Thursday, December 27, 2012

Labor Gives Management Bag of Coal at La Playa Carmel Holiday Workers Rally

As the holiday season hit full force at the shopping/vacation destination of Carmel by the Sea, former La Playa Hotel workers continued to remain hopeful that some of those in attendance at a labor rally at the hotel on December 20 would receive back the jobs that they lost over a year ago. Since the hotel re-opened over the summer, after a costly remodeling job initiated by its new owner, only three of the former 113 workers have been re-hired. At the holiday-themed rally there was some buzz around the idea that La Playa Carmel may soon be looking to hire new workers in its housekeeping department.

Former workers have held demonstrations at the hotel for over a year now. One worker who spoke at the holiday rally had been a housekeeper at La Playa for 30 years until she lost her job when the hotel was shutdown and sold in late 2011.

At the rally, workers and community members sang classic Christmas carols that were updated for the labor theme and an organizer with Unite Here Local 483, the union that represents hospitality workers in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out candy from a basket to enthusiastic picketers. 

Some individuals carried and shook bells as they picketed La Playa, and a small group assisted by Santa delivered a bag of coal to hotel management, who brought it inside the hotel only to bring it back out and return it back to demonstrators a few minutes later. 

La Playa's management monitored the noise level of the demonstration with a decibel meter, which they have done at all of the labor rallies held at the hotel since November 1. Additionally, management hired a videographer to videotape the events in their entirety during the labor rallies held by former workers at the hotel on October 17 and November 1. 

Decible Meter

The increased surveillance of the former workers by the hotel's staff was instituted following an incident where a hotel guest reported to Carmel police that two demonstrators at the October 2 workers rally 'touched' him and got in the way of his family and him as they were entering the hotel.

I was on scene for the entire incident, I observed the guest report it to the police, and I videotaped it all. From my perspective, it is clear that no one 'touched' the guest in any way, nor did they prevent his group from entering the hotel.

The events of that day were subsequently blown out of proportion in the local newspaper, the Carmel Pine Cone, which did not have a reporter on scene, but none-the-less reported that an 'assault' had occurred. Quotes in the publication made it unclear whether the La Playa's management was being dishonest in their interview about the incident, whether the hotel guest had modified his story form the police interview to the newspaper interview, or if the paper itself had over-stated the information it received.

The Carmel Police department also appears to have reacted to that incident, and has increased their patrols at the La Playa rallies. Officers have at times parked their vehicles nearby for long periods at a time, as they watch on as workers picket the hotel. This was the case on December 20; officers arrived on scene near the end of the rally. 

It is unclear whether the false allegations and the bad publicity has affected the public's perception of labor's efforts. A boycott of the hotel was announced by the former workers on July 6, and rumors of a low vacancy rate and even a possible closure of La Playa have circulated among those in attendance at the last few rallies.

Unite Here has fought for first right of refusal for the former workers as jobs become available at La Playa, but according to union officials the only offer made by the hotel to accommodate those looking for their jobs back was made several months ago, and was an offer to interview them, without any guarantees.

The December 20 rally saw far less interactions with those apparently arriving to lodge at the hotel, but quite a few guests, some with holiday-season wrapped gifts, arrived for a function that evening.

To view more photos and videos, see the article about the rally I originally published on Indybay:

Monday, December 17, 2012

On Being Jewish and Supporting Palestinians

Sara Smith speaks at a rally at UC Santa Cruz on November 27, 2012 opposing the recent violence that has occurred against Palestinians in Gaza by Israel. Smith is presently a teaching assistant for a UCSC course on the civil rights movement, and she declared at the beginning of her speech, "I am Jewish and I stand with the people of Palestine, I am also a queer Jew...and I stand with the queer people of Palestine."

On November 27, approximately 75 UC Santa Cruz students attended a rally held at Quarry Plaza to speak out against the recent violence against Palestinians in Gaza by the state of Israel. Students described the recent attacks as an, "overwhelmingly one-sided aggression on the part of the Israeli state, supported centrally by the U.S. government, and part of a long, continuing history of Israel's oppression of Palestine."

Israel's recent aggression, which occurred over a seven day period, ended with the deaths of 5 Israelis and more than 140 Palestinians, with at least 26 children and more than 70 civilians among the Palestinian dead. Students pointed out that this reality is far from the picture that major U.S. media outlets present as, "a back-and-forth conflict between two comparable sides." Students opposed President Obama's declaration that Israel is exercising its, "right to defend itself," as well as the massive financial and military expenditures by the United States that enable Israel.

