Over the years, I have received quite a few questions about the photos featuring Sgt. Baker that I took at Occupy Santa Cruz in 2011. The one photo I published of Baker has had a life of its own, eventually finding its way to the Santa Cruz Police Department itself. Several years ago Deputy Chief of Police Rick Martinez thanked me for taking it and told me a print of it was hanging inside the Santa Cruz Police Department. I knew that a copy of it had been gifted to the department by activist Abbi Samuels during the Freedom Sleepers protests at Santa Cruz City Hall in 2015. From time to time, while I have been photographing other protests, a number of police officers have approached me to speak about the photo.
I originally published it in an Indybay article online, along with a number of other photos from the October 15, 2011 Occupy Santa Cruz protest. Later, I printed it up when I was invited to show some of my work at the Occupy Santa Cruz art show held at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in April of 2012. When I wasn't able to personally pick up and retrieve the photos from the RCNV at the end of the show, I simply left them there for the center to use if they so desired. A short while later, Abbi saw them sitting there in an extra room and asked me if she could have some. I didn't think much of the photo again until several years later, after Sgt. Baker lost his life.
Abbi contacted me in 2013 or 2014 rather excitedly. She had been looking at the photo one day with a friend, and they figured out Baker was one of the police officers prominently featured in it. She asked me if I knew if it was really Butch Baker in the photo, and I told her that it was.
I caught up with Abbi recently to ask her about her recollections of gifting the photo to the police department.
She told me she thought that sharing the photo might, "spark goodness inside others."
"It was strange that I ended up with that photo from Occupy," Abbi told me. "Once I found out it was Butch Baker, there was this strong feeling that it was no longer mine to keep and that I should give it to someone who may see the beauty of it, such as his family or friends."
"I Just had an intuition," she said.
The photo depicts Sgt' Baker and another officer from the SCPD speaking to an activist from Occupy Santa Cruz who is sitting in the street. The activist was part of a group of Occupy Santa Cruz members who initiated the sit-in on Water Street to "occupy" the street. The sit-in itself occurred after a long Occupy Santa Cruz march to protest at three of the major banks downtown as part of a global day of action for the occupy movement.
As marchers neared the Santa Cruz County Court House on their return from protesting at the Bank of America branch on River Street, approximately a dozen people sat down on the Water Street Bridge and began a short occupation of the roadway, which forced its closure by police.
The activists eventually left the bridge and marched to the court house, where they began a "meditation sit-in" in the middle of Water Street. At this point, many Occupy Santa Cruz members opposed the blocking of the street, and they managed to get everyone but one meditator up off of the road. When the other activists spoke with him, he communicated that that he would get up and leave the roadway if the police officers on scene asked him to. Steve Pleich, a member of Occupy Santa Cruz's legal working group at the time, then conveyed that message to the police, and two officers, one of whom was Sgt. Baker, approached the meditator and politely asked if he would stop blocking the road. He agreed immediately and exited the roadway without incident.
The deaths of Loran "Butch" Baker and Elizabeth Butler has affected the Santa Cruz community very deeply. Many locals wear the "Never Forget" shirts that were produced following the officers' deaths, which is not an idle gesture. Many who lived in Santa Cruz and experienced the news reports, or were part of Baker and Butler's extended family, will deeply feel the loss of these officers forever.
To view the report featuring the photo of Sgt. Baker I originally published on Indybay in 2011, see: