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LOCAL Announcement :: Education & Youth

Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

On Tuesday September 21st, according to a Sentinel story the next day, cops swooped down on a dozen young street kids and busted them on felony marijuana charges at Pacific Avenue and San Lorenzo Park. The kids responded by coming to City Council in protest on Tuesday the 28th and may be at the City Council candidate forum on October 4 6:30 PM at Louden Nelson Center.
City Council Drug War Victims Speak Out !
Student Loans Could be Stolen from Pacific Avenue Street Youth
After Felony Busts Last Week For Small Amounts of Grass
September 30, 2004 By Becky Johnson and Robert Norse

The Santa Cruz Sentinel (9-22-04) apparently taking its cue from the Santa Cruz Police Department called its young victims “gypsies, dirty, prone to violence and associated with methamphetamines and heroin.� On Tuesday September 28th a half-dozen young people, including several who had recently been arrested for felony marijuana charges downtown or at San Lorenzo Park spoke back to City Council during the Oral Communications period of the City Council meeting while two dozen of their companions watched and cheered from the audience.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) and HRO (Human Rights Organization) sponsored a protest rally outside Council chambers, where they fortified the latest police targets with hot thick vegan soup. Activists advised the newcomers of City Council’s procedures and repressive “Decorum� rules. In January Mayor Scott Kennedy threatened a dozen people with arrest for silently carrying signs around the chamber and had one man arrested for speaking quietly to a homeless man for “disrupting a public meeting� (charges were never filed, but the man was taken away in handcuffs and held in jail for several hours).

At the Tuesday night meeting, many of the tattooed, pierced, and tattered attendees were homeless. For most it was their first time in City Council chambers. Nearly all were anxious about saying anything to the Council. Councilmembers, including Mayor Kennedy, declined to speak with the youth as a group as they gathered outside, though loudly urged to do so by organizers. They pointedly ignored the young people and swept inside the chambers.

Vigorous applause followed each speaker speaking against the City Council-endorsed War on Marijuana. The large number of Council critics--at least 25 or 30 who gathered at short notice--may have annoyed Mayor Kennedy. Shortly after the speaking period began, Kennedy, quietly but audibly told Vice-Mayor Mike Rotkin, “Cut the video now!� directing that the Community TV coverage cut short any “message� that the audience numbers was sending to those watching at home.

In the past, Kennedy has actually recessed Council meetings, and ordered microphones and cameras to be turned off to conceal the arrest of homeless advocates. Goaded on by Rotkin, in January Kennedy initiated a “cumulative warnings� policy. Kennedy broadly threatened critics that he was “tallying up� warnings from meeting to meeting and could then use an armed police officer to silence, evict, and/or arrest. That policy has never been repudiated.

Later, vehicularly housed Vietnam Veteran, and Metro Santa Cruz #5 gadfly, Michael Tomasi waved what looked a joint in front of the council. Kennedy ordered "I don't want a close-up of that" and Community TV obediently blurred Tomasi and his “joint� in a wide-angle distant shot.

Speaker after speaker approached the microphone to report that not one of the dozen arrested downtown on Tuesday the 21st (then named and pilloried in the Santa Cruz Sentinel) were charged with use or sales of met amphetamine or heroin. Many told the council that they didn't like to drink alcohol and disliked how people behave when the under the influence of alcohol. "And that is legal and pot is illegal?" one dreadlocked man asked.

Mayor Kennedy treated speakers differentially, allowing those not addressing the City’s youth-targeting “Drug War� busts downtown, to speak over their 3- minute time, but abruptly shutting down speakers shut off the speakers before the last two spike-haired youths had a chance to make their case, and allowed less than the thirty minutes mandated for Oral Communications--the only City Council period when the public can actually speak on subjects of their own choosing. He then spent more than two hours on a West side home variance that affected two well-to-do households.

While I agree with what many of you have said," Rotkin responded at the end of the session, "If you sell marijuana in Santa Cruz, you will be arrested. That is the law." "Does that mean Rotkin busts his own dealer after he sells him his grass?" one hippiesque girl in a long flowing skirt asked. Others asked why the council had such a different reaction to medical marijuana but were willing to throw the book at them for basically doing the same thing.

Chris Kinman, spoke eloquently of overcoming homelessness and unemployment, though his mom is still homeless and his father was alcoholic. His college work has now been interrupted by the days of incarceration, he reported, losing classes, funding, and probably housing. Chris reported candidly that he smoked marijuana from an early age and in high school was class president in his freshman, sophomore and senior years with a 3.5 grade average. "Now I have had to drop out of college and I don't qualify for financial aid because of it. And since they cut off my check, I may become homeless at the end of this month.."

Mike Seymour, an older man who lives in his van, also spoke. Originally in Santa Cruz for a three-week visit last November. He is still here trying to take care of charges of sleeping and camping in which, he says, police towed his car and damaged it. "None of those charges ever stuck but they owe me for towing my vehicle and the tow company owes me for the damage they did while towing it." He has been taken to court twice for marijuana charges (both dropped) and reports he is regularly harassed by police.