Two major points students hoped to communicate at the rally were that the treatment of Palestinians by the state of Israel is comparable to the conditions of those under other apartheid systems of rule, and that the largest refugee population in the world is currently comprised of Palestinians, with 1.1 million of the total 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza considered refugees.


Sara Smith asserted that as a Jew, it was almost her personal responsibility to defend the Palestinian people in their current struggles. "As Jews, we should stand with Palestinians as they resist the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," she said.

"As Jews our history should have taught us to stand with Palestinians as they resist a system of Israel apartheid, a system reminiscent in very clear and very concrete ways of South African apartheid, a system reminiscent of Jim Crow segregation in our own country."

Smith pointed out that as a Jew, she could visit Israel at any time she wanted to and claim citizenship, even though she has never been there before. "Because I was born Jewish, the Israeli state has given me the so called right of return.....Palestinian refugees have no such right."

Smith detailed how Palestinian refugees expelled from their lands in 1948 and 1967 currently make up the largest refugee population in the world, and that many are still living in poverty in refugee camps. She described Jewish settlers as "good colonizers" as they have settled on some of the best land, and have claimed access to water and other vital resources. She noted the giant wall that the state of Israel is building around the West Bank, and discussed how check points exist on segregated Jewish and Palestinian only roads, which has the effect of cutting off Palestinians from medical services. Overall, she said, Arabs have rights in only 35% of the West Bank.

"So Jews have obviously have had, historically, the right to resist anti-Semitism, but not at the expense of other people, not on the backs of Palestinians."

Smith concluded her remarks by stating that, "It is Our responsibility as Jews to take inspiration from our own history of resisting discrimination to stand with the people of Palestine as they resist occupation and apartheid. As Jews in the U.S. we must not be blinded by the lies of our own government, by an allegiance to a Jewish state that was founded on the backs on another people."

The rally began with the acknowledgement that the land that it was being held on was occupied Ohlone land, and the event was described as having been organized by a "group of concerned students," with involvement by the UCSC student organization Students against U.S. Imperialism.

Approximately 6-12 students expressing support for the state of Israel also were present at the rally. They stood quietly at the periphery of the event, and several of them held signs with messages such as, "Israel Left Gaza in 2005," "Peace Takes Two," and "We're Ready to Talk Anytime."

The Palestinian supporters did not appear to communicate with those supporting Israel during the rally, though there was at least one brief and heated argument between several students before the rally began.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Confederate Battle Flags Displayed in Felton Shop Window with Message: "History, Not Hate"

A Thanksgiving trip to The Witch's Cottage, an antique shop located in Felton, revealed what has been a slow moving topic of discussion as of late in the small town located in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains: the shop is currently displaying two Confederate flags in its front windows, along with a hand written statement taped nearby that reads: "History...Not Hate.

One is what appears to be a full sized replica-version of a Confederate battle flag, and the other is a smaller sticker labeled as being produced in 1999 by Eagle Emblems Inc., which sells a variety of military-style, "emblematic" products. 

The shop is located along Highway 9, and in addition to the Confederate flags, two American flags also hang, and visible are stickers with statements supporting the American troops, and a sticker denoting membership in the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce. 

The main shop window is full of what look to be 1970s and 1980s era pop culture curios.

It's uncertain what the "local" reaction will be to the Confederate flags, or if there has been any attempts by the public to communicate with the owner about them. The Witch's Cottage is located in a small and somewhat isolated shopping strip along a state highway that sees very little foot or bicycle traffic.

For comparison, in 2009 a Nazi flag was displayed from an apartment window above Pacific Avenue in a busy location of downtown Santa Cruz, and the resulting protests received coverage by a variety of commercial media outlets. Rapidly, community members who were offended and wanted the flag to be removed began a letter writing campaign aimed at the apartment's owner and management, who then created a rule banning the public display of hate symbols by tenants. The flag was removed shortly after that.

The small towns located along Highway 9 in the San Lorenzo Valley have, like most areas in Santa Cruz County, experienced a regular pattern of racially motivated crime and other incidents over the years.

In 2005, several reported incidents of violence against people of color motivated the community of Boulder Creek to combat it in a variety of ways, including holding a candlelight vigil to make a public statement against racism.

In 2008, the San Lorenzo Valley based organization "For the People" operated in violence intervention and youth development, working with "gang-affiliated" youth. It was mentioned specifically on their website that included those in "white power" gangs.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) describes the Confederate flag as a, "state sponsored symbol of white supremacy," and many of that organization's actions include working for the removal of the Confederate flag from governmental and public displays across the country.

