This Week in News

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    Illustration by Christine Hipp.

    Rally for Santa Cruz 11

    On May 4, concerned community members gathered for a rally at the courthouse and marched downtown to show support for the Santa Cruz 11 — the majority of them journalists — who were arrested in an Occupy demonstration at 75 River St. last fall.

    The rally began at the courthouse and featured speakers who brought the crowd up to speed on unfolding judicial proceedings. About a hundred people then marched down Water Street, turned left onto Pacific Avenue and walked back to the courthouse the way they came. The rally culminated with a few more speakers and a Wells Fargo-shaped piñata.

    Participants held signs bearing slogans like “Journalism is not a crime,” and chanted “What do we want?” “Drop the charges!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”

    Becky Johnson, a homeless rights activist and one of the journalists arrested, said she was “overwhelmed by the support from the Brown Berets and Occupy Santa Cruz.” The prosecution has greatly impacted her and her husband, who faces serious medical problems, but Occupy Santa Cruz and others have organized a strong community network for those arrested.

    “I can’t tell you how grateful I am for people coming out,” she said.

    Steve Pleich, a board member of the local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter, helped organize the march and has worked to galvanize the ACLU’s official support. The rally “went as well as it possibly could have,” he said, commenting on the depth of public support for the 11 arrested.

    Though police closely followed the march, Pleich said he was thankful the authorities respected the right to assemble and demonstrate.

    More trials and preliminary hearings will be held later this month, but the District Attorney’s office has shown no signs of relenting. Though four of the 11 were acquitted because of a lack of evidence, the District Attorney’s office may refile to prosecute two of them.

    “Empty buildings are the crime,” Johnson said. “It’s a business model that may work for [Wells Fargo], but not for the community.”

    More information and a petition are available at santacruzeleven.org.

    Desalination’s Salience Rises

    Right to Vote on Desal (RTVOD), a group working to put the potential Santa Cruz County desalination plant in the hands of Santa Cruz voters and not city council, is nearing the end of its ballot initiative signature gathering season.

    RTOVD recently broadened its campaign to target the UCSC community with paid signature gatherers currently roaming the campus. A discussion sponsored by faculty member Dave Shaw on April 29 hosted speakers affiliated with RTVOD, who linked the topic of desalination with that of campus expansion.

    Founded earlier in the year, the group gathered about half of the necessary 5,500 signatures by early April.
    RTVOD lead organizer Paul Gratz said they are closing in on the goal, to be complete by the end of the month.

    “Our main focus right now is trying to get over the amount [of signatures] we need to get [the charter amendment] on the ballot,” Gratz said.

    Desalination has been a contentious issue in California for several years, garnering national and international media coverage. A similar voters’ right initiative called the Marin Responsible Water Policy Initiative made it onto the Marin County ballot in 2010, and passed by a 56% majority.

    UCSC professor and director of the Institute of Marine Sciences on campus, Gary Griggs, has watched the issue unfold locally for years.

    “Whenever there’s a proposal on the table about development or expansion, it immediately becomes polarized … there are people who love to blame the university, but the university has made amazing strides in conservation,” Griggs said.

    On June 6, the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) will convene to consider extending water service to UCSC’s proposed north lot expansion in upper campus.

    Former advisor to the Santa Cruz City Council and well-known environmental attorney Gary Patton said desalination and future campus developments are interdependent.

    “Students who care about the north campus expansion … need to care about what water policies might support that expansion,” Patton said. “The LAFCO decision will decide whether city water will be extended to allow the proposed expansion to occur.”

    The Student Environmental Center is hosting a night of discussion, “Water & the UC Expansion” on May 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the College Eight Red Room. LAFCO meetings are held in the County Governmental Center at 9:30 a.m., unless otherwise specified.

    Stabbing on Broadway

    Last Monday a 39-year-old woman was stabbed to death at 11:50 a.m. It was the first homicide in Santa Cruz in over a year and occurred on the 300 block of Broadway. Police responded to the incident but she was declared dead on the scene at 12:10 p.m.

    “We know this was a random, unprovoked and senseless act,” said Santa Cruz police spokesman Zach Friend. “There will never be a satisfactory reason for why she was attacked.”

    Santa Cruz police have collaborated with the District Attorney’s office as well as the State Department of Justice, which helped to process the crime scene to make sure the case is as strong as possible.

    Police have a 44-year-old man in custody who was found hiding near Barson and Campbell Streets, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The man was found with blood on his clothing and was attempting to dispose of the evidence.

    “It is our hope that the community will join us, as many have appeared to have already done, in coming together to support the family,” Friend said. “It’s important that the family knows they are not alone during this tragedy and that as a community we will do whatever is possible to ensure such a thing never happens again.”