Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday Protesters at Capitola Mall Say: Boycott SodaStream, Stop Exploiting Palestinian Land!

On November 29, Black Friday protesters positioned themselves in various locations at the Capitola Mall to raise awareness about SodaStream, a product that is produced in a factory built on illegal Israeli settlements located on occupied indigenous Palestinian lands.

Santa Cruz community members wore black and held large banners that read "Boycott SodaStream." The product allows users to make flavored carbonated drinks at home.

SodaStream is sold in the Santa Cruz area at Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, Chefworks, and Macy's, Kohl's, among others, but demonstrators chose the Capitola Mall's Target store as the primary location of the Black Friday protest because of that company's overtly stated commitment to "corporate responsibility" and "responsible sourcing." Target's website has a plethora of web pages dedicated to the company's declared interest in these and other issues pertaining to environmental and social justice.

A multi million dollar advertising campaign has been launched by SodaStream to market itself as an "environmentally friendly" product which the company says will turn water into, "fresh sparkling water and soda,” but critics say there is nothing friendly about the destruction of Palestinian life, land, mineral, and water resources, and that the exploitation of these natural resources in occupied territories is not allowed by international law. They claim Palestinians do not receive any of the profits the product makes.

The company also bills itself as "socially responsible," but the Palestinians it employs do not entertain the same labor rights as those in Israel do.

Critics also point to how SodaStream erroneously describes its product as produced in "Israel," when in actuality it is produced in the West Bank industrial park called Mishor Edomim, which is located in a settlement called Ma’aleh Adumim. That area is called one of the largest Israeli thefts of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, which strategically disconnects the cities of Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Jericho.

All Israeli settlements exist illegally according to international law, and critics say SodaStream is a "settlement company" that obscures its origin by marketing its products as “Made in Israel." Activists say SodaStream should be labeled, “made in an illegal Israeli settlement."

The Black Friday action at the Capitola Mall was cosponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace-Santa Cruz Chapter, Palestine Israel Action Committee (PIAC), WILPF-Santa Cruz Chapter, and Women in Black.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Workers and Students Shutdown UCSC during Statewide ULP Strike

Students and workers at UC Santa Cruz blocked both entrances and shut the campus down in support of a University of California-wide unfair labor practices strike on November 20, called for by AFSCME 3299. [Top video: compilation of clips from the blockade of the west entrance of UCSC and the march down to the main entrance of campus.]

According to a statement released by AFSCME 3299, the Unfair Labor Practices strike was called in response to a, "coordinated campaign of illegal intimidation, coercion, and threats," against UC Patient Care and Service Workers who participated in a walk out in May over unsafe staffing levels at UC supported hospitals.

Workers on all UC Campuses and Medical Centers statewide participated in the strike.

Workers represented by AFSCME include custodians, food service workers, cooks, bus drivers, licensed vocational nurses, nursing assistants, medical assistants, and techs.

Joining AFSCME on the picket line in Santa Cruz were members of UAW Local 2865, the union that represents student academic workers, as well as a variety of student groups, which included Autonomous Students UCSC and MEchA de UCSC.

Those living in on campus family housing were allowed to enter the university during the strike. Emergency vehicles were also allowed to enter, but unlike previous campus shutdowns, the police were prevented from driving through, and according to demonstrators were turned away at least once.

After a 12+ hour blockade in the rain, those blocking the west entrance marched down Empire Grade to the base of campus for a final rally.

Noontime rally at the base of campus

West Entrance

A motorcyclist attempts to get through

Another motorcyclist attempts to get through

Marching to the base of campus

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jailhouse for Gelhaus March

The family of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old killed by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22, marched with supporters from downtown Santa Rosa to the Sonoma County Hall of Justice on November 5. They are demanding an independent investigation be conducted into the killing of Andy, and that District Attorney Jill Ravitch arrest Gelhaus immediately. The family and supporters also want the location of Andy's killing, an empty lot on Moorland Avenue, to be turned into a memorial park in his honor. [Videos: a representative of the Lopez family speaks after meeting with the Sonoma County District Attorney; Friend of Andy Lopez; Youth Speak; David Douglass of BAMN; Oscar Grant Family Attorney John Burris; Christina Arechiga of the CA Statewide Coalition Against Police Brutality; Kris Kelley, Sister of Mario Romero; Cyndi Mitchell, Sister of Mario Romero; I Am Andy Lopez Mic Check; Jordan of the Chickenfoot Ranch and Activist Center.]

Marchers followed a truck with an effigy of Gelhaus shackled in hand cuffs mounted on it. The Hall of Justice was heavily guarded by Sonoma County Sheriffs when the group arrived, but several organizers, including a representative of the Lopez family, went inside to meet with the District Attorney privately.

In addition to calling for a grand jury investigation into the shooting, community members say they are conducting their own investigation. They say sheriffs should have known that the possibility of children playing with toy guns existed in that neighborhood. They claim authorities were warned the day before Andy was shot about children playing with toy guns at the same lot where Andy was killed by Gelhaus.

More demonstrations seeking justice for Andy Lopez are planned. Community members will protest at a campaign fundraiser for District Attorney Ravitch's re-election on December 3 at 4:30pm at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building. A protest during Thanksgiving vacation is also being planned so that the area's youth won't have to skip school to attend.

Cindy Sheehan

Sonoma County Hall of Justice

Sujey Cruz and Rodrigo Lopez, parents of Andy Lopez.

Effigy of Erick Gelhaus

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Unity March for Andy Lopez Brings Together Diverse Communities in Santa Rosa

On October 30, a "unity" march was held in Santa Rosa for Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old with a toy gun who was shot and killed by Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22. The march began in the Roseland area of the city, and block by block the group swelled as marchers headed downtown to Old Court House Square where speakers were heard that included the friends and family of Andy.

Hundreds participated in the unity march, which brought together the diverse neighborhoods of south-west Santa Rosa.

An equally large march from downtown Santa Rosa to the Sonoma County Sheriff's department was held the previous day on October 29.

Organizers described the unity march in an event announcement as follows: "This event hopes to bring together the diverse communities of Santa Rosa for a massive demonstration of unity against police brutality, gun violence, and racial profiling in our neighborhoods and a call for justice in the brutal slaying of Andy Lopez. Together we can create change and make Santa Rosa a safe and just home for ALL of our children. This march and vigil will be a continuation and culmination of the many protests, actions, demonstrations taking place around Santa Rosa. We will continue until there is justice for Andy Lopez!"

A video of Andy Lopez's aunt speaking at the unity march (in Spanish) can be seen at:

La tía de Andy Lopez en el centro de Santa Rosa