The Confederate flags that hang at The Witch's Cottage are of the battle flag variety, and when the Texas NAACP was working to have the Confederate flag removed from license plates in that state, they stated in a press release that, "any objective person should understand that the Confederate Battle Flag represents repression and is a badge of slavery. Besides that, we all know that the Confederacy had an official flag and the Battle Flag was not one that was adopted by the Confederacy nor did it ever fly over Texas. It was adopted by hate groups as a means of expressing anti-Black sentiments and the rest is history. If there was a desire simply to honor one’s ancestors it for certain would not be by using this particular flag."

The Texas NAACP didn't mince words with their arguments, and the organization went on to state that the display of the Confederate flag would lead to the "psychological harm" of African Americans, and that it is a symbol of "discrimination, disrespect and hatred."

The national branch of the NAACP has also worked to have the Confederate flag removed from "private" enterprises, most notably when expressing disappointment with to the band Lynard Skynard when that group recently decided to reverse a decision to remove the Confederate flag from their concerts.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Street Musicians Navigate a Myriad of City Ordinances in Downtown Santa Cruz

A recent trip to downtown Santa Cruz revealed how difficult it can be for street musicians to navigate the many different city ordinances that affect them, some of them unfairly. The downtown is patrolled by officers from the Santa Cruz Police Department, both on foot and in vehicles, and also by private security forces which include uniformed guards employed by First Alarm. The Downtown (business) Association's own representatives, who are called "hospitality guides" dress in bright yellow and also enforce city ordinances by threatening to call the police if individuals do not comply with their demands.

On the Friday evening of November 9, a group of four musicians who were playing in front of the New Leaf Market, located on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Soquel Avenue, were told by two Downtown Hospitality guides to stop playing because the crowd listening to them had become too large. The band did not argue and they moved across Soquel Avenue to resume playing in front of the new Forever 21 store. 

Taking the band's place in front of New Leaf was a single woman who sang and played an acoustic guitar. Shortly after she began to play, she was told by a hospitality guide that she was violating the city's noise ordinance and that she would have to stop what she was doing. 

The young woman was told that she would have to stop playing was because the complaint came from someone, "trying to conduct business." 

"I'm trying to conduct business," she emphatically stated when interviewed. 

"This is the third time [in one day] I have been stopped," she said, sadly. 

When asked if she thought she was playing louder than the four person band who were previously there, and still playing across the street, she said, "I think they were much louder." 

"I have a lot of energy, always, and sometimes that energy is too much for people," she explained. 

She said she was downtown in Santa Cruz trying to earn money to eat and to buy her friend a new pair of shoes. When she arrived at the spot in front of New Leaf she said found a box with some slices of french bread in it, explaining she was happy to have found it as she chewed on a piece. 

As she continued to talk about her encounter with the hospitality guide, a woman walked by and consoled her affectionately: "I love you and all of your beautiful singing," she cooed. 

It's unclear if the young woman with the guitar ever moved from that spot in front of New Leaf after she was warned, and a few minutes later, the hospitality guide returned and was telling her she had received another noise complaint. 

She asked the guide, "I am a tiny little girl and was I louder than a four person band?" 

The guide's response: "I don't do that, I am complaint driven. If someone calls me and complains, I have to address the, I am going to go pick on them right now." 

Before leaving, the guide told her about other spots she could play at, including the spot in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz farther down on Pacific where there are less restrictions. She also suggested the young woman play during First Friday. To what extent that information was helpful is uncertain, as the woman needed money for food, and shoes for her friend, and First Friday was more that three weeks away. 

The fairness and impartiality of the code enforcement being conducted by the hospitality guides has been called into question by community members over the course of the program's tenure downtown. The program is privately operated and lacks the same transparency, however modest and in need of expansion, which public enforcement agencies themselves are subjected to. 

At one point during the street musicians' security encounters that evening, Sergeant Bush of the Santa Cruz Police Department walked by. He passed by individuals sitting on the sidewalk, apparently choosing not to hold them to task for violating the city's sit-lie ordinance which prohibits the act of sitting in most places along Pacific Avenue. 

The hospitality guide, however, did not let the sidewalk sitters stay seated when she saw them. Even though they take up less space and protrude less than the individual who was also there enjoying the music with a baby in its stroller, the guide made them get up. 

