_riotOne GT reporter shares a first-hand account of Saturday night’s riotous events
My Saturday night started peacefully enough—studying at a cafe, and later deciding to take a walk with a friend. Around 11 p.m., as we returned to Pacific Avenue from our stroll to the Wharf, we heard the murmurs of a crowd and went to see what the commotion was about. The first thing I saw was a shattered shop window next to Lulu Carpenter’s, and two guys in sweatshirts pulling a mannequin out through the broken glass, smiles on their faces. On Lulu’s outside patio, a grown man in a business shirt and tie was seated in a chair, clutching his face and crying. A shard of glass, it appeared, had hit him in the eye and roughly 30 people were gathered around watching while someone poured milk over his face in an attempt to expel the glass.

I asked around and learned that the good-intentioned “May Day Street Party” had turned into a violent mob riot. I continued to walk down the Avenue, to the Clock Tower where the mob was now conglomerated. Under the tower people were spreading the word: “Thanks for coming, but the cops are on the way, it’s a good time to disperse.” Looking around, I noticed many people had cuts on their ankles and arms, likely from the spilled glass. Everyone was yelling. The atmosphere was thick with anger and chaos.

blog_dirt_riot1I watched a slight young woman with dreadlocks get into a shouting match with three very big guys. They pushed her into the middle of Water Street, followed and surrounded her, kicking and shouting while she tried to fight back. Finally a few observers, also male, jumped in to pull the big men off of the girl. I surveyed the scene. The anger was still mounting. I wandered back across the street and could hear the faint sirens of cop cars. Suddenly, out of the Rush Inn bar stormed a group of local men with buzzed hair and T-Shirts. They began to curse the mob with phrases like, “This is Santa Cruz, this is OUR town, bunch of dirty idiots.”

Nobody was stepping in to subdue the situation; hatred erupted from all angles, and cops were nowhere to be seen. I had a brief moment of thinking, “This is what the end of the world will look like.” It was as if all of the tensions that had been brewing between Santa Cruz’s various social groups had finally boiled over. All it took, it seemed, was a small group of anarchists shattering shop windows and tagging things like, “Destroy What Destroys,” to reveal the underlying tensions that sit bubbling beneath Pacific Avenue every day: students vs. locals vs. transients vs. cops. As an onlooker, my personal opinions and social niche aside, it was apparent that the anger that subtly brews in the town—the various factions with their various agendas—came to a head in the riot.

When the cops finally arrived, they lined Pacific Avenue in full riot gear. The entire riot crowd had long since dispersed and the police stood there, batons ready, looking utterly confused. Those left on the Avenue were innocent witnesses who began shouting at the cops, “Where were you an hour ago when we needed you?” Without any explanation to the remaining crowd of concerned witnesses, the police proceeded to form a barricade across the entire avenue and march all of the remaining pedestrians off of the street.

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