About 10 tents and the Occupy Santa Cruz “Dome” were removed from the front of the Courthouse around 6:30 on Sunday morning. Sixty Santa Cruz Sheriff's deputies in riot gear also removed about 25 protesters from the encampment. Their belongings were put in a storage pod across the street until they can collect them later in the week. No arrests were made.
Already, protesters have begun to trickle back to the courthouse steps, as they have been told they are allowed to occupy the space until 7:30 p.m. each night. The yard where many of the tents had been set up is now roped off.
Occupy Santa Cruz will hold a General Assembly meeting at 2:30 p.m. for the next four Sundays, inviting the community to the discussion.
Late Sunday the group issued a press release explaining why they left and saying they were misinterpreted.
"The police and some media have focused on Wells Fargo as the 'victim' in this scenario," it said.
"This logic is exactly the problem. Wells Fargo has foreclosed countless families out of their homes (not to mention investing in heinous ICE detention centers, engaging in predatory lending, and yielding profits of over $12 Billion last year). The reclamation and re-purposing of a vacant building valued at $3.5 million is an injustice to no person and no institution.
"The real injustice is people being pillaged out of homes they spent years working legitimately to obtain, by an objectively greedy and inherently predatory legal entity."
At the end of its statement, the group said it would be back.
It had been three weeks since any lodging citations had been issued by the Sheriff’s department—lodging citations were given about five times a night for a full week, according to Santa Cruz man Joe Singer. Each citation means a $1,000 fine or six months in jail if prosecuted to the fullest extent.
“We were completely caught off guard because we had had watches going on in the previous weeks, people wanted to sleep,” said Singer, who recieved a lodging citation weeks ago.
“I got woken up by an officer. I looked outside my tent and there were about sixty officers in riot gear looking pretty intimidating. They came and let us get as much of our stuff as possible, they took down the dome. I guess they only cut down like two pieces and the rest of it fell apart. They filled up a truckload of trash—they got all of the trash out for us so they helped us out in a way,” said Christoper Seerden, 30.
The Occupy Santa Cruz encampment in front of the courthouse held the infrastructure of the General Assembly, and is not to be confused with the encampment behind the courthouse, along the river. That camp has grown as a safe place for people who are displaced economically, and most campers are not associated with the Occupy movement at all. Unlike lodging citations, camping citations are only $33, and the city has not issued a single camping citation since the Occupy movement began two months ago.
Occupiers met on the back steps of the courthouse around 1p.m. Sunday, in an impromptu meeting before the General Assembly, and began discussing their next move.
“What I think is significant is to refocus and remind people that we’re not here to battle with the cops. We didn’t come here to be in a constant sort of siege. I’m sick of strategy thats all about ‘how do we not get arrested today’ because I think it takes away from doing something else,” said Ayla Heffernan.
On Saturday, Santa Cruz Police were called to the San Lorenzo Park encampment after reports of a man brandishing a knife and threatening a photographer. The man was not located, but Kevin Jones was arrested for throwing water and toilet paper at the 43-year-old victim.
Officers also arrested Edwin Frey for delaying/interfering with a police officer during the interview process of the victim and Mr. Jones.
Singer said that the Occupy movement is not violent.
“There are no weapons in any of these encampments. Anyone who has a weapon is not part of Occupy Santa Cruz. It is in our guidelines to not carry weapons,” said Singer, referring to the nonviolent statement adopted by the movement during the first two days, which can be found on the Occupy Santa Cruz website.
With so many signs, opinions, and messages, many outsiders are confused about what the Occupy movement is hoping to accomplish. When the First Alarm Security guard posted outside the orange fence, asked Singer to explain the intentions of the Occupy movement, Singer replied:
“We are just a political protest at the moment. We have no demands. Why don’t we have demands? Because demands can be co-opted, and we are not ready yet, because the purpose for being here is to gather the entire community nationwide, we want to hear questions, comments, concerns about what is happening in this country. We aren’t ready to move forward until we’ve heard everybody’s opinion, because the way it works in the United States right now is the majority rules, and fifty percent of the people are not heard or are disregarded."
The main themes, according to Singer, are: the bank bail outs, Corporate Personhood (Citizens United Act Legislation) and a recently-passed legislation that says U.S. Citizens can be detained arbitrarily for any indefinite period of time.
“It passed with only five dissenting (actually, seven, ed.) opinions in the Senate. Is this Nazi Germany or is this America?” Singer said, mentioning that the legislation appears to be targeted at the Occupy movement nationwide.
“From the outset, a lot of people have expressed some very strong feelings that they do not want to set as a group any goals, demands, or policy changes to be called for. I think that the people watching from outside, deciding whether to favor our group, or not favor our group, join us or not join us, are waiting to hear what it is we stand for, besides just the poor, the 99%, we have to get more specific than that,” said Ed Frey.
John Malkin, a reporter for Free Radio, attended the impromptu meeting, and recommended that the Occupy discussions be held elsewhere.
“Most of the discussion happens at Occupy... most people are not at Occupy. Have some of these discussions somewhere else. A lot of people are not going to come here...” Malkin said. “And invite everyone, and give time to everyone, whatever people want and whatever vision they have.”
Malkin recommended the Louden Nelson Center and the newly relocated Resource Center for Non Violence—which can now fit a couple hundred people—as possibly meeting spaces.
“The ultimate goal is to change the way our economic system is run. The short term goal is to create space so that people can meet with us, so that we can get to that point, said Santa Cruz resident Craig Metz.