The downtown hospitality guide interacted with the musicians a number of times, as can be seen on the video: 

0:00 Woman with guitar in front of New Leaf Market told to move because she has received a noise complaint. 
2:20 Four person band plays in front of Forever 21. 
2:51 Hospitality guide tells band members not to sit on the planter boxes, that they have to be at least 14 feet from the "Imagine Positive Change" meters, and that they need to "relocate." 
3:21 Woman receives another noise complaint in front of New Leaf. 
5:59 Hospitality guide reminds band that they have to be "seven squares out" and that they have to relocate every hour. 
7:00 Sergeant Bush of the SCPD walks by an instrument case that is not "seven squares out" and also individuals sitting on the sidewalk. The Sergeant walks by without stopping.
7:18 The hospitality guide tells two audience members they may not sit on the sidewalk, and tells a band member not to sit on the planter again. 
7:36 The woman asks the guide again why she was singled out for a noise complaint. 
7:50 The band engages in some lite civil disobedience. 
8:05 The guide tells band they have to leave.

For more information about the Downtown Hospitality Guide Program, see: 

A "Hospitality Guide" and an officer with the SCPD

Monday, November 12, 2012

Family Files $10 Million Wrongful Death Suit Against SSFPD for Killing of Derrick Gaines

On October 30, the family of Derrick Gaines, the 15 year old who was shot and killed by a South San Francisco Police Department officer on June 5, filed a federal civil rights action against the City of South San Francisco. Family members, who are seeking $10 million in damages, hired Attorney John Burris to represent them in the wrongful death action. Burris says, "This is a clear case of racial profiling that lead to disastrous results." The press conference was held in front of the South San Francisco Arco gas station where Gaines was killed, and Rachel Guido Red, Gaines' mother, said she hopes the civil action will lead to a change in police procedures. "These are our kids out there and there's other ways of dealing with them, other than shooting and killing them," she said.

The civil suit, was additionally filed on behalf of Derrick Gaines' father, who is also named Derrick Gaines. "Every day I am having a harder time dealing with this....I know how police are, and it's killing me," he said at the press conference. "Not a day goes by I don't miss my baby...that's my only son." 

Also speaking was Justine Lockard, Gaines' Aunt, who said, "We just want to make sure this does not happen to any more of our youth....this was excessive force, and we shouldn't have it in our community with our children." 

The legal action names the City of South San Francisco as a defendant, as well as Michael Massoni, in his capacity as Chief of the South San Francisco Police Department, and Joshua Cabillo, the officer who shot Gaines, both individually and in his capacity as an officer for the SSFPD. 

"This lawsuit is designed to get to the truth," said Burris. In addition to the claim of wrongful death, the suit alleges that Officer Cabillo's actions on the night of June 5 violated the rights guaranteed to Derick Gaines under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, specifically that Cabillo detained Gaines without reasonable suspicion, and then used excessive and deadly force against him. 

Cabillo first made contact with Gaines on the evening of June 5 near the McDonald's restaurant next to the Arco gas station at 2300 Westborough Avenue in the City of South San Francisco. The details of the evening Gaines was killed are in dispute, and according to Burris, most of the police reports to the family have, "involved police spin and lack the clarity as to what actually took place." 

On August 29, the South San Francisco District Attorney's office released their report concerning Gaines' killing, which occurred on the property of the Arco station. 

The DA's report states that the suspicion that formed the base of Cabillo's actions solidified, and became the justification for detainment, when Gaines did not maintain eye contact during his initial stop by officer Cabillo, and then when Gaines made "gestures" with his hand near his waistband. The report claims that as Cabillo attempted to detain Gaines, the young man ran, and as Cabillo caught up to him he struck him to the ground with his pistol. According to the report a gun fell from the teenager's person, and Cabillo claims that Gaines wound up pointing it at him, which led to the police officer to shoot and kill him. 

The civil suit alleges that at no time did Gaines ever reach for the gun, and it is this part of the police's story that especially bothers the young man's family and friends. The DA's report states that Gaines reached for the gun with his right hand, but he was left handed, and the gun was inoperable. 

Also disclosed and named as a fact in the family's lawsuit is the claim that two shots from Cabillo's pistol struck Gaines; one at the base of his neck, and another in his lower back. Also, a paramedic arrived on scene after the shooting and asked permission to perform CPR on Gaines, but was told to "stay away" by Officer Cabillo. 

