Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Santa Cruz NAACP Commemorates 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

On August 24, community members marched with the Santa Cruz NAACP to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Great March on Washington. The 1963 civil rights rally was also known as the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," and in Santa Cruz, those commemorating that day also broadly described their action for justice, calling it a march for, "voting rights, jobs, justice, freedom, and to end stand your ground." Speakers included Stephanie Milton who spoke out against stand your ground and other justifiable homicide laws, and Simba Kenyatta who spoke about how the City of Santa Cruz has never had a black city council member. Kenyatta proposed two local election reform measures: eliminating privately financed elections, and dividing up the voting population into districts.

Community members marched through downtown Santa Cruz singing classic civil rights era hymns. When gathering at the town clock, one individual was applauded when it was announced that he had been present at the 1963 March on Washington, and several in the crowd raised their hands when asked who had been fighting for civil rights causes for 50 years or more.

"We are celebrating 64 years here in Santa Cruz," said Deborah Hill-Alston, president of the Santa Cruz chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Hill-Alston said she has personally confirmed that the branch had their charter for 64 years.

"It is my wish that as NAACP President that we continue to march and we continue to stand up, speak up, show up when there is an injustice that effects not just our community, but the world," she said.

Simba Kenyattta, who Hill-Alston described as the chapter's first Vice-President, spoke about the need for election reform in the City of Santa Cruz.

"This is 2013, we still have never had a black city council person in Santa Cruz," he said. Kenyatta, a three time Santa Cruz City Council candidate, is one of the only three black city council candidates to run for office in the history of Santa Cruz.

Kenyatta said he was never able to raise the same amount of campaign donations as his opponents, adding, "What I saw was money talks. We know that."

Kenyatta proposed an end to privately financed elections for the city council, explaining that $7500 each for what normally amounts to 10 or so candidates would only cost the city of Santa Cruz $75,000.

"I think our rights are worth 75 grand," he said.

Kenyatta has also proposed dividing the City of Santa Cruz into separate electoral districts, saying that would assure at least one Latino person would be seated on the council.

About stand your ground, Santa Cruz NAACP member Stephanie Milton, who is also a member of the Santa Cruz County Women's Commission, said the law, "serves as nothing more than a modern way for people to create war against other people."

"The March on Washington was about civil rights, it was about justice, it was about jobs. It was about equity and access for all citizens regardless of ethnicity, of social economic status, and of location in the country," Milton said.

"50 years later, unfortunately we are fighting some of the same battles, just under a different guise."

Stand your ground laws have been enacted in 24 of the 50 states, but not in California. However, Milton pointed out that justifiable homicide laws in the state and excusable homicide laws are very similarly worded statutes.

"So while we are out here in Santa Cruz and we are really comfortable with the idea that we are going to protest stand your ground in other states, we have to be vigilant in California as well. The idea that we need to protect ourselves with extreme force is something that we need to eradicate nation wide," she said.

"There is no need for anyone to think they can walk around, permitted or not, with a fire arm, and that they can kill another person because they look suspicious."

"Stand your ground is an excuse to continue hatred," Milton stated.

The March on Washington was held on August 28, 1963, and was attended by a crowd estimated at 200,000 to 300,000 people, three quarters of whom were black. During the march, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech, and the next year in 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed by the federal government, followed by passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ferraris and Other Luxury Cars Serve as Backdrop for Hotel Workers Rally at La Playa Carmel

On August 16, community members returned to La Playa Carmel for a boycott rally in support of the workers who lost their jobs when the hotel shutdown and re-opened in the summer of 2012 after a change of ownership. The Friday labor rally coincided with the final events in a series of "elite" automobile shows occurring throughout the Monterey Peninsula, and protesters marched for justice for the former workers next to Ferraris and other high end vehicles parked in front of La Playa. 


At $450 a night for the least expensive room on the weekends at La Playa Carmel, the hotel is a luxury vacation destination where expensive automobiles are commonly seen. With the shows happening, however, the median price tag of the cars outside of the hotel the day of the rally appeared to have jumped up a notch. Two Ferraris, a Maserati, and an Aston Martin represented just a few of the expensive makes parked in front of La Playa on the day of the boycott rally.

As they marched, individuals at the rally held picket signs with messages such as "We are the 99%," "La Playa Carmel Destroys Tradition," "Sam Gross-Man Unfair," and "We Are One: Respect Our Rights." 

When the hotel reopened in 2012 under the ownership of Sam Grossman, a developer said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, only three of the 113 former workers were re-hired. At least half of the former workers had worked at the hotel for over 20 years, and the labor union representing them, Unite Here Local 483 had enjoyed facilitating labor contracts between workers and La Playa's management for 40 years prior to Grossman's takeover. 

The expensive cars drew a few extended looks from those supporting the workers, but there was no mention of them when individuals spoke at the end of the rally. 

