When the Women’s Marches sprung up around the country after the election of Donald Trump, it was remarkable how many of the organizers of these events that were drawing tens of thousands of people had no real experience in putting together direct actions. The circumstances of the times had made them instant activists, and social media had given them the tools to do it successfully.
Nobody knew back in 2016 if the sudden engagement of new activists on a massive scale would be a historical blip or a new model. But here we are four years later, and circumstances again have created a need for someone to step up to channel the community’s calls for social justice. As the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police sparked protests around the country, a new generation of activists here in Santa Cruz have done just that.
Even in the ever-evolving world of political protest, people sometimes get used to a certain establishment, the “usual suspects” who have been organizing around many different causes for years. So it’s no wonder that one of the questions we get asked most about the Black Lives Matter movement locally is “Who’s organizing these protests?” In Susan Landry’s cover story this week, you’ll meet three of these young activists: Ayo Banjo, Esabella Bonner and Thairie Ritchie. I hope you’ll take the time to read what they have to say about their inspirations, the continuity of political action from generation to generation, and their visions for a movement.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
SO MUCH FOR SAFETY
Re: “The Science of Safety” (GT, 7/8): Wallace Baine’s interesting report on compliance with anti-Covid regulations describes how the county is shrugging off local non-use of masks and carefree meetings of friends. I have seen this in action in daily walks down 30th Avenue to Pleasure Point. Of the 12-15 fellow walkers I meet, at most three or four will have masks, and casual crowds are frequent around the surfer’s beach-entry point. From my conversations with some of them, many people are unaware that masks are required out of doors.
What surprised me most is county health officer Dr. Gail Newel’s breathtaking remark that “people are not willing to be governed anymore in that regard, and we want to recognize that by removing that restriction.” Wow. Equally provocative is the response of Mr. A. Marm Kilpatrick, who argues cogently for masks and social distancing and then observes that, it being summer, “let’s just acknowledge [noncompliance] is going to happen anyway and direct people to do it in a safe way.”
So much for safety. This double message has a far greater effect on compliance than a dim memory of those halcyon March days when we were told not to wear masks. The result of this attitude has been a local spike in coronavirus infections.
If local officials would put less effort into encouraging noncompliance and a little more into broadcasting the need for masks and social distancing via stories in the local press and radio, ads on buses, and freeway warnings—like Arizona’s—insisting on the need for concerted action against the virus, keeping it up day by day, we might see some real progress. Newel and Marm are apparently willing to give up without a fight. You don’t have to cite people—just tell them, over and over, until they get it.
Cliff Barney | Santa Cruz
Pollution is Not on Hold
Re: “Trashed By Covid” (GT, 7/8): Plastics are everywhere—at your home, workplace, favorite take out place, and the deepest depths of our ocean. But did you know it’s also in you? A study done for WWF in the last year found that we ingest an average of a credit card’s worth of plastic each week. Can you imagine being forced to eat a credit card a week? The reality is that we already are, and have been for some time. Instead of breaking down, plastic eventually breaks into tiny microplastics that pollute our ocean, food, water, and even air. The most common plastics found in our ocean are bottle caps, straws, food/drink containers, and single use plastic bags. Pollution is not going anywhere. It will still be here when Covid-19 is long gone, so we need to reduce our use or find non-plastic alternatives like glass or metal straws, reusable bags, and refillable bottles.
Anika Shorr | Santa Cruz
Reality vs. RTC
The RTC (Regional Transportation Commission) is eating lots of crow lately, now that the third train operator on the rail corridor is backing out of their contract to run freight trains, tourist trains and eventually passenger trains on the Santa Cruz Branch line. Hiring Progressive was a mistake from the start. Blinded by an obsession with archaic rail transport, a majority of RTC commissioners voted to sign a 10-year contract, hoping to lock their plan in place for the next decade, essentially preventing any real public use of the corridor in a quest for an infeasible train. Reality has now caught up with bad policy.
Between 2010 and 2021 the RTC will have spent $25 million “maintaining the rail corridor,”
while our roads deteriorate, Hwy 1 is overly congested and METRO is failing. And what’s ahead?
You guessed it—another expensive study that is presented with a bias towards trains.
We need a change in leadership on the RTC.
Buzz Anderson | Santa Cruz