Burris believes the family has, "a right to know what happened to their loved ones", and that the South San Francisco Police Department, "has an obligation and duty to inform the family and supporters about why a police officer took the life of a 15 year old local youth." 

The DA's reported also used the wording that Gaines' death was, "tragic," but that it was, "justifiable." The family and their supporters reject the notion that Gaines' killing was "tragic," and instead point to the police, who in their view,"routinely use excessive and lethal force against people of color because they think they can get away with it." 

Inaccurate characterizations of the evening Gaines was killed began to circulate after the South San Francisco Police Department stated in their initial press conference that Gaines, "produced a handgun from his waistband." At that early stage in the investigation, the awkward phrasing and the fact that the police simply were not willing to share what information they did have about the events of the evening may have formed the basis of the negative spin against Gaines in subsequent media reports. It was widely reported that the teen "pulled a gun" on the officer. 

It took until August 29 for the City of South San Francisco to officially dispel that notion when the DA's report on the killing was released to the public. 

For Burris, Officer Cabillo, "paniced when he shot Derrick....Derrick and his friend had not done anything...the police were committing a crime at the very outset." 

Family friend Georgeann Farrar was at the press conference and she recalled that when she first heard about Gaines' being shot, she didn't believe that he could have done what the police had said he did. "In my soul I know he would have never been stupid enough to pull a gun on a cop." 

"I feel the child was unjustifiably shot," she said. 

Farrar and her daughters, aged 13 and 19, took Gaines on vacation with them to the Sierra and she felt that Gaines was like a "son" to her. In the mountains she recalled Gaines commenting that, "it was so peaceful," there. In contrast, when she described various experiences she has had with the South San Francisco Police, she said they, "do tend to be aggressive." 

"They [the SSFPD] do sometimes jump to judgment before you can say anything on your own behalf," Farra said. "They don't understand the community here." 

Farrar described how at the time of Gaines' killing, the teenager was hanging out more often at the McDonald's on Westborough Avenue, which is located next to the Arco station, because a nearby park was being remodeled. Farrar has lived in that area for 25 years and and she emphasizes that nothing this violent has ever happened there before. "People look out for each other here," she said. 

Community members and friends of Gaines from school agree, as a number of well attended vigils and a march for Gaines have been held at the Arco station where he was killed. 

Gaines' eight grade social studies teacher, who the teenager had just visited weeks before his killing, said at a rally held for him at the Arco station on what would have been his 16th birthday on September 20, that, "Derrick was a really wonderful person, despite how he is being villianized in the media, Derrick was a friendly, respectful, and above all, very intelligent and socially conscious person." 

"Derrick would be disgusted, beyond disgusted, at how history has repeated itself over and over and over again; in this situation, with Oscar Grant, and from hundreds of years that we have seen in American history," she said. 

At the rally on September 20, a mother of two of Gaines' friends described some of her family's prior experiences with Cabillo in the community. Her encounters with him suggest that his actions on June 5 may have been part of a pattern of overly aggressive behavior on his part. The woman described how Cabillo had entered her home in the past and, "had his gun held to my daughter's head for no reason." 

She also described a separate incident where officers with the SSFPD entered her home with guns drawn, which has subsequently caused her daughters to be scared of the police. "They [her daughters] don't want to have anything to do with them at all....they [SSFPD] just really need to stop what they are doing, stop harassing us. If we have committed a crime, OK, that's fine, but if we have not committed any crimes, please just leave us alone and just let us live our life peacefully." 
"I'm not happy with the South San Francisco Police Department....they need to change their ways," she said. 

Since that rally on September 20, a few changes have occurred at the Arco station that were visible during the October 30 press conference. The gas pump areas have been upgraded and remodeled, and they now provide more lighting from above, and a garbage can has been placed over the area where Gaines was killed. 

According to Farrar, this was to "cover up the blood stain." 

To read more and view photos, see:
Family Files $10 Million Wrongful Death Suit for SSFPD Killing of Teen, Derrick Gaines

More videos from rallies supporting justice for Derrick Gaines

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Occupy Santa Cruz Celebrates One Year Together

On Friday, October 5, Occupy Santa Cruz celebrated its first anniversary with a general assembly at Laurel Park, followed by a documentary film screening about the Santa Cruz version of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Laurel Park was the site of the first meeting and general assembly of Occupy Santa Cruz on October 4, 2011. Returning there one year later for a birthday celebration, approximately 70 people attended the film screening. Community members reported that there were about 20-30 people at the general assembly held beforehand. The evening in some ways felt like a reunion of old friends, as many in attendance had lived together night and day at the Occupy Santa Cruz encampment in San Lorenzo Park, which existed from October 6 to December 8, 2011.

