Monday, July 25, 2016

Tuesday is Still the Night to Sleep at Santa Cruz City Hall

After celebrating their one-year anniversary on July 5, the Freedom Sleepers returned to Santa Cruz City Hall for their 53rd community sleepout on July 12, as well as their 54th sleepout on July 19.

A Freedom Sleeper lies next to a protest sign that reads, "Embrace Your Moral Compass Because We Upon This Earth Are One," at the 53rd community sleepout held on July 12

Since July 4 of 2015, a coalition of unhoused and housed community members have converged to sleep at Santa Cruz City Hall every Tuesday night to protest local laws that criminalize homelessness.

Many of those participating in the sleepouts call themselves Freedom Sleepers; individually and together they advocate for a wide variety of approaches to end the criminalization of sleep. The one primary demand that unites the Freedom Sleepers is their call to repeal the city's camping ordinance, which bans sleeping in public between the hours of 11pm and 8:30am, with or without the use of bedding materials.

By sleeping at city hall, the Freedom Sleepers are in direct violation of the camping ban.

In 2015 the group faced a number of police raids and attempts by the city to clear the sleepers out of city hall in order to terminate the sleep protests. Over the course of a year of sleeping at city hall, however, activists have developed a strategy for sleeping there relatively safely as a group.

When homeless individuals attempt to sleep together on other nights of the week in downtown Santa Cruz, outside of the context of the Freedom Sleepers protests, they have been subjected to the standard homeless sweeps regularly conducted by Santa Cruz police. The department dedicates a significant percentage of their time and budget to clear the downtown of homeless people sleeping at night in public.

Tuesday nights continue to be the night to sleep at Santa Cruz City Hall, and in downtown Santa Cruz in general.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from Community Sleepout #54, held on July 19-20.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Linda Yamane Demonstrates How to Construct a Tule Boat at Ohlone Day

Linda Yamane constructs a traditional tule boat at Ohlone Day. Photo: September 10, 2011.

Linda Yamane, who is of Rumsien Ohlone ancestry, is an Ohlone basket weaver and cultural preservationist who lives in the Monterey Bay Area. She spent years researching Ohlone basketry before producing her first traditional basket in 1994. Yamane's were the first Ohlone baskets to be made in over 150 years. She and her students are the only authentic Ohlone weavers alive and working today.

A young person sits in a tule boat on display at Ohlone Day. Photo: September 10, 2011.

Yamane is also the author of  the book, "When the World Ended, How Hummingbird Got Fire, How People Were Made: Rumsien Ohlone Stories."

For more information about Linda Yamane, see:

Tule Boat (donated to the Oakland Museum of California by Linda Yamane and others)
The Ohlone Basket Project (Oakland Museum of California)
Linda Yamane (Alliance for California Traditional Arts website)
Linda Yamane – Reviving Ohlone Language

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Remembering Frank Alvarado, Two Years After His Death at the Hands of Salinas Police

It has become a tradition to celebrate the life of Frank Alvarado with flowers. On July 10, Frank's family was joined by a large group of supporters near the location of his death to mark the second year since his killing by Salinas police. His father, Frank Sr., handed out roses to many of the women gathered, saying the gesture was in memory of "lover boy" as he lightheartedly referred to Frank. His family fondly remembers how dearly Frank loved to give women gifts, and especially the gift of flowers.

Frank Alvarado's father, Frank Sr., holds a sign calling on Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter to represent the community

Frank Sr. smiled joyously as he gave out the flowers.

The lightness of the activity was distinct, especially in the context of the seriousness of the family's fight for justice following Frank's killing at the home of a relative on July 10, 2014 by Sergeant Brian Johnson and Officer Scott Sutton of the Salinas Police Department.

The gathering for Frank began with supporters holding protest signs near the location of his death. Community members then circled around a small altar the family assembled. They shared words about Frank, and the fight for justice for him and others victims of police violence.

Frank's sister, Angélica Garza, is still deeply grieving from the loss of her brother. She emotionally described Frank's impact on people.

"He mattered to me. He mattered to everyone that he touched," Angélica said.

"I want justice for my brother. I want justice for all, and I want to see a change," she said.