Speaker after speaker said they rejected harder drugs, preferring marijuana because, as Thomas Butts stated--"it calms me down." Seymour, seeing no sign of respect or understanding in the faces of the Council members, strode out the council door. As he reached the exit he turned said to the Council, "You're all a bunch of losers." Kennedy, who is running for re-election, retorted with a smile, "Don't speak to members of the public that way!"

Neither he, nor Rotkin, expected to be appointed Mayor when the Council reassembles in Late November, had any comment on a petition signed by several dozen people. The petition asks City Council to make marijuana arrests the lowest priority, establish a Commission to investigate the taxpayer costs of the City’s War on Grass, and reform the City laws which have prevented any marijuana distribution centers or clubs from opening for the last four years.

Participants gathered afterwards outside the chambers and vowed to “sleep in� at a subsequent Council meeting, even if it meant going to jail--in order to change the City’s 11 PM to 8:30 AM Sleeping Ban law. “At least it’ll mean a cot for the night� said one woman, shaking her head.

A majority of the Council or its representatives is expected to be attending the City Council Candidate Forum on Affordable Housing on Monday October 4th 6:30 PM at Louden Nelson Center. Opponents of the City Council/SCPD War on Grass are expected to be there.

Modified flyer by HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) 309 Cedar PMB 14B S.C. 95060 831-423-4833 10-1-04

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Fight Back Against the "War on Grass" Monday 6:30 PM Louden Nelson Center

Smoke ‘Em Out !
Council Candidates & Grass Busts

What is Dollar Cost of the SCPD’s Grass War ?
Who will Back Community Control of the Cops ?
Who’ll End Court-Ordered Banning Downtown ?
What can We Do Against The Recycled Four ?
How can the Community Stand up to Snitches ?
How many homeless sleeping together does it take to overturn the Sleeping Ban?

More Tasty “Slurp ‘n Smile� Soup Served !

Come to the City Council Candidate Forum on Affordable Housing
6:30 PM Monday October 4th
Louden Nelson Center

At last Tuesday City Council Meeting,
Street People Stood Tall and Spoke Out !

Raise Real Questions Again next Monday !
Bring Sleeping Bags, Blankets, & Friends !

When sleep is outlawed,
Outlaws should sleep together.

Flyer by HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) 309 Cedar PMB 14B S.C. 95060 831-423-4833 9-29-04

Petition to the Santa Cruz City Council to Stop the War on Grass in Santa Cruz

TO SIGN THIS PETITION, E-MAIL rnorse3 (at) or check out:

(1) The weekly HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meeting Wednesdays 8:30 AM at Baker's Square 1107 Ocean St.

(2) The weekly HUFF table at the SAFE (Society for Artistic Freedom and Expression)--the Street Performers Association sing-along Wedesdays 6-9 PM in front of New Leaf Market downtown S.C.

(3) The weekly HUFF/Copwatch joint table in front of Border's Bookstore Thursdays 6-8 PM.

Petition to End the Drug War in Santa Cruz

Note: You do not have to be a resident, an adult, or a registered voter to sign this petition.

+++ Whereas the City is supposedly in a budget crisis, has cut back social services, reduced citizen advisory committees generally, & eliminated the Citizens Police Review Board;
+++ Whereas the SCPD is still being funded lavishly with no independent oversight;
+++ Whereas the SCPD is soliciting and the City Council endorsing state & federal "Drug War" and "War on Terror" grants which encourage the enforcement of bad laws;
+++ Whereas the SCPD has taken no action to rein in the focused abusive attention that some officers like CSO Pam Bachtel selectively devote to homeless & poor people for violating the "don't sit", "don't sleep", and "don't congregate" ordinances;
+++ Whereas the City Council's current medical marijuana ordinances adopted in 2000 has effectively prevented the opening of any medical marijuana distribution centers;

Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for:

(1) Immediate direction by City Council that police address real crimes of violence instead of targeting young & poor people for buying, selling, & using small quantities of marijuana;
(2) A City Commission to research and publicize the amount of money spent by police each year on the drug war, and specifically targeting marijuana;
(3) A City Council declaration to be sent to other cities and to the governor demanding an end to the wasteful, useless, and corrupting Drug War state-wide.

Flyer by Norse of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) 309 Cedar PMB 14B S.C. 95060
831-423-4833 9-23-04 More info:, & &
Bathrobespierre’s Broadsides shows archived at

Original Sentinel Story Promoting the Police War on Grass

September 22, 2004

Arrests cap downtown, park drug sting

Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ — A dozen drug-dealing suspects were jailed by day’s end Monday as Santa Cruz police neared the end of a 30-day undercover operation targeting drug sales in San Lorenzo Park and on Pacific Avenue.

Police are still searching for 13 street-level marijuana dealers for whom they have warrants, Lt. Steve Clark said Tuesday.

