Friday, December 27, 2013

La Playa Carmel Holiday Rally Becomes Annual Tradition at Hotel

Santa Claus made a repeat visit to the hotel workers rally held at La Playa Carmel this year in December. Community members continue to protest owner Sam Grossman's refusal to rehire the workers who were laid off in 2011 when the hotel was closed for a remodel. When La Playa Carmel re-opened in 2012, only three of the former workers, who were all union members, were hired back.

At the holiday rally held at the hotel on December 20, a former La Playa worker named Sergio said in Spanish, "I miss working here. I worked for 23 Christmases in this restaurant, and the last three I haven't worked."

"We are going to continue our fight for the next year, and we wont quit until we win," he added.

Ramon, who worked at La Playa for 27 years, said in Spanish, "We are going to fight the boss until he understands he has to take us back."

Officials from Unite Here Local 483, the labor union that represents the workers who were laid off at La Playa, said they convinced a hotel owner from Mexico, who was staying at the hotel when he heard the marchers at the holiday rally, to leave and get a room at a union hotel nearby. They reported that the hotel owner was shocked to find out that it was possible in the United States to fire a group of unionized workers in the manner La Playa did. He said in Mexico that was not legal.

The union also announced that workers had just won recognition at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Two workers from the aquarium attended the La Playa rally with one declaring he was "very excited," and that he hoped MBA workers would obtain a new contract.

"Bring Back Code Blue" Sticker Found in Downtown Santa Cruz

On December 25, a sticker with the statement "Bring Back Code Blue! Santa Cruz, CA" printed on it was found on a no trespassing sign located on Bulkhead Street at the rear entrance to the parking lot of two businesses in downtown Santa Cruz. Many residents remember the phrase "code blue" as a reference to when officers within the Santa Cruz Police Department organized a pattern of violent assaults on homeless or "street" people in the 1980s.

Today, little information about what has been called "operation code blue" is easily accessed by the public. When questioned in 2012, Deputy Chief of Police Steve Clark recalled there being charges filed against officers who participated in the attacks, which then "created an opportunity" for him personally within the police department.

Many community members recall the details of the operation differently, but perhaps the most common telling of the story maintains that when police found a person on the street they wanted to attack, they used the phrase "code blue" over their radios to call other officers to the scene to participate in the beating.

The bartender working on Christmas at the Rush Inn, which is one of the businesses that uses the parking lot, said she was filling in that day and that she didn't know who placed the sticker on the sign, or what it meant. When she was informed that "code blue" was a possible reference to the police practice of assaulting homeless people, she was appalled and immediately removed the sticker from the sign.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hundreds Served at Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs Holiday Meal

Today, on Christmas Day, Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs served a free vegan holiday meal to hundreds of community members outside of the downtown post office. The temperature was in the 70s, people played music, activists tabled, and the mood was celebratory.

Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry helped organize the meal, and he reports that many of FNB groups across the country would be sharing vegan meals on Christmas this year in response to an increased need due to new cuts in food stamps and an extreme reduction of access to food during the holiday season. 

McHenry awarded Santa Cruz volunteer Jeane the Five Carrot award for being one of the people dedicated to making sure the Saturday meal at the post office happens every week. The post office has been the regular location for Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs weekly servings for over a year now on Saturdays, and McHenry announced that they could be expanding to serve free meals on Sunday as well.

McHenry encouraged everyone to eat more and take food with them because they cooked for a thousand people.

Keith McHenry

Main Entrance of the Santa Cruz Post Office

San Lorenzo Valley Watchdogs Forced to Make Own Recordings of Water Board Meetings

Community members involved with the group San Lorenzo Valley Watchdogs have been recording their water board's meetings and posting them to their website because the district's recordings are of such low quality.

Audio of San Lorenzo Valley Water District meetings going back to September are available on the Watchdogs' website on the 'Recordings' page, along with this statement:

"After Watchdog Dana Weigand ruefully discovered the District's elaborate looking 1980's era audio recording equipment, complete with microphones and mixer, was defective and apparently has never in recent years resulted in a useable audio cassette tape (she asked for her $10 "tape duplication fee" back for the 8.15.2013 BOD high drama meeting), the Watchdog's decided to make their own recordings. One of our members has professional audio experience and set us up with a professional portable 4-channel directional 5-microphone digital device configured to record at 44kHz / 16 bit resolution. Each recording is then down-sampled to 8kHz / 8 bit resolution with about +15dB of compression to augment average volume and decrease the resulting stereo WAV format output file size. These files are made available as a courtesy to our fellow rate-payers and the public."