Community members active with a variety of nearby occupations were present at OSC's anniversary, including Occupy Monterey, and one person involved with Occupy San Jose said that he was thinking of moving to Santa Cruz because, "this is were all the action is."

Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In set up a screen and projection equipment in the middle of Laurel Park for what was the first public screening of the Brent Adams documentary, "What Are You Doing Here? Inside Occupy Santa Cruz." Adams himself participated in the occupation, while also filming it, and the resulting documentary features intimate, insider interviews with other local occupiers, in addition to an exploration of a variety of other events that occurred in the local movement.

Occupy Santa Cruz has been operating continuously under the same mission statement and statement of autonomy since the groups inception, and public, bi-weekly general assemblies are held alternately at the court house and the post office.

As the group maintains its visible public presence with direct actions, peaceful assemblies, and the "occupation" of public space, Occupy Santa Cruz continues to receive attention from the authorities. Those at the anniversary celebration reported that they were being videotaped for a good portion of the time they were in Laurel Park, and at least half a dozen officers with the Santa Cruz Police Department were present at various locations at the park's closing time of 10pm.

At 10:05, three officers approached those watching the film. It was explained to them that the movie was almost over, and the officers walked back to their patrol vehicles and stood and waited. The film ended shortly after that, and people left casually. Shortly before 11pm the last person to still linger on the park's lawn, a man wrapped in a sleeping bag, was encouraged to leave the area by Lt. Flippo, and as the last few community members chatted on the sidewalk, SCPD was out of there by 11pm sharp.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Is "Take Back Watsonville" being founded on Racist Rhetoric?

Quickly morphing from a small neighborhood watch group to a spin-off of Take Back Santa Cruz, Take Back Watsonville has announced it will hold its first major public meeting on October 9, amidst racially charged and pro "American" rhetoric from its founder, Paul Gutierrez. After being featured as a crime victim in an article in the Watsonville Patch, Gutierrez was then made a blogger for the website where he has had the opportunity to establish and promote Take Back Watsonville and raise funds for the new organization, all in less than a month's time. In one comment Gutierrez left on an article in the Watsonville Patch, referring to an individual he perceived to be a member of the Watsonville Brown Berets, he wrote, "You wont be apart of the solution because people like you are the problem. we all get your so proud to be a brown beret and so proud to be Mexican. go the hell back to Mexico if your so proud and hate Americans so much. don't forget its because of people like me that you have your freedom of speech and to be in whatever group you like."

Paul Gutierrez's "rise" to the position of Take Back Watsonville founder was first fueled by coverage in the Watsonville Patch, an online news website funded by the corporation, AOL Inc., formerly known as America Online, which is based in New York City. On September 10, Watsonville Patch editor Jennifer Squires reported in an article titled "Crime Wave Spurs Vigilance on One Watsonville Street" that Gutierrez, who only moved to Watsonville in August of this year, had started a neighborhood watch program shortly after his truck was stolen from his Palm Avenue home. 

A week later, Gutierrez was officially blogging for the Watsonville Patch. His first post was, "We Need to Stand Up and Fight" on September 18, followed by, "Calling All Residents" on September 20, "Neighborhood Watch Takes Off!" on September 23, "Take Back Watsonville" on September 23, "Take Back Watsonville Website!" on September 28, "Take Back Watsonville Meeting Oct 9th!" on October 2, "Take Back Watsonville: Calling out to the Watsonville Brown Beret" on October 3, and the most recent, a fund-raising attempt with, "Take Back Watsonville needs your help," posted on October 8. 

In addition to the initial article about Gutierrez, Squires published an article for the Watsonville Patch on September 13 titled "Crime-Fighting Effort Spreads" which credited the neighborhood watch program Gutierrez initially founded as motivating a Watsonville Police Department raid on a "problematic" house.
The Watsonville Brown Berets became a target of the rhetoric early on when another Watsonville Patch blogger, David H. Perez, left a comment on the September 10 article about Gutierrez, calling the Brown Berets, "an organization whose background teaches disrespect for our police and our military," He also criticized their connections to local government. The body of that first article described Gutierrez as "ex-military". 

Gutierrez brought up the topic of race in his first blog post about his neighborhood watch group on September 18, saying in a call out to, "stand up and fight," that, "It is time to fight for each other as AMERICANS forget the color, forget the race, forget the gender, forget the sexual preference." Gutierrez didn't elaborate on which race or races should be "forgotten", but a commenter on that post implied he was talking about Mexican people. 

