SANTA CRUZ > Police weigh how to approach the illegal River Street occupation
As of Friday, Dec. 2, protestors remain inside the building at 75 River St., which they originally occupied on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The group that is occupying the building states that this activity is separate from the Occupy Santa Cruz movement, as not all Occupiers are involved. On Thursday night, tensions were high as many protestors expected police to show up any moment to try force them out of the building after being informed by a county representative over the phone that this would happen. However, the night passed by without any Santa Cruz Police Department presence other than the occasional squad car that would drive by and get yelled at from protestors who were outside. By the end of the night, several tents had been put up in the front yard of the building, which is positioned across the street from Wells Fargo bank.
One onlooker named Cole Wilsea, who was at the Oakland occupation of the abandoned social security office when the Oakland riot police tear-gassed protestors there, said he felt that police reactions to the Occupy movements were “very relative of the cities they are in.”
“The Oakland police took an aggressive, radical stance because that city sees so much violence every day,” he said. “Santa Cruz is more progressive, so I don’t think the SCPD is going to do anything as drastic as went on in Oakland. Santa Cruz seems to be trying to put on the friendliest image possible while trying to evict people, but obviously the protestors aren’t leaving after just a mere warning that they will be evicted.”
In an open letter to the community sent on Friday, Dec. 2, SCPD Chief Kevin Vogel said that it is neither the interest nor intent of the department to enter into conflict with the protestors, however “we also will not let them stay in this location.” Below is an excerpt from the letter.
“On Wednesday afternoon, without communication or notice to our agency, a group of approximately 30-40 people took over the vacant bank property at River and Water. Within a short period of time another 150 or so people gathered outside in support of the illegal action. We are extremely concerned over this action and view it as a significant escalation over their activities for the last six or so weeks. We’ve attempted to maintain open communication and dialogue with the Occupy Santa Cruz group and always support one’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest. However, you in no way have a First Amendment right to break into a building and squat on private property. We agree with many of you that this is a complete disregard for private property rights and we’re deeply troubled by many of their comments that show remarkable entitlement and lack of interest in serious dialogue.
During the evening we attempted, with the limited staff we had on hand, to secure the front door so no additional people would enter the building. We wanted to provide a notice of trespass and start a formal dialogue with those responsible. However, we were met with threats, encouragement from those within the building to those outside to break through our line and a fortification of the entrance. Our officers observed anarchists, such as those that we believe were engaged in the May Day riot downtown, within the agitated crowd. We knew that there would be no way to ensure the safety of our officers or the protesters if we stayed.
Our first interest is in dialogue to end this peacefully. Yesterday we went down there with a cell phone and provided it to Brent Adams, someone that has been in the media as a leader or representative. We are well aware that if we are forced to go in to clear out the building that officers and protestors may be hurt. This is not our interest or intent. But we also will not let them stay in this location. It is completely unacceptable that they are blatantly disregarding the law and we know that the longer this goes on the more confrontational it can become. Please be assured that we are developing contingency plans to protect people and property.“
Stay tuned to Good Times for more on this as it develops.