Also in attendance at Frank's memorial were the family members of two other individuals killed by officers with the Salinas Police Department in 2014. Besides Frank, four other unarmed Latino men died at the hands of Salinas police that year.

Angel Ruiz was shot and killed on March 20 by Sergeant Mark Lazzarini, Officer Daniel DeBorde, and Officer William Yetter; Osmar Hernandez was shot and killed on May 9 by Sergeant George Lauricella and Officer Derek Gibson; and Carlos Mejia-Gomez was shot and killed killed on May 20 by Sergeant Danny Warner and Officer Josh Lynd. Jaime Garcia died after an officer with the SPD shot him with a Taser gun on October 31.

On the evening of Frank's killing, the officers involved were responding to an emergency call made by a family member who reported Frank was exhibiting erratic behavior at their home. Police claim that after a standoff with Frank, they were acting in "self-defense" when they killed him because they thought he was charging at them with a gun. It was revealed that Frank was holding a cell phone at the time of the police encounter and not a gun. Monterey District Attorney Dean Flippo later called it a "suicide by cop" and refused to press charges against the officers involved.

The 2014 police killings sparked a movement for justice that persists in Salinas, largely due to the involvement of the families of the victims. Frank Sr. and Angélica have participated in countless civic meetings and political demonstrations, calling for justice following Frank's killing.

At the memorial, Angélica made a call for others to join the movement.

"We need change," she said. "We need people to stand up and say, 'Enough already. Enough. Quit taking our sons. Quit taking our brothers. Stop.'"

Frank Alavardo was himself was an activist. In May of 2014, just two months before his killing, he spoke about his experience of being incarcerated in the California state penitentiary at a rally in Santa Cruz to oppose prison expansion. The rally was organized by Sin Barras, a prison abolition group.

At the memorial for Frank, members of Sin Barras were present.

Several members of Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) were also in attendance at the memorial, including two members of the Monterey 8.

Eight individuals gained the "Monterey 8" moniker after they were arrested for blocking Highway One in Monterey during a Black and Brown Lives Matter protest in March of 2015. The action was organized in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and in response to the Salinas police killings of 2014. All eight of the activists were eventually sentenced to serve 40 days in jail and required to pay nearly $1000 in fines per person.

Frank Sr. and Angélica spoke about Frank's killing at the rally that preceded the action to block Highway One in March of 2015, and they supported the Monterey 8 through the subsequent court procedings that lead to their sentencing.

Direct Action Monterey Network members have worked closely with all of the families who lost loved ones to Salinas police in 2014.

The Alvarado family has received a large amount of support from civic leaders, many of whom were present at the memorial. Some of those who spoke included Salinas city council member José Castañeda, Attorney Anthony Prince, and Monterey County Branch NAACP member Steven Goings. 

Frank Sr. gives out roses

Angélica Garza speaks

Black Lives Matter, Brown Lives Matter: Police Brutality Protest in San José

One person was arrested during a march to protest police brutality on July 10 in San José. In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the protest was organized in response to the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile in Minnesota, as well as the local killing of Latino youth Anthony Nuñez. Nuñez was killed at his home by officers with the San José Police Department on July 4.

A speaker at the protest displays a sign that reads: "Black Lives Matter. Black and Brown. We Stand United"

After first gathering at San José City Hall for a rally, with many individuals speaking out and sharing their personal stories of police brutality, community members set out for a march down East Santa Clara Street. A number of San José police officers arrived fairly quickly and exited their vehicles. After changing into riot gear, they jogged ahead of the march to join another group of officers in blocking the street. During a short face-off with the marchers, who wanted to move forward, police identified a person in the middle of the crowd for arrest. After strongly protesting the takedown, which involved several police officers piling on top of the person they targeted, the marchers reversed direction and headed back. They then staged a die-in at city hall, followed by another speak-out.

A cousin of Anthony Nuñez stated that a family member who was at home with Anthony when he was killed believes the 18-year-old was unarmed when police shot him. The police have told a different story, saying were called to the home after Anthony shot himself, which resulted in a light grazing wound. The police claim that Anthony was still in possession of the gun when they arrived, and that he pointed it at them, which prompted them to "defend themselves." Anthony's family members are questioning the police account of the killing, and beyond being devastated by their loss, they want answers.

Anthony Nuñez's cousin speaks

A police helicopter followed the march