The operation targeted the sale of marijuana, which police say is the most prevalent drug being sold in the problem spots, though heroin and methamphetamine are also available. On Pacific Avenue, the sales were made near the corner of Soquel Avenue and near the Metro Center, said Sgt. Tony Parker, who launched the program.

"I would have liked to get more, but we achieved our goal, and we’ll definitely consider doing it again," Parker said. "We want to make sure we pass on the message that downtown Santa Cruz and its parks are a place for kids, families and others, but not for drug dealers."

Arrested Monday on suspicion of selling marijuana, a felony, were Mark Kulus, 44, Kenneth Reaves, 32, Christopher Kinman, 28, Sterling King, 19, Jonathan Cothran, 19, Tazmanian Crimmins, 24, Mario Sanchez, 25, and Kenneth Botts, Michael Licata and Robert Tilman, all age 18.

Additionally, an unidentified 17-year-old girl was arrested and Ivan Usow, 29, was arrested for conspiring with others to sell drugs.

Most of those arrested have no fixed address and were selling drugs daily, police said.

Typically, the sellers used lookouts or associates who would lead buyers to the sellers, Clark said.

Parker launched the operation after noticing brazen drug activity in the park and downtown while on patrol this summer, Clark said, adding that officers get complaints about both areas. The sting was accelerated after two recent stabbings in the park, he said.

"We wanted to make a significant number of arrests as quickly as possible due to the escalating level of violence in the park," Clark said.

Officers reported "unusual ease" in conducting the blatant sales, he said, and noticed that a group of sellers traveled back and forth between Pacific Avenue and the riverside park, selling at the park during the day and later on the avenue. Officers were able to buy drugs on Pacific Avenue during the day as well, police said.

Grant funds paid for the overtime hours, Clark said.

He noted the aesthetic damage associated with some of the dealers.

"They leave all kinds of trash behind, and I don’t know what they do to the sidewalk, but it looks like a herd of gypsies lived there when they leave," he said.

"You can be poor and you can be homeless, but it’s not OK to treat the city streets like that, and it’s not OK to sell drugs on our streets."

Contact Cathy Redfern at credfern (at)

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Oh, man, I can't believe it. You guys honestly are supporting drug dealers now, just because they are homeless? San Lorenzo park these past two weeks has actually become a place I can take my family now, whereas over the summer it got progressively worse. And no, not just because there were "grungy-looking people" there, but because these same people were intoxicated, dealing drugs (yes, they were, it was happening all over the park) and sometimes fighting amongst themselves violently. That's not going on anymore, since this crackdown.

Apparently, you two continue to focus on the fact that they are homeless, and so must be nice folks, really, and the police are the big bad guys. Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe they were arrested because of their actions, rather than their housing situation? Or do you really like to have drunk, stoned and violent people taking over a park so that children and families can't play there?

Grass = Violence ?

Jerry: Any documentation (or information, even) that any of the arrests were for anything other than sales of small quantities of marijuana?

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Nope. But they weren't arrested for being homeless, either. And the message got across to others who break the law in the park, and they've stayed away. And the title of this post is misleading: "...Criminalize Young and Poor". They weren't arrested for being young (only 6 of the 12 were teenagers, the rest well into their 20s or above) and they weren't arrested for being poor (nothing in the article states that they are poor, anyway). They were arrested for breaking the law.

And my point remains the same-- the rude, illegal and violent behavior that was absolutely everywhere in the park is now gone.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Being poor isn't an excuse to commit crime.

Regardless, it would seem the majority of Santa Cruz citizens are quite in favor of getting illegal drug dealers out of public parks - otherise there might be more protest than on the Indymedia pages.

The Criminals Are Those Who Jail Grass Users

Jerry and n5667 are missing the point or evading it because they likely know how utterly unpopular grass busts are (but how frequent and how lethal).

Bust violent behavior? Sure. Bust a dozen young people,who are poor, under 25, live on the streets, and perhaps sell small quantities of grass to live? Bullshit.

The "drug war" is the prototype for the "war on terror". Let's wise up and fight it locally.

The movement for Medical Marijuana in California got its start here in the early 90's. It was "illegal" too.

Call City Council at 420-5020 and ask them to support the Petition outlined above.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Thank you people for standing up and fighting this. The criminalization of anyone, much less youth, for pot is stupid stupid stupid and archaic. We have got to stop wasting precious money that could be spent on housing and food on these things.


Please keep up the agitation, keep up the fight.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Where's the public outcry, Robert?

Apparently the general public of Santa Cruz doesn't like drug dealers - even if they're homeless and under 25.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Let me name some drug dealers in Santa Cruz. Bonesios liquors. Ernies Liquors.The Grog Shop. Harbor Liquors. Lighthouse Liquors.Lloyds Liquors.M-Bee liquors. Mission Liquors. U Save liquors. Z's Liquors. Also Safeway, Albertsons, Shoppers Corner. 7-11.

You can buy drugs at Horsnyders Pharmacy. Longs Drugs. Rite Aid.

Tobacco, which kills an average of 450,000 Americans every year can be bought at any gas station.

So "drug dealers" are highly accepted, legal, and profitable with community support.

But sell some marijuana??? And suddenly the person is criminal, adversely affecting families, violent (?), drunken (on marijuana???) and breaking the law.

If the law says that, then the law is an ass.

Lets use some common sense here. Heroin and amphetamine use need to be treated for the medical addiction that they are. Alcohol and tobacco outlets need to be closed gradually over time so their deletororious affects will be minimized in our community.

Using the criminal justice system to fight drug use (even when it is providing needed relief to those suffering various painful conditions) guarantees that we are wasting our time, money, not solving the "problem" and will ruin lives in the process. We should make minor marijuana possession and sales to be the lowest priority for the SCPD and need to petition our city council accordingly.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

There's a difference between alcohol and pot - alcohol is legal, and those establishments are licensed.

And the effects pot and alcohol have on an individual are not entirely relevent - what is relevent is that drug dealers increase crime - I don't think there's much violence involved between Longs Drugs and Safeway over who gets to ply their alohol trade on Mission St.

I agree that all drugs should be decrminalized and sold just like tobacco or alcohol, but that is not currently the case - and until that point, we can't ignore drug dealers, they are criminals and as such are a threat.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

ummmmm.... anyone else confused by the apparent contradiction here???
"I agree that all drugs should be decrminalized and sold just like tobacco or alcohol, but that is not currently the case - and until that point, we can't ignore drug dealers, they are criminals and as such are a threat."

If you agree that all drugs should be legal (hence you probably understand that some drugs aren't a real threat to society) then how can you say that someone distributing mary jane is a threat to society??? According to "the Law" Free Radio Santa Cruz was a criminal for doing nothing more than sharing news, music, and ideas with the community. Does that make them a threat too???

An act can be "criminal" and not be morally or ethically wrong if the law is unjust.

"Unjust laws stay on the books to folks with guts defy them"
Anne Feeney from "Have you been to jail for justice?"

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

"what is relevent is that drug dealers increase crime"

So are you not calling drunk driving a crime?
That is an ignorant and ridiculous comment.
Drunks increase crime on every single highway every damned day and night. My parents were slammd through their windshield when I was 4 from a drunk driver and I never ever forgot it nor have I ever driven drunk due to that memory of my dad looking like frankenstein after the accident. As an adult, I have had neighbors trying to get in my door with their keys after they got out of their cars driving home late at night from bars, so drunk they could not tell their own apt door from ours, honestly alcohol is quite sickening from where I stand. In Santa Cruz, I had a drunk woman walk right in my front door downtown, so disoriented she thought she had finally gotten home. Funny how that is not an absolute crime, it is only a crime if CAUGHT and caught usually means you harmed or killed other people, or you were walking the streets, not in your fancy car or ocean view home. Alcohol is a drug, that is used irresponsibly every single day in every single city in America by the rich as much as the poor, and if it is legal, there is not one argument that makes sense for pot not being legal. PERIOD. I have never had pot users try to get into my door, or walk in my door thinking they lived in my home!! There is not an EPIDEMIC of deaths from driving pot smokers, not alcohol and pot, but solely driving deaths due to pot and pot ALONE. There is no need for MOTHERS AGAINST STONED DRIVERS, but there IS a need for MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVERS because drunk drivers are the marked killers STATISTICALLY. I have never seen people as out of it as they get on alcohol on pot, ever. They are completely different drugs and alcohol is 100% more dangerous than pot. I would prefer my kid smoked pot to drink alcohol, you bet! He has a greater chance of living through his teens.

NO, POLICE INCREASE CRIME by criminalizing the poor. And middle class white people love their booze and pills...and they keep legislation outlawing homegrown herb, while making sure their drugs at Longs and booze at Thrifty's keep freely flowing. It is VERY hypocritical. And do not get me started on caffeine addictions!!!!!!! Just try and take coffee away from folks...they NEED it, EVERYDAY, as they are ADDICTED to it!

The only reason pot is not legal is the corporations are not sure how to monopolize it when the underground has better growing technique, knowledge, and cuttings than corporations could get. It is like how solar is slow in coming as they cannot figure out how to monopolize control of the sun...same with pot. It is pretty easy to grow and *that* is the problem, I think. If corporations cannot profit off it, then it will remain illegal where the government can profit off it at least in these unfair and sickening pot busts...

or else stay the f*ck away.
I say to you that more criminal activity is going on in the office buildings and fancy cars in town than on the mall with teens.
I say that as someone who WAS a homeless teen.
Someone who HAS been hassled by Santa Cruz cops for being homeless.
Someone who is now over 40 years old and still feels that the street kids in Santa Cruz are victims of police brutality and prejudice.
And it ain't gonna buy the state any new friends from street kids. I still hate the state for things it did to me as a teen, and I have not yet forgotten. I can still recognize the enemy, 3 decades later. And the enemy ain't street people, the homeless or the poor. The enemy is still the state, the police they fund, and their prejudicial poliicies of criminalizing the poor while treating those with property, when they break laws endangering lives with their drunk driving and prescription pill popping, quite differently.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

"====If you agree that all drugs should be legal (hence you probably understand that some drugs aren't a real threat to society) then how can you say that someone distributing mary jane is a threat to society??? According to "the Law" Free Radio Santa Cruz was a criminal for doing nothing more than sharing news, music, and ideas with the community. Does that make them a threat too???===="

Because one has a legal, regulated method of distribution, while the other one does not.

"====So are you not calling drunk driving a crime?
That is an ignorant and ridiculous comment.===="

It's also not what we're talking about. I agree that pot is less dangerous than alcohol, but I'm not referring to that; I'm referring to the method of distribution for these drugs.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

ummm... the question was actually whether or not they are really a "threat" to society regardless of the legal status of their activity.
As leavekidsalone eloquently put it, alcohol is the real threat to society with countless deaths, maimings, injuries, and ruined lives EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! Regardless of its legal status, it would be hard not to make the case that alcohol is the real threat to society yet it is puchased, consumed and abused every day to the detrement of society.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

They are a threat because their job operates outside legality, and dealing illegal substances regularly results in various other, more serious crimes.

The drug itself, and dealing the drug are two disparate subjects.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Someone said, "I would prefer my kid smoked pot to drink alcohol, you bet! He has a greater chance of living through his teens."

Alcohol or pot? Why do so many potheads consider this an either or question? I've heard many say the two go pretty good together. Others do better on neither. Neither would probably be the best advice for your kid.

Besides memory loss and lung problems, kids who smoke pot are much more likely to have problems with the law that can jeopardize their futures.

Someone else said, "And do not get me started on caffeine addictions!!!!!!! Just try and take coffee away from folks...they NEED it, EVERYDAY, as they are ADDICTED to it!"

Perhaps this person could use a drink. Or a packed pipe. But I've never seen a person get the munchies on coffee and steal all of my cookies. Just knowing this person is loose in Santa Cruz will force me to buy a lock for my cupboard.

I know that recreational pot smokers like to compare their drug to others to argue for legalization and to feel that their addiction isn't so bad (while often mixing this with a heaping of delusions that pot will bring world peace). But coffee? Leave my coffee alone. (Or put some Kailua in it.) And come up with some better arguments for the legalization of marijuana.

Addictive Deference to Police Violence

The Santa Cruz government as well as the California and federal government are addicted to vast over-expenditures on police. Money allocated will be spent. Power corrupts, and absolute power...

Drug abuse (whether of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or caffeine) is unwise and unhealthy. Supporting abusive police behavior is dinosaur prohibitionist mentality. Police action against young people simply for using, buying, or selling marijuana is abusive police behavior.

Walking by silently hile police rip up the constitution, destroy young lives, spread fear, and "socially cleanse" Pacific Avenue using the Drug War as their blank check not only burdens the conscience but supports 21st Century fascism masquerading as Neighborhood Watch, DARE, etc.

We need to say no, as loudly, clearly, frequently, and visibly as possible until this kind of behavior is no longer politically acceptable.

Call City Council at 420-5020.

There's little chance these gutless wonders will listen, but the louder the outcry, the more likely it is that one young life won't be twisted by useless sadistic felony prison time.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

What we need to do is say no as loudly, clearly frequently and visibly as possible that drug dealers and wandering drunks don't belong in our community. I'm sorry, but the fact remains that the vast majority of the residents of Santa Cruz DO NOT WANT vagrants behaving badly in their community. And if those folks didn't want to get arrested, they should have tried for some more legal employment. The police didn't put the drugs in their hands, then show up and arrest them. They made their own choices, willingly, knowing the consequences.

And I'll repeat my main point, since this seems to need repeating: the park is now a safe place to be. Coincidence? You asked me before ("Grass=Violence?") for some sort of proof, so let's try this. Below, I have pasted a few articles/letters/commentary I quickly found that highlight the fact that the park had become a nasty, drug-ridden, violent place. But, knowing you, you will somehow explain away each instance because it is too hard to face the facts that people are arrested in this town for what they do, not who they are.

Read below, and then please find a new issue to grandstand and self-highlight about. We would like to keep our community one that is safe and enjoyable.

Probe of fatal fight continues

SANTA CRUZ — Police Tuesday released the name of a San Jose man who died last week, possibly due to a fight in San Lorenzo Park. The park is an area of ongoing concern for city police.

Josh Cato, 24, of San Jose, died May 5 in a Santa Clara County hospital, said deputy Alan Burt of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office. Preliminary autopsy results indicate Cato died of an infection that set in after he suffered internal injuries, Burt said.

Police are investigating whether those injuries, including broken ribs, stemmed from an altercation in San Lorenzo Park in late April, said Sgt. Brad Goodwin of the Santa Cruz Police Department.

Cato was involved in numerous spontaneous wrestling matches in the park, as is the habit of some people who hang out there, he said. It is unknown if his injuries were sustained in one of those matches.

