A Tale of Two Governments: Occupy Santa Cruz (Part II)
Occupy Santa Cruz’ encampment lies uniquely on both city and county government. Until recently both governments responded with similar disdain that many cities have shown toward their citizens rallying against vast economic inequality. Now though a split has emerged between these two governments. The city filed an injunction against the campers on the city side. Lawyers representing Occupy Santa Cruz managed to move the venue to Federal Court. The city is now attempting to remand the case back to state court. The hearing is expected to take place in January. Meanwhile the county has managed to change course by 180 degrees. In my previous post I discussed how the County was moving to evict OCS. Now the county is settling into something akin to a live and let live policy, at least for now. OCS has been allowed to remain on country property as long as some rules are observed including keeping signs off county buildings. How long this will last no one knows but at least for now the county’s position is a welcome contrast to the city’s.
On Sunday I dropped off my second package of supplies to OCS’s extremely friendly supply officer. As we were walking across the encampment she told me of OCS effort to integrate more fully those who were homeless supporters of OCS and those who had a regular place to sleep. She talked about trying to remove the stigma that comes with the label homeless. Having been homeless myself I can speak to the complete idiocy of the stereotypes placed on the homeless. Being homeless is a great of work. Waking up every morning taking a minute or two to remember where you are and how long you can stay there is stressful. As is trying to figure out where you will go next once your current spot is no longer viable. OCS supply system has become extremely well developed. All regular residents have registered and listed exactly what they need. As supplies come in from Occupy Supply and elsewhere, they are distributed according to the list. Seeing OCS members line up eagerly to receive supplies was extremely gratifying.
I attended my first General Assembly. This is what democracy should work like. Herding cats has never been done so masterfully or with such respect. A wide variety of people where at the GA: newcomers, curious passersby, OCS members who have been there since day one, students, professionals, the young, and the elderly. Each department reported on its activities and concerns. GA attendees were encouraged to speak on concerns or offer suggestions. A few of the mentally ill, who may have possibly been unmedicated, brought things to a standstill by veering off on tangents. The facilitators treated them with respect while bringing things back on track. A member of Occupy Oakland was there giving some suggestions and tips that OCS could implement. A local choir sang at the end of the assembly for all those gathered.
I have heard some criticism from some members of OCS of alleged over focus on issues of homelessness in Santa Cruz. I did not find that to be true. Santa Cruz has been on something of a “holy war” against the mere existence of the homeless in the past six years I have lived here. Such draconian ordinances have been passed that, if they were universally enforced, would been no senior or student would ever be allowed to stop or sit in downtown Santa Cruz, for example:
no sitting within 14 feet of any building
no sitting within 50 feet of an ATM
no sitting within 14 feet of a work of art
no sitting within 14feet of any street corner or intersection
While OCS has given this issue its due they have also focused on several others as well. OCS has been working with students up at the University of California at Santa Cruz in solidarity protests against tuition increases as well as reaction to the events at the University of California at Davis. Also they have staged numerous actions against branches of the Too-Big- to-Fail banks in the area. Plans are now being considered to ask the Sheriff of Santa Cruz County to issue a moratorium on bank foreclosures in light of the ongoing investigations by states attorney generals into alleged fraudulent foreclosures by the big banks.
OCS is also working on public outreach. The encampment is located a couple of blocks from downtown Santa Cruz. A table is going to be set up on a daily basis in downtown Santa Cruz to answer public questions about Occupy Wall Street/Santa Cruz. Surveys are going to go out on Facebook and on OCS website asking for public input on what issues OCS should be working on going forward.
Given the evictions that have happened to other occupy sites (New York, Oakland and now sadly Los Angeles and Philadelphia) OCS is now working on what happens in Phase II if they lose their encampment. For now the struggle continues and support and awareness continue to grow.
Those at Occupy Santa Cruz wish to thank FireDogLake and everyone who has contributed to Occupy Supply. Your contributions have made a huge difference here in Santa Cruz, California.