The San Lorenzo Valley Watchdogs say they were "shocked" into first creating their website when the water district's staff personnel told one of their members that they "could not stop them" when they complained about the district drilling holes in their roads and newly paved driveways without asking permission or warning them of their intent.

In the Autumn of 2013, the Watchdogs mounted a major petition campaign against the water district to prevent construction of the new water district campus that could wind up costing over $9 million and will trigger a major water rate increase, but they were unsuccessful.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) was established in 1941 and serves more than 7300 metered connections. The District supplies water to the communities of Boulder Creek, Brookdale, Ben Lomond, Zayante, Scotts Valley, Manana Woods and Felton.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anthony Messer 1985-2013

Friends and family from coast to coast are mourning the loss of 28-year-old Anthony Messer, who died in Santa Cruz on the evening of December 2. Funeral services were held for him on Monday in Chipley, Florida. Anthony was well known in Santa Cruz as a veteran of the U.S. military, a political activist, a traveler, and a generally friendly person who exuded positivity. Anthony made a big splash in the Occupy movement after having first participated in Occupy Sacramento. After leaving Sacramento, he traveled to Santa Cruz in February of 2012 with a strong desire to revive the Occupy Santa Cruz occupation of the court house steps. Much to the chagrin of many involved with OSC at that time, who had become acutely image-conscious and occupation-weary, Messer embarked on a one person demonstration at the court house steps dubbed "Re-Occupy," where he held teach-ins and attempted to maintain a 24/7 presence.

Anthony (on the right) during "Re-Occupy"

Anthony actively organized events with Occupy Santa Cruz, and he contributed several articles to the OSC website. In March of 2012, he participated in Tent University at UC Santa Cruz, as well as the associated campus shut down. He also participated in many of the larger Bay Area and Northern California events that occurred during the Occupy movement, which included marching with supporters of the S.F. Commune during the occupation of 888 Turk Street in San Francisco.

He produced a number of video blogs about his activism, and he developed websites that culled together his political experiences, along with many of his thoughts and ideas, and photos of demonstrations in which he participated.

In the section of his website titled "Setting the Bar," Anthony outlined his four "growth" goals:

1. Perform effective actions.
2. Educate the public to government and corporate injustices.
3. Homeless and houseless community out-reach.
4. Act, operate, and support the Occupy movement.

Anthony left Santa Cruz for a short period of time, as he was apt to do as someone who loved to travel, and when he returned he participated in the vigil for Ed Frey in August of 2012. The event took place as Frey was to turn himself in to the county jail after being sentenced to serve time for sleeping at the court house during the PeaceCamp 2010 protests against the sleeping ban in Santa Cruz. Anthony was one of several people who occupied the court house steps overnight during that vigil, after sheriffs had tried unsuccessfully to chase the group out earlier in the evening.

He described himself as being in the military for seven years, and when asked about the difficulty of sleeping in public, enduring the cold and the police, and occupying space as an activist, he would often comment that his experiences as an occupier were easy compared to what he went through in the service.

Anthony had his demons. He would proudly claim they were not a result of his seven years of service in the military, but he struggled to maintain sobriety from drugs and alcohol. Anthony wanted to live a sober life, but he never achieved that goal for long.

He was often without a roof to sleep under when he stayed in Santa Cruz, and according to a report on his death in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, his body was found on the beach near San Lorenzo Point. Higher up on that cliffy point was a campsite where possessions of his were found. The county coroner stated he appeared to have died due to complications from a fall. The authorities say empty liquor bottles were also found near the campsite.

Located where the San Lorenzo River meets Monterey Bay, San Lorenzo point is about a mile and a half away from the Santa Cruz court house. Like most of the cliffs along the coastline, the side of the cliff on the point is not ideally suited for camping, compared to the more level locations closer to the court house. The high, slippery rock faces can be splashed out of the blue by "sneaker waves."