Detectives are interviewing people present when Cato was injured and are awaiting a full autopsy report.

That information will be sent to the District Attorney before it is determined if a crime has occurred.

"It’s a very fluid investigation," Goodwin said. "We are going to take it one step at a time until we get some solid information."

Ariadne Symons, head of trial operations for the District Attorney’s Office, said she does not have a complete report yet.

But, she said, the fight appears to have been some kind of struggle that Cato and another man willingly engaged in. Symons said Cato did not report the fight to police.

"It seems that he was involved in some kind of a fight, and got hit too hard," she said.

A group of young people in the park Tuesday said Cato was known to them as "Sideshow Bob." They say he and friends were drinking and wrestling when he was injured.

Friends took him to Dominican Hospital on April 28, the day of one of the fights, said Caitlin Read of Santa Cruz, but he walked back to the park later that day. He was noticeably hurt, she said, and was lying on a blanket in the park. They gave him ibuprofen and water and called his family in San Jose when he hadn’t improved in a day or so, friends said.

Four days later, police came to the park asking questions and told them he had died.

"I cried all day," Read said. "He was a really nice guy and always knew how to make people laugh. He was the comedian down here."

Jay Horner, 20, of Santa Cruz, said Cato started hanging out in the park a year or so ago, off and on.

He was dark-haired and small, but "a scrapper" who would wrestle with friends when he got bored, Horner said. He liked skateboarding and playing video games, he said.

"He was a really nice guy," he said. "We miss him."

Police say Cato moved between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, sometimes staying with relatives in San Jose. His favorite place in Santa Cruz, San Lorenzo Park, can be problematic, they say.

Officers check the park frequently, Goodwin said, and get frequent reports of intoxicated people there, as well as reports of drug use.

"We get some violence associated with drinking," he said. "And I would say it’s escalating. The problems tend to move around from place to place, but we are concentrating some efforts there."

Take back the park

I played at San Lorenzo Park throughout my childhood, and my child throughout hers. Although in the middle of town, it was a clean, safe and attractive place to be whether peacefully watching swans, geese and ducks drift around the pond or utilizing the playground.

But San Lorenzo Park has become a disgrace. You do not see children there. One is constantly accosted by young people stoned out of their minds and men blatantly seeking sex for sale.

It is perpetually annoying and even menacing when I am sitting there with paints and canvases and notebooks, painting and writing and observing the birds. It is obvious I am not turning tricks. Only an imbecile could not see that. But one evening no less than four men sat on the adjoining bench and propositioned me.

Why doesn’t the city clean up this park and its abundance of illicit activities? Why doesn’t it reclaim this park for its original purpose. What would it take? The park is lovely and perfectly groomed and maintained, only to be a backdrop for this irritating kind of violation and menace.



Robert, I especially like this one in answer to your question:
Cops and Courts
Santa Cruz

Retaliation prompts beating in park
A 39-year-old man was hospitalized Tuesday after he was stabbed and beaten by a woman and a group of young men in San Lorenzo Park in an attack over stolen marijuana, Santa Cruz police Sgt. Bernie Escalante said.

The victim, who Escalante said was a transient, was stabbed twice in the back and cut on his scalp. He was expected to be released from a San Jose area hospital today.

Brandi Celebrado, 21, of Santa Cruz, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Escalante said.

The attack came after Celebrado said her marijuana was stolen, and she recruited friends to help her beat the victim, Escalante said. Officers said the victim was able to flee after witnesses started yelling that they were calling police.

A 16-year-old Santa Cruz male also was arrested. Police are searching for at least one other suspect, another teenage male, Escalante said.

Police have increased patrols of the riverfront park, saying problems have increased there lately, including drug use, sales and fights.

What’s happening to the neighborhood?

Last month, my 14-year-old daughter and her 12-year-old friend were walking in the afternoon from the bridge by the former Zanotto’s across the San Lorenzo River across San Lorenzo Park and up the short block to Ocean where the former Holiday Inn sits and to our home, which is very close.

They came running in the door saying it was very scary, and as soon as they entered the park a group of 15 to 20 boys in a group started harassing them, whistling and following them. They started running and said they were followed for a short distance. Some were on bikes and they didn’t look homeless.

The girls thought they seemed to be in the 17-to-20 age range. I put them in the car and drove over there and found about 30 to 50 young males and females sitting or laying in groups in the grass, right in the center of the park. Almost all were tattooed or pierced or dreadlocked or mohawked and dirty, and with either an attitude or glazed eyes.

One seemed to be what I would expect the stereotype of a drug dealer to look like. He looked and spoke fairly respectably, wore a hat and sunglasses, was polite, fairly average, and it would be hard to describe unusual characteristics except that he looked totally out of place with the rest of the group.

Most claimed to be homeless and none admitted to seeing or participating in the harassment that had occurred less than 10 minutes before. I gave them a piece of my mind with direction to inform whomever did the harassing, and that I would call the police if I heard or read of any similar behavior. The girls stayed in the car, but said most of the group that chased them was gone.