On subsequent blog posts, Gutierrez became more and more sensitive to the race based critiques of his rhetoric, and when criticized by a Watsonville Patch commenter who identified herself as a member of the Watsonville Brown Berets, that organization became a new target of his. 

In an October 2 Watsonville Patch article titled "Help Out: Brown Berets Gear Up for Massive Bike Repair Weekend," an anonymous commenter vaguely accused the Brown Berets of misconduct in relation to the alleged manner in which they obtained bicycles for a past charity event. The inner workings of the Brown Beret's finances were also challenged, which in addition to the bicycle-related accusation, was refuted by others commenting on the article. 

"Paul Gutierrez" then left a comment which called the Brown Berets a "gang" and then went on to say, "it is unfortunate that we may not work together and i hope one day we can all be peaceful with each other hand in hand and fight for AMERICA not for race or gender or for creed." 

Complaints of reverse "racism" came quickly from commenters defending the rights of "white" people in the area. In another Watsonville Patch comment, a user accused the Brown Berets of being racist due to the emphasis on the color "brown" in their name, and on October 3, Paul Gutierrez posted videos in the Take Back Watsonville Facebook group that in his view supported the notion that the Brown Berets were "racist" towards white people. 

The Watsonville Brown Berets were founded in 1994, and according to their website they are, "a community defense force acting for the liberation and amelioration of our barrios." The organization is very active in the local community, and recently made the news for their part in the large turnout on September 29 at the annual Peace and Unity march, which is held to address the issues of gang violence locally. The organization is racially inclusive, and their website emphasizes "absolute equality" where, "There will be no hierarchy, our positions of responsibility are for the service of the whole organization and are shared equally between female and male Brown Beret members. There will be no machismo (sexism), egocentricity, ageism, or racism within our organization. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated." 

On the Take Back Watsonville website, the group pledges "Together we will rise above the gangs and anti American groups in our community," and then goes on to make their own statement against racism: "This is NOT about race. This group focuses on crime and gang issues and also drug abuse. We here have had enough with being called names and being called "racists". This is our PUBLIC statement that we are NOT racist nor do we tolerate it." 

Gutierrez' blog post on October 3, titled "Take Back Watsonville: Calling out to the Watsonville Brown Beret.", again escalated the rhetoric, using racially charged language by asking to see the Brown Berets' "papers" and for them to prove they are "legal" with regards to their finances. In the blog post he demanded the following of the Watsonville Brown Berets: "Provide the proof of your goodness and show the proof. You set up a meeting with me (personally) and show all the proof that its legal and we can start defeating these nasty rumors that spread about you guys(WBB)." 

That article received quite a few angry comments in response to the language used, and at least one commenter attempted to explain to Gutierrez what "racism" was, but a Patch Senior regional editor for Northern California, Ari Soglin, removed all of the comments due to what he called, "name-calling and other inappropriate behavior." 

Watsonville Patch's terms of service requires that users not transmit content that, "promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual." It is unclear why Gutierrez' previous comments on other Watsonville Patch articles were allowed by Patch editors to stay, while the comments complaining about his racist rhetoric and attempting to explain the concept of institutional racism were removed.
 In an October 5 Watsonville Patch article, it was reported that rocks were thrown through the windows of Gutierrez' home, and in his most recent blog post for the Watsonville Patch, posted on October 8 and titled "Take Back Watsonville Needs Your Help," Gutierrez, in five sentences, makes a plea for financial donations to Take Back Watsonville. 

Similar attitudes about discrimination (and law enforcement) also prompted divisions within the community when Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) was first founded in the City of Santa Cruz in 2009. TBSC was criticized for cultural insensitivity when they invaded local neighborhoods in which they did not live to hold their "positive loitering" events. TBSC also sponsors "clean ups" of natural areas that often contain homeless camps, and when concerns were raised by community members that the proper precautions were not being taken to ensure that peoples' valued possessions were being protected, the concerns fell largely on deaf ears. In addition, many community members wanted TBSC to address the issue that local police are themselves often a source of violence in the community, and that supporting the authorities unconditionally would be to deny the problem of police misconduct exists, and is in its self a community safety issue. 

