Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In Memory of Fallen Officers, Activists Postpone Rally Opposing Attack Vehicle Purchase

Activists organizing to oppose the police purchase of a $250,000 Lenco BearCat (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) postponed a rally scheduled to occur during today's Santa Cruz City Council meeting. Members of SCRAM! (Santa Cruz Resistance Against Militarization) changed plans when they found out the Santa Cruz Police Department officers who were killed in 2013 might be honored at the same time as their rally.

Harry Meserve of SCRAM! speaks to council members.

The BearCat rally was postponed when it was realized that a resolution declaring February 26 as "Baker-Butler Memorial Day" was on the council's agenda to honor SCPD's Elizabeth Butler and Loran Baker, who were shot to death while on duty in 2013. Activists thought community members might want to gather in the City Hall courtyard to honor the fallen officers after the adoption of the resolution, as they have done in the past during similar council actions.

Protests against police militarization have been held at the previous four Santa Cruz City Council meetings. Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs had been setting up large tables and serving food outside of council chambers for the rallies, as well as distributing protest signs, but today they did not.

During today's oral communications period, Harry Meserve spoke to council members on behalf of SCRAM! Meserve is also a member of the Santa Cruz chapter of Veterans For Peace.

"In a desire to acknowledge the work of the police, and in memory of Sgt. Loran Baker and Det. Elizabeth Butler, we have decided to forgo the opportunity to speak to you on the BearCat. Individuals will, of course, speak in oral communications on various issues, including perhaps the BearCat, but we as SCRAM! will reserve that right until a future opportunity to speak," Meserve said.

"You know that we feel strongly about the BearCat and its acquisition by the City of Santa Cruz. We are looking forward to the opportunity for the community to make its case on the BearCat," he said.

That opportunity may come in March.

The BearCat was approved by a 6-1 vote during the council's consent agenda on December 9, which many community members feel was an attempt by Santa Cruz police and city staff to sneak the purchase past the public. Mayor Don Lane and Council Member Micah Posner have since indicated they plan to bring back the issue back to the council's agenda sometime in March, but their statements have not addressed activists' full list of demands, which call for the BearCat order to be rescinded.

SCRAM! members have articulated their demands as follows:

1) to bring the BearCat back onto the SC City Council agenda for a full public hearing and to rescind the approval

2) to establish a long term policy for grant applications and acceptance in the City that ensures timeliness, transparency, full public disclosure and input

3) to help develop and implement policies that prevent military equipment from flowing into law enforcement agencies throughout Santa Cruz County

Community members opposed to the BearCat purchase are planning to rally again at the next Santa Cruz city council meeting on Tuesday, March 10.

Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel, Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark, and Sgt. Mike Harms (from left to right) were present in council chambers during the discussion of "Baker-Butler Memorial Day."

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