I have lived in this neighborhood for 12 of my 18 years in Santa Cruz and, until recently, there was no time during daylight hours that the park was without children and parents playing on the equipment, feeding the ducks, lounging on the grass, etc., along with other adults engaged in similar activities. A large amount of money (tax dollars from working residents, I presume) and time was spent upgrading the playground equipment. The windows of the courthouse overlook this park. The police and sheriff’s presence is everywhere right next door.

But that day, in the middle of the afternoon, there was not one child, parent or citizen in the park other than these creeps. Someone was killed several blocks away last week near where we supposedly want local businesses and tourism to flourish.

Meanwhile, our City Council wastes valuable time and dollars talking about grandiose plans to get the movie industry to change the way it does business. It’s hard enough to know whether a movie is appropriate for your kid with the current system without the micromanagement of our esteemed self-proclaimed community "elite." What’s wrong with this picture?

Sandra Kaufman is a Santa Cruz resident.

Argument leads to stabbings, arrest
One man is in County Jail, accused of stabbing two people with a knife near the San Lorenzo Park duck pond after an argument Saturday.

Just after 8 p.m., officers arrived on the scene to find two people with wounds to their arms.

The victims described the suspect as Charles Clark, 24, who officers arrested near the park’s foot bridge.

Clark, a transient, was booked on assault charges.

Meanwhile, one of the victims was treated at the scene and released. The other was taken to Dominican Hospital for treatment.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

What, no response? Yeah, I guess this is a little hard to respond to.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor


It's clear you're serious about this discussion. Thanks for taking the time and energy to gather the Sentinel news stories and letters. They should be addressed one by one.

Redfern's “Probe of Fatal Fight Continues� looked into the accidental death of Sideshow Bob, which was treated as an accident and a tragedy by everyone involved. I interviewed various witnesses and friends of Sideshow Bob shortly after his death. There was a large funeral memorial at the Town Clock headed by Olivia Brownrabbit (“Ma�). Nowhere was there any indication that this was anything other than an accident, which even the wrestlers at the time were unaware of. Unless you have new info from the autopsy report (and I haven't heard anything), this story isn't relevant to your characterization of “rude, illegal, and violent� behavior. Nor, of course, is it relevant to the violent marijuana busts, done with potentially lethal force, that scar people's lives forever.

Re: Mael Dinnel's letter. Perhaps you could contact her and ask how many times she's actually offered to make a citizen's arrest of the “men blatantly seeking sex for sale�, Instead of addressing a particular incident involving her, she advocates (as you do), a general “clean-up� (i.e. Social cleansing) of the park.

The “Cops and Courts� retaliatory beating story is certainly about violence—but that could have happened over anything; and it could have happened anywhere. I suppose if you buy the fantasy you could and should repress all marijuana sales between poor people (and I'm not aware that we're dealing with any rich “drug dealers�), then the violence would be eliminated because the marijuana dealing would be eliminated. Since we have no legal distribution centers in the City, thanks to the 2000 legislation by Fitzmaurice, Rotkin, and the Corals—people do seek out illegal sources. Might be wise to direct your attention to the City Council and the Board of Supervisors.

As for Sandra Kaufmann's concerns, obviously any stalking or harassing of children is criminal behavior. But not that her agenda is broader than going after criminal behavior (i.e. “tattooed or pierced or dreadlocked or mohawked and dirty�. I commend her for personally intervening, investigating, and confronting, but her ultimate description and criticism—obviously coming from a sense of frustration—is riddled with stereotypes and prejudice. This kind of negative mindset gave us the Downtown (no sitting, no performing, no peaceful sparechainging on 75%+ of the sidewalk downtown) and doesn't address the problem. Again, it has nothing to do with alleged violence related to sales of marijuana. Nor have you suggested why not deal with the violence and abuse, rather than go after innocent young people who keep their heads above water by selling grass. Innocent—as in guilty of no real crime. As all smokers, buyers, and sellers, or marijuana are.

Your final undated report of a stabbing is obviously a matter of concern. (Do you have the date, incidentally?) Are marijuana sales usually accompanied by stabbings and beatings? What incidence of violence happens around bars at closing time downtown comparatively? Should we “clean them out� as well? Or just go after the visible poor outside?

It is obviously a real problem when this kind of violence or harassment happens in the park (or anywhere else). The solution, however, is not to arrest young people for buying and selling marijuana. Harder but better is to do real police work to investigate the actual crimes (rather than spend time giving tickets for sitting within 14' of a building on Pacific Avenue). I admit I have no easy solutions here, but criminalizing innocent people just makes matters worse.

One can acknowledge real problems without giving the police the wrong kind of direction or encouraging the war on grass (or even the broader war on drugs).

I take it you do not favor alcohol prohibition. I assume you don't favor marijuana prohibition. Do you favor the huge prison industry expansion and the massive increase in “drug war� prisoners? If so, the dispute between us is much deeper than I had imagined.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Robert Norse asks, "Are marijuana sales usually accompanied by stabbings and beatings? What incidence of violence happens around bars at closing time downtown comparatively?"