Take Back Watsonville will be meeting on Tuesday, October 9, from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm. According to their website, the meeting will include, "Meeting with Neighbor hood Solutions and WPD. This is a pot luck so please bring a beverage (NO ADULT BEVS) or food dish. starts at 6:30pm all residents are welcome. we will be taking donations and sponsorship at this event. Shirts are $15 and women alarm kits are $50 donation. with your donation you will receive a tax write off form from BKE 501(c)3." 

The following passage was first posted as a comment by "Paul Gutierrez" on an article in the Watsonville Patch, and then re-posted by "Found Peace" aka Paul Gutierrez in the Take Back Watsonville Facebook Group:
"maria is a brown beret and this is what my response to her was.-if you missed what i said on the other article Maria- this is what i said to you-maria you need to stop . your hatred is disgusting and you need to chill out. your racist remarks and attitude are not warranted. you rush to judge people but yet you don't see that your harassment and hypocritical thinking and attitude really suck. its people like you that cause wars and issues that shouldn't be there. you have called me a racist on everything i post. you wont be apart of the solution because people like you are the problem. we all get your so proud to be a brown beret and so proud to be Mexican. go the hell back to Mexico if your so proud and hate Americans so much. don't forget its because of people like me that you have your freedom of speech and to be in whatever group you like. but when you take advantage of it , it is an embarrassment to not only yourself but to your family and kids. i feel sorry for you. that you are so caught up with hate and anti Americanism that it runs your life. i have 2 tips for you- 1st is to realize this is AMERICAN NOT MEXICO, if you love Mexico so much go home. 2nd is love GOD and love yourself and stop hating everyone.

"This is all my opinion, im not chewing your ass cause your Latino, im chewing it cause your just a rotten apple in the city who is part of the problem, and i feel horrible that your so narrow minded and stupid. i thought you were just ignorant but it seems you just dont know better and plain stupid." 

Did Gutierrez lie to the Santa Cruz Sentinel?


The following passage appeared in an article written by Stephen Baxter and was published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on October 8, titled "Take Back Watsonville plans first meeting" (see: 

"When Gutierrez held a potluck dinner for neighbors at his home a few weeks later, some of the gangsters showed up and tried to tell residents not to call police. They accused Gutierrez -- who is of Latino and Italian heritage -- of being a racist. He denied it." 

Paul Gutierrez posted a link to this article in the Take Back Watsonville group on Facebook, and then in the comments section, a commenter says. "Good article...but it says some gang members were present at the last potluck/meeting...was this a misprint?" 

Gutierrez (aka "Found Peace") responded: "There were gang members there I just told home not to specify the name of their anti American/ Mexican brown hat crew.... Hint hint."
Another commenter responds that calling the Brown Berets will "weaken the cause" of Take Back Watsonville, and Gutierrez continues to make more allegations about the organization. 

This adds further questions as to the credibility of Gutierrez; was he telling Baxter of the Santa Cruz Sentinel that gangsters showed up to his home for a neighborhood watch meeting, when in fact it was members of the Watsonville Brown Berets who were concerned that Gutierrez was possibly running a racist organization? 
The Sentinel published that gangsters showed up at his home for a potluck, and it appears that gangsters by Gutierrez' own accounts on Facebook were not, in fact, in his home.

Referenced Articles: 

Watsonville Patch articles: 

September 10 
"Crime Wave Spurs Vigilance on One Watsonville Street" by Jennifer Squires
September 13 
"Crime-Fighting Effort Spreads" by Jennifer Squires
October 2 
"Help Out: Bike Shack Gears Up for Massive Bike Repair Weekend" by Maria Grusauskas October 5 
"Two Rocks Smash Windows of 'Take Back Watsonville' Founder's Home" by Maria Grusauskas 

Paul Gutierrez blog posts: 

September 18 
"Blog: We Need to Stand Up and Fight" 
September 20 
"Calling All Residents" 
September 23 
"Neighborhood Watch Takes Off!" 
September 23 
"Take Back Watsonville" 
September 28 
"Take Back Watsonville Website!" 
October 2 
"Take Back Watsonville Meeting Oct 9th!" 
October 3 
"Take Back Watsonville: Calling out to the Watsonville Brown Beret." October 8 
"Take Back Watsonville needs your help." 

Other blogs on Watsonville Patch:
September 21 
"Community United: A Proposal" by Amy 

Other Articles: 

October 5 
Central Coast News KION/KCBA ""Take Back Watsonville" Founder Not Backing Down" by Ricardo Navarro 

For more info: 

Take Back Watsonville 
Take Back Santa Cruz 
Watsonville Brown Berets