During February 2012's "Re-Occupy" at the Santa Cruz court house, Anthony created several political signs, and one read: "Cruel Broad Laws Are Not A Good Answer. Better Lighting, More Patrols, Real Shelter Solutions, Public Education + Real Deliberation." One of the teach-ins he planned was a discussion based on the book "Corporations: Examples & Explanations" by Alan R. Palmiter.

On one evening of that occupation, officers with the Santa Cruz Police Department spotted Anthony at the court house steps lying on his sleeping bag on the sidewalk. They aggressively talked him out of staying there. Anthony was very polite to the officers, but he firmly insisted on knowing what the legal grounds were that prevented him from lying on the sidewalk.

One officer then suggested that because Anthony was an occupier, he must not have a job. Anthony remained silent and did not mention his seven years of service in the military. When another individual present asked the officers if it made any difference that Anthony was a veteran, the officer who accused him of being jobless profusely apologized.


"Cruel Broad Laws Are Not A Good Answer. Better Lighting, More Patrols, Real Shelter Solutions, Public Education + Real Deliberation"

SCPD at Re-Occupy

Occupy Foreclosures March, March 2012

Repression of the Occupy Movement March, February 2012

Anthony with Ed Frey, Ed Frey Vigil, August 2012

Occupy Art Show, Santa Cruz, April 2012

Ed Frey Vigil

"Anthony is Hot"

Anthony was a person who loved traveling, and he was also a person with strong personal ties to the Santa Cruz community. Following his arrival in 2012, much of the local political rhetoric has focused on issues surrounding homelessness.

In the summer of 2012, the Santa Cruz department of parks and recreation, along with public works and the SCPD, conducted a series of raids on San Lorenzo Park and areas near the court house that made life even more difficult for people looking for a place to sleep. Patrols were dramatically stepped up in the former location of the Occupy Santa Cruz camp, and homeless people who had previously slept in the park were either forced to endure more frequent interactions with the authorities or find other places to sleep.

At that time the Santa Cruz city council also enacted new legislation where individuals accumulating multiple infractions for minor offenses, such as sleeping in public, could be prosecuted criminally and sentenced to jail.

Increased patrols aimed at eliminating sleep related activity near the San Lorenzo River have continued into 2013. More security was hired for the park, the court house, and the county government center, which all border the river.

The sweeps led to reports of increases in homeless people looking for places to sleep in areas closer to the beach, which in part fueled the first ever long-term curfew and night closure of a beach in Santa Cruz, Cowell's Beach, which is close to where Anthony was found.

Much of the recent rhetoric surrounding the discourse on public safety has to do with limiting the access homeless "travelers" have to local services. One member of the city's public safety task force, which was formed in 2013 and has largely focused on issues of homelessness and drug addiction, rashly echoed that sentiment when he said he would be "fine with junkies dying," as long as it was outside of the Santa Cruz area.

On the minds of some of those who knew Anthony is how this could be allowed to happen to a homeless veteran.

Was Anthony forced to find a more remote location to sleep, that was far more dangerous than those he slept at during his initial arrival in Santa Cruz, because of the recent political crackdown on homelessness?

Did Anthony die from what he so passionately fought against, the injustice of the criminalization of sleep and homelessness in Santa Cruz?

Video blogs featuring Anthony Messer can be found by searching for "Occupy Chop" on YouTube, and one of Anthony's websites can still be seen at:

Anthony Messer's obituary:

November 22 March for Justice for Andy Lopez

The November 22 march for Andy Lopez began with about 100 people gathering at the Santa Rosa City Hall, with the numbers swelling somewhat by the time the group reached the Sonoma County Hall of Justice.

When the protesters arrived at the Hall of Justice, many of them felt that sheriffs behind the police line appeared to have expressions on their faces that were unprofessional, and pointed out that some were chuckling. Youth crossed the police line and when expressing themselves closer to the Hall of Justice and the deputies, officers in riot gear were called out. Some of those in the riot gear targeted certain individuals with strong, sustained gazes and one community member was warned about their alleged probation status by officers. A few in the riot gear were smirking behind face shields and community members accused them and others of laughing at them.

Demonstrators have been marching to the Hall of Justice to demand that Erick Gelhaus be arrested and charged with crimes for killing Andy on October 22. The sheriff's department has said that Gelhaus killed Andy within seconds of spotting him with a firearm, which was later determined to be a toy gun.

These photos from the November 22 march are displayed in chronological order.

Andy's Parents watch on