Almost a week after the group’s first General Assembly, the Occupy Santa Cruz movement has taken shape. The diverse group of activists has expanded its presence from San Lorenzo Park to the Santa Cruz Superior Courthouse on the steps of the Water Street entrance this week.
Monday evening’s General Assembly meeting began at approximately 6:15 p.m. on the Water Street side of the courthouse. Roughly 50 protesters surrounded by twice as many signs gathered to discuss proposals related to the occupation of San Lorenzo Park and the courthouse steps.
The group agreed to meet at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning to decide whether they would be moving the occupation. The protesters weighed the pros and cons of establishing the occupation’s base at the courthouse, but are currently scouting for the next location to occupy.
Toward the end of the general assembly, one man asked the crowd of protesters for a show of hands indicating who was willing to sleep at the courthouse — which would be illegal — and risk getting arrested. Half a dozen people raised their hands.
“People need to stand up and show that we are not going to back down,” someone shouted.
The Occupy Wall Street movement began officially on Sept. 17, when demonstrators began to assemble in New York City’s Liberty Square. After three weeks of camping and occupying the square, the movement has spread to cities across the nation, including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, District of Columbia, Raleigh-Durham and now Santa Cruz.
In total, Occupy Wall Street events have emerged in over 1,322 cities nationwide. One week ago, there were only 302 cities participating throughout the country.
Casey Livingood, a local resident who protested throughout the weekend, said he feels “social revolution is happening,” as he stood in front of a large sign on the courthouse steps that read, “Thanks Egypt,” a reference to the Egyptian revolution and the Arab Spring, which began earlier this year.
“Cops came and were impressed we had everything cleaned up,” Livingood said, as he explained how the police frequently check in with the protesters throughout the day. “They’re fine with any political protest, but they will not tolerate lodging at the courthouse.”
An older man, in a show of division from other protesters, instructed protesters to get the name and badge number of police officers who try to remove them. He also recommended protesters comply with any officers who ask the protesters to vacate the premises.
“We do not allow ourselves to be moved,” a young man yelled. “The cops are going to show up when there are as few of us as possible.”
Protest signs were scattered throughout the steps and lawn of the courthouse. Demonstrators chose to display signs on the Water Street side of the building so passersby could see them. Slogans on the signs included “1300 + Occupations World Wide Join Us,” “Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport,” and “Social Revolution Is Happening.”
“The last three nights have been really fun,” said Hayden Bean, referring to the occupation of the courthouse and San Lorenzo Park throughout the weekend. Bean, a Santa Cruz resident, said he has enjoyed “meeting like-minded people.”
Occupy Santa Cruz has recieved food donations from local residents who support their cause. With so much food, it is “hard to eat before it goes bad,” said Livingood, who says he is the liaison for donations.
The demonstrators created a special committee, the “Waste Management and Sanitation Group,” which oversees issues regarding clean-up and disposal of trash.
“We’re actually pretty conscious of the waste we create,” Livingood said.
Activists Ellen Kane, who described herself as a “long-term community member,” said she did not want to see the occupation end.
“I don’t expect this to peter out,” said Kane, who said she wants Occupy Santa Cruz to protest political and economic dishonesty.
UC Santa Cruz students have joined Occupy Santa Cruz as well. Austin Bruckner, a second-year undergraduate, said he slept at the courthouse last Friday and planned to sleep there again Monday night. He said he believes the U.S. education system needs to abolish tuition.
“Education should be free,” Bruckner said.
Bruckner’s roommate Evan Powell, a second-year psychology and linguistics double major, said he supports Occupy Santa Cruz because he is an anarchist and is “disgusted with a lot of things going on” in the political and economic systems of the United States.
Frustrated with the political system, Kane believes the Occupy movement has the power to change it.
“I’ve worked my whole life,” Kane said, describing her involvement in the activist community for the last few decades.
“I pray to hell it continues all over this country.”