Is drinking usually accompanied by stabbings and beatings? Perhaps increased incidence, yes, but not usually. Likewise violence is not the usual mode of operation during drug transactions.

Nor are groups of 30 men chasing after two little girls in broad daylight, only to have the mother yell at "scruffy" people that the children said were not involved. What this story had to do with street drug dealers, I don't know.

As for the health consequences of drinking coffee equated to illegal drugs, this is absurd. The chemicals in most pre-processed foods are probably worse for people than drinking coffee on a regular basis.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

"Is drinking usually accompanied by stabbings and beatings? Perhaps increased incidence, yes, but not usually. Likewise violence is not the usual mode of operation during drug transactions."

The question should be is violence more likely during a liquor sale or a drug sale?

Until illegal drugs are legal there will be a component of violence that does not generally accompany the sale of legal drugs.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

My point was just one of promoting accuracy against Robert's anti-alcohol crusade. The only way Robert would defend the right to drink or sell alcohol is if it were illegal. In the meantime he sees those who like to drink as violent drunks and respectable establishments that sell alcohol and entertainment as drug dealers.

Nobody wants high profile drug transactions in their neighborhood or where they or their children go for recreation. I also feel that street dealers are not being intelligent with their personal futures and that society as a whole, including activists, should be encouraging them to do something else.

That said, I do not think that marijuana prohibition and police stings will ever solve any of these problems for anyone.

Alcohol Prohibition Not My Thing

"Robert's anti-alcohol crusade"? No, I've got nothing against drinking or providing drinks (though I'm pretty much a teetotaler myself). It is, however, true, that alcohol is a much more lethal drug when abused than marijuana. The number of deaths it causes each year is second only to tobacco.

I also agree with Cup-O-Joe's statements about discouraging high profile drug transactions in neighborhoods where children play. I don't think that arrests and felony prosecutions are an appropriate kind of discouragement.

It's also very well to preach "intelligent personal future planning" to poor folks on the street, but marijuana is more valuable than gold these days and often more difficult to obtain (see the Fitzmaurice-Kennedy city Ordinance of 2000 or talk with attorney/cannibus club owner Kate Wells for more information).

I don't think most grass dealers like dealing around children. Obviously what's needed are accepted areas where such dealing is permitted without the threat of long prison terms.

In the meantime police need to lay off. And their neighborhood watch/vigilante friends need to acquire a sense of proportion in their harm/benefit analysis.

That said, I thank Cup-O-Joe for his final acknowledgement, which is only common sense--one might say, common wisdom.

We now need to activate this wisdom against institutionalized lethal idiocy that is running the police department.

Re: Grass Busts Downtown Criminalize Young and Poor

Thanks for the response on those. Yes, some of the "clippings" were first-person statements where we don't have a lot of the facts to back up what they are saying. What I wanted to do, however, was show that the park was a place where disruptions and violence were happening. By simply searching "san lorenzo park" on the sentinel web page (I didn't even take the time to do a real search) I came up with those recent events in about 30 seconds.

Yes, each incident has a background and an explanation, and I realize, for instance, that the young man who died after wrestling with friends was not injured during a violent attack, but the point was that this was not a peaceful place where individuals sat on benches and cheerfully offered dime bags without bothering anyone else. The atmosphere that allowed the petty drug dealing to go forward also allowed worse things to continue, as well. And for the few items I was able to quickly find in the paper, think of how many problems were unreported or weren't serious enough to file a police report.

Forward your opinion to the City Council Candidates!

Here is contact info for the seven plus candidates running for city council. Let them know how you feel! ---- Becky

HUFF member, Coral Brune, is gathering signatures for a write-in candidacy.

Contact Coral at: 425-7047

--- Becky Johnson


E-mail: kenncruz (at)
Phone: 831-457-8003
Fax: 831-423-8717
404 King Streeet
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Emily Reilly Phone: 423-4759
email: ereilly (at)

Mailing Address: 849 Almar Avenue, SteC, Box 175, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Mark Fogel

Phone: n/a
email: mark (at)

Mailing Address: n/a

Mark Primack

Phone - 426-9308
campaign (at)
521 Swift Street
Santa Cruz CA 95060

Ed Porter

Phone: 427-0836
email: EPorter95 (at)

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1316, Santa Cruz, CA 95061

Tony Madrigal 295-2518 po box 3983 SC 95060

Ryan Coonerty

E-mail: ryan (at)
Phone: 831-423-8939
Comm to Elect Ryan Coonerty
PO Box 7881
Santa Cruz, CA 95061

My Two Cents On Brune Candidacy

People rarely take write-in candidacies seriously. This would be compounded by the problems faced by being outside of the Santa Cruz landlord-fake leftist-corporate media establishment that decides who gets elected in this town.

Running as a write-in candidate would be justified if it was difficult to get on the ballot, but it is not. I think that Coral Brune would do better to begin preparing for the 2006 City Council election instead.


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