As tent cities across the nation fall, the tents of Occupy Santa Cruz remain standing Wednesday morning in spite of the expiration of a city-issued permit which allowed protesters to camp in San Lorenzo Park and the front steps of the County Building. The expiration of the permit heralded an end to Occupy Santa Cruz's legal status in the city, a fact which brought a mixture of excitement and anticipation to the movement's participants.
The atmosphere at the protest Tuesday night was a mix of hopeful festivities and paranoid anticipation. The expiration of the city permit led many to expect intervention by law enforcement, an expectation which caused the normal nighttime numbers of the encampment to swell well beyond their normal levels. Music from drums, harmonicas and a saxophone could be heard well into the early morning hours.
However, the party atmosphere was under toned by the watchful expectation that police would intervene sometime in the early morning hours, and co-ordinated sentries armed with walkie-talkies kept careful watch for police action untill the crack of dawn Wednesday.
“We have gathered evidence that points to there being a raid tonight, and it's possible because they see the numbers we have,” said protester Gabriela Ripley-Phipps. Ripley-Phipps said that the absence of law enforcement on Tuesday was a sign of the movement's strength.
“Maybe its more than they bargained for.”
Local law enforcement has shown some spunk, however, as several Occupy protesters have been arrested in the previous days, including Austine Bruckner, a 19-year-old UCSC student who was arrested Monday night and charged with vehicle tampering.
Bruckner explained that at the time he was arrested he had been recording the license number of a vehicle he suspected belonged to an undercover police officer.
“I only got like two letters down before this cop just comes like zooming by, and swerves right in front of me. If I hadn't moved then he would have hit me. He gets out of the car, I don't think he even says anything, and he just comes up behind me and just does this choke hold thing and hits me in the jaw. He tells me I'm being detained for vehicle tampering, but I wasn't even within arm's length of the car.”
Bruckner said the officer was not uniformed or wearing a badge, and refused to identify himself when asked by himself and other protesters.
The future of Occupy Santa Cruz is uncertain for all parties, as a series of legal decisions by either county or federal judges will soon determine whether the protest is a legitimate exercise in free speech, or a public nuisance.