Story updated 11/17/2011 at 10:30pm
Last week, Santa Cruz city attorneys filed a lawsuit against members of Occupy Santa Cruz (OSC) for allegedly being a public nuisance, citing the presence of feces, drugs and fights in San Lorenzo Park. The park is under the jurisdiction of the Santa Cruz Police Department.
“If the demonstrators continue to camp in the city park in violation of an injunction issued by the court, the city would be authorized by the court order to remove the camping equipment from the park,” said city attorney John Barisone.
Barisone added that protesters would not be allowed “in the park without a permit between sunset and sunrise.”
The permit the city gave OSC outlines rules and regulations protesters are to follow to continue their demonstration, including a prohibition against staying in the park overnight. It also calls for protesters to dismantle their tents and clean up the area of the park they’ve occupied by Nov. 16.
Santa Cruz attorney Ed Frey, who represents OSC, filed a notice of removal in federal court on Tuesday, effectively stalling a hearing in Santa Cruz County Superior Court that would have allowed a county judge to decide whether or not OSC is a public nuisance.
SCPD deputy chief of police Steve Clark said he is “surprised [protesters] would balk at conditions that simply ask for a measure [of] responsibility to accompany the rights they wish to exercise.”
Across the country in the last week and a half, Occupy protesters have faced increasing police presence. Last week, protesters at UC Berkeley were beaten with batons by university police near Sproul Hall. UC President Mark Yudof issued a statement on Wednesday expressing support for “peaceful” demonstrators at the protest, and said “a process is in place to review the violence of last week.”
On Tuesday, thousands of students calling themselves “Occupy Cal” marched around Berkeley in support of Occupy Wall Street, whose encampment in New York’s Zuccotti Park was forcibly taken down by the NYPD in the early hours of the morning. Occupy camps have been removed in Oakland, Berkeley, Portland and New York, among other places, but protesters have returned with more conviction and passion than before their eviction.
Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m., protesters continued to occupy the Santa Cruz County Courthouse and San Lorenzo Park despite the 49-degree weather. People camping at the courthouse and park for the past month were there, along with many other new faces. Tents along the river in the park multiplied as well.
People in front of the courthouse shouted, “Whose dome?” while others shouted back “Our dome!” in a call-and-response, referring to their aptly named “Occudome.”
In what appears to be a growing response to local law enforcement and the city’s recent attempts to shutdown OSC, more people are joining the 24/7 protest on county and city property.
“Tents, signs, EZ-ups and someone’s glasses” have been taken by sheriff’s deputies, said Hayden Bean, a protester who has been occupying the courthouse steps for several weeks. Bean said two people were arrested earlier in the day, and one was allegedly assaulted by a non-uniformed officer who had no visible badge and would not provide his name.
The officer who arrested the two men was about to start his shift when he noticed the men photographing his personal vehicle, which was parked next to his patrol car. He claimed the men had touched his personal car and arrested them on suspicion of tampering with a vehicle. UCSC students Austin Bruckner and Joseph Sherman-Williams were the two men arrested, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Aside from the violence, Bean feels things are going “very well … even though it’s cold, people have high spirits.”
Last week, protesters began constructing new shelters and tents in front of the courthouse in response to the permit issued by the city and Santa Cruz County sheriff’s officers who have told protesters to dismantle their structures. Protesters are refusing to dismantle the tents and instead have chosen to erect more tents, shelters and signs around the dome.
Protester Abby Bacon said many of the protesters have not been getting a lot of sleep because they do not want to get cited for sleeping at the courthouse. Bacon only gets a few hours of sleep each night and she has already been cited.
“They took my tent and backpack,” Bacon said. Sheriffs told her she would have to pick up her belongings later that day. “The general feeling that I have is that people want to stay and protect the spot if evicted.”
Clark said the city’s conditions are reasonable, as protesters have expressed to the police department they would like to disassociate themselves from the group of mostly homeless people who have set up tents in San Lorenzo Park near those of the Occupy protesters. Clark, like other city officials, cites alcohol, drugs, violence and trash as the inappropriate behavior through which OSC is becoming an issue with the city and police department.
The police department has offered their assistance in removing those people who are interfering or disrupting the event, Clark said. It is up to the protesters to use the permit as a tool to disassociate themselves from that “unwanted element,” he said.
“This will test their resolve toward this, or signal that their words have been just rationalizations and excuses,” he said. “We do expect them to abide by the permit conditions, and we do expect consequences should they refuse to do so.”
The area in front of the courthouse is under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Department. April Skalland, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department press information officer, said the Sheriff’s Department has been working with OSC, focusing on keeping an open dialogue with protesters and assessing the situation day-to-day.
“We encourage OSC to keep that open dialogue with us,” Skalland said.
Mayor Ryan Coonerty, who expressed support of the movement and local protesters a few weeks ago, has changed his tone as more people complain about the protesters in the park.
“Overall, I am hopeful that the protesters will take reasonable steps to address the public health and safety issues,” Coonerty said. “I also hope that they focus their energies on addressing a serious national issue and not protesting the need for Port-a-Potties.”