SANTA CRUZ > Police clear out tents and debris from Occupy Santa Cruz gathering
On Thursday morning, Dec. 8, the Santa Cruz Police Department cleared out the area in San Lorenzo Park where, for the past two months, dozens of homeless people and protestors had camped in solidarity with the Occupy Santa Cruz movement. The Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation and Public Works staff, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, and Capitola, Scotts Valley, Watsonville, and UC Santa Cruz police aided them.
Around 7:15 a.m., police dressed in full riot gear began removing the 20 or so tents in the park, as well as approximately eight tons of trash left in the area. Six people were arrested in the raid on the encampment, primarily for charges of obstructing and delaying police officers. Parks staff estimate that the park suffered around $5,000 in damage and that an additional $15,000-$20,000 had been required for cleaning up the area since the occupation began in October.
On Monday, Dec. 5, police had issued an evacuation notice to the people in the encampment, telling them that they had until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to leave the park. The eviction notice came as a response to the Santa Cruz County Courthouse requesting that the area be cleared out and restored. An official press release issued on Monday by Santa Cruz County representative Dinah Philips stated:
“Since Nov. 2, 2011, Santa Cruz County has recorded 132 reports of incidents on or near the County Government Center, including drug use, threatening behavior, vandalism, public defecation and urination, and public drunkenness. In addition, the Santa Cruz Superior Court has requested that the county take whatever steps are necessary to restore the grounds surrounding the courthouse to a safe and healthy environment for the jurors, public and court and county staff.”
On Wednesday night, Dec. 7, San Lorenzo Park was buzzing with activity. Onlookers came to potentially watch the campers get evicted, but when it became apparent that the police were not going to come through that evening, Occupy Santa Cruz held an emergency General Assembly meeting to discuss what actions they would take before SCPD came to clear out the area.
During the meeting, OSC members discussed tactics they would use to stand up to police when they came. Some of the proposals included linking arms with the campers, putting up barriers of free speech signs, and even retaking the bank building at 75 River St. Occupiers also discussed further actions they would take to protest the actions of the city, including finding a new place to camp out and marching to the city’s Parks Department Office at noon today, Dec. 8.
“The evacuation notice does not state how the encampment in San Lorenzo Park is a public nuisance or an imminent life safety hazard,” an official press release passed out by OSC on Wednesday night stated. “The OSC encampment is anything but a nuisance to the people of Santa Cruz. It has become, like the San Lorenzo River that winds past it, a reliable life force at the center of town. Since Oct. 6, 2011 it has served as a venue for the people of Santa Cruz to petition the government for a redress of grievances as part of the multinational Occupy movement. … This is our home. This evacuation notice not only undermines our Constitutional Rights, but also our more basic Human Rights.”
Campers began to leave Wednesday afternoon after a temporary restraining order filed by attorney Ed Frey against the evacuation notice was denied.
“The city pays more to ignore the homeless problem going on then it could be paying to solve it,” an OSC member who identified himself as Chris told GT. “The camp has become a real community in the past couple months. When people observe others that are at a worse state than they are in, they tend to take care of them. That’s what this community is founded on.”
Another man that had been camping in San Lorenzo Park named Frank saw the situation differently. “This camp doesn’t stand for anything. They’re all just existing here. They don’t even have respect for each other. When you spend a few nights down here, you start to pick up on that.”
OSC affirms that despite the cleanup of the park today, they plan to continue protesting.