"I just wanted you to know the NAACP is absolutely with you, and that labor rights are civil rights, civil rights are labor rights," said a member of the Monterey Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 

"You know we are coming up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The full name of that was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. We remember it is a civil rights struggle. It was a labor rights struggle as well," he said. 

"What we really need is we really need to stop looking at the past and understand that we are at a time that we need a new civil rights and a new labor rights movement in this country. So it is time for all of our little splinter groups to come together." 

Unite Here's Mark Weller added that when the Local 483 staff had recently met the union's new international president, D Taylor, he told them the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington should also be their focus and the focus of the labor movement in general. 

Aston Martin


Porsche Carrera, Ferrari

Monday, August 12, 2013

San Jose Justice for Trayvon Martin Demonstrations Continue

On August 6, San Jose Justice for Trayvon Martin held a rally at San Jose City Hall, followed by a march downtown where the group circled the federal building and then moved on to Plaza de César Chávez. The representatives of a wide variety of organizations spoke and endorsed the demands that San Jose Justice for Trayvon Martin adopted on July 18. It was announced that the next big event planned by San Jose Justice for Trayvon Martin would be a town hall meeting held in September.

San Jose Justice for Trayvon Martin describes itself as, "a local mass multi-issue campaign made up of San Jose and larger Silicon Valley community members acting in support of the larger Movement of Justice for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander specifically, and more broadly a group who seek out a Social Justice Agenda regarding a halt on the continued growth of California's Prison Industrial Complex, the Criminalization of Youth based upon the Apartheid styled use of Gang Injunction & Data-basing, and the promotion of the establishment of a Civilian Review Board & Community Control over Police." 

San Jose Justice for Trayvon Martin has adopted/adapted the following Demands from Justice 4 Trayvon Martin, Los Angeles: 

1. Federal Charges against Zimmerman: 
a. The Department of Justice must file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman. 

2. FREE Marissa Alexander: 
a. Ms. Alexander comes from the same state as Zimmerman, she did not hurt anyone, she was protecting herself against someone who abused her, she was traumatized, she stood her ground and the law wasn’t afforded to her. 

3. No More New Jail and Prison Construction 
a. Jails and prisons draw critical funds away from poor, working class communities of color. 
b. The business of prisons generates the need to criminalize Black & Brown bodies. 

4. End Gang Injunctions & Database 
a. The rationalization of gang injunctions follows the same rational of racial profiling that allowed for Trayvon Martin to be hunted and murdered. 

5. Community Control Over All Law Enforcement With an Elected Civilian Review Board 
a. The families of people with stolen lives by law enforcement should have their cases re-opened, re-investigated, and given reparations. 
b. These are our tax dollars, our community; we should have a say of what safety looks like. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Supporting California and Santa Cruz Prison Hunger Strikers at 'Hunger for Justice'

On July 31, community members in Santa Cruz marched to the county jail as part of "Hunger for Justice," an international day of protests and events held in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike in state detention facilities across California since July 8. According to the organization Sin Barras, 37 prisoners in the Santa Cruz County Jail have also joined the hunger strike.

"The people running the [Santa Cruz County] jail are trying to say that no one in there has been on hunger strike, when we have heard from people who have been inside that they have in fact been on hunger strike," a member of Sin Barras said. 

After marching to the county jail, a noise demonstration was held to let those inside, "hear and know we are outside doing this for them," organizers said. 

Women inside of the detention facility did let demonstrators know they had been heard. 

One inmate was yelling out and trying to communicate with the group, saying "Free....[inaudible]." She was possibly shouting out a name, but no one seemed to have been able to make out exactly what she was saying. 

Other inmates flashed their lights and pounded on the windows of their cells. Their hands could be seen as they pressed them against the opaque window coverings. 

A member of Sin Barras pointed out that there is solitary confinement in the women's facility, adding "I know people with mental problems who are locked up right here in isolation." 

Ending long term solitary confinement and the Security Housing Unit (SHU), is one of the demands of the prisoners who are on hunger strike in California's State prisons, and the topic was a point of focus at the Hunger for Justice demonstration. 

Members of Sin Barras read excerpts from letters from a prisoner with whom they are corresponding who is currently being held in the SHU at Corcoron State Prison. 

He has been living in a small box for decades in that facility, with no human contact, no access to sunlight, no adequate food, and no adequate medical care. When describing how torturous his living conditions are, he refers to the strike, saying, "hunger strikes are political statements, they are also acts of desperation." 

Activists report that on Monday July 22, one of the hunger strikers, Billy “Guero” Sell, died while inside Corcoran SHU. 

30,000 prisoners in California state prisons began the hunger strike on July 8, and their five core demands are: 

1. End Long-Term Solitary Confinement 
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Gang Status Criteria 
3. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse 
4. Provide Adequate & Nutritious Food 
5. Expand & Provide Constructive Programming 

The Hunger for Justice events were also held in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, and the "many Trayvons who have been killed by state and vigilante violence," an announcement for the event read.