News

IndyBay photographer Bradley Stuart Allen outside 75 River St. in downtown Santa Cruz. Photo by Chip Scheuer.

IndyBay photographer Bradley Stuart Allen outside 75 River St. in downtown Santa Cruz. Photo by Chip Scheuer.

After surveying the December damage to a vacant bank building owned by Wells Fargo that included graffiti, broken cameras and damaged ceiling tiles, investigators from Santa Cruz Police Department went to work. They came up with preliminary list of 12 suspects—out of more than 75 who passed through the building—involved in the three-day occupation of 75 River Street. Police handed their list over to county District Attorney Bob Lee’s office, and Lee’s office served 11 warrants to suspects in February.

Among the suspects were Bradley Stuart Allen and Alex Darocy, both of whom say they were acting as journalists for IndyBay.org, an open-source news website with an anti-authoritarian slant.

After the dust of the occupation settled last year, Police Chief Kevin Vogel thanked occupiers for ending the protest peacefully but vowed prosecution was on the way. “It is our intent to work with the District Attorney's office to identify those that are responsible and hold them accountable for the trespass,” Vogel wrote in a Dec. 8 letter.

Both photojournalist Allen and Darocy, a videographer, claim they were not participating in the protest but simply acting as reporters covering the news. 

“I feel like the police and DA are coming after me personally for my 10 years as a volunteer for IndyMedia,” says Allen, who has written online stories that were at times critical of Santa Cruz police. Some of Allen’s less edgy pictures have been picked up by various publications, including the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which ran one of his photos on its cover in 2006. Allen, a substitute teacher for the past six years, has been unable to renew his teaching credentials since they expired Mar. 1.

Ben Rice, Allen’s attorney, has argued that his client’s charges should be dropped because he, along with Darocy, was acting as a journalist and didn’t participate in the protest at the 75 River building.

“Bradley has been involved in important stories for 10 years, and we gave the judge numerous examples of his work. In none of his photojournalism was he doing anything than other than reporting,” Rice says, citing his client’s coverage following Hurricane Katrina in both New Orleans and Houston.

The Society of Professional Journalists filed a letter on behalf of Allen shortly before his  March preliminary hearing, as did the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Mr. Allen is a photojournalist and National Press Photographers Association member whose involvement in alleged criminal activity has amounted to no more than coverage of a newsworthy event,” wrote Lucy A. Dalgish, executive director for the Reporters Committee.

Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Young doesn’t see it that way and says a reporter’s resumé is no excuse for trespassing. “At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter,” Young says. “You could be Walter Cronkite and still be prosecuted. You could be the editor-in-chief for the New York Times.”

The so-called “Santa Cruz 11” facing charges also include Becky Johnson and Robert Norse, both of whom claim that they, too, are journalists.

Norse, a local agitator and bathrobe-wearing activist, says he’s hosted a show on Free Radio Santa Cruz, an unlicensed pirate radio station, for 15 years. He’s also written for Street Spirit, a San Francisco paper focused on homeless issues, and IndyBay, a subsidiary of the international Independent Media Center. Johnson is also an IndyBay contributor.

Both the SCPD and the DA’s office have brushed off rumors that cops stamped a red bullseye on the backs of opinionated journalists.

In any case, Young says she doesn’t think of online contributors, such as Darocy and Allen, as reporters. “I believe they function more as the media arm of the [occupying] organization than traditional journalists. But frankly it doesn’t matter,” Young says, arguing that they were trespassing regardless.

At Allen’s and Darocy’s preliminary hearing last month, the judge dismissed charges against the two for felony vandalism. The judge did not dismiss three other charges for conspiracy to commit a crime and two counts of misdemeanor trespassing.

 

‘Praying For Leniency’

In an age when anyone with a smart phone can snap a picture and write a blog, various people have different views on what it means to be a journalist—and whether or not simply writing about the news is enough.

An anonymous news post on IndyBay says Allen and company weren’t the only reporters in the building. That story links to a Santa Cruz Sentinel photograph that looks like it was taken inside the building. The post suggests there’s a double standard for traditional newspaper journalists versus those who write for free websites. The Sentinel photo credits staff photographer Shmuel Thaler.

Journalists may not be actually entitled to special rights when it comes to trespassing on private property. That’s according to the handbook from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, one of the groups that wrote a letter on behalf of Allen. The handbook reads, “Reporters do not have a right to knowingly trespass just because they are covering the news.”

Executive director Dalgish acknowledges that reporters don’t have a separate right to duck under yellow tape and go where everyone else can’t.

“We’re praying for leniency,” she says. “We’re not saying, ‘You can’t get this guy on anything.’ We’re asking you to dismiss the charges, or at least felony charges.”

Of the three charges Allen still faces, one is a felony.

While the first amendment does offer journalists some protections, San Francisco media lawyer Jim Wagstaffe says it has limitations. “The first amendment’s not a hunting license,” Wagstaffe says.

Wagstaffe says his firm has won several cases in which he was able to prove his journalist defendants’ innocence because they provided important coverage and were not doing anything illegal besides trespassing. But all of those were on public property, and he says private property is different. Says Wagstaffe, “I’ve never seen a case that holds that there’s a newsgathering constitutional right to trespass on private property.”

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy.html Sylvia Caras

    Entering 75 River St was an action similar to donating money to a campaign, an attempt to put forth an idea, to educate and to win minds, to whistle-blow.  How can that become a felony?  The building was nearby, had been vacant for three years, was a symbol of the banking mess that the country is in. 

    The intent was speech – squatting in a vacant building merely a means.

    How about a less moralistic, more pragmatic resolution?  The charges themselves demonstrate the county’s sense of affront.  It’s enough.  Let’s dismiss all the related charges and cases.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2012/04/03/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy Sylvia Caras

    Entering 75 River St was an action similar to donating money to a campaign, an attempt to put forth an idea, to educate and to win minds, to whistle-blow.  How can that become a felony?  The building was nearby, had been vacant for three years, was a symbol of the banking mess that the country is in. 

    The intent was speech – squatting in a vacant building merely a means.

    How about a less moralistic, more pragmatic resolution?  The charges themselves demonstrate the county’s sense of affront.  It’s enough.  Let’s dismiss all the related charges and cases.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy.html Stone Mirror (the Great and Terrible)

    “Both photojournalist Allen and Darocy, a videographer, claim they were not participating in the protest but simply acting as reporters covering the news.”

    Darocy, at least, was observed by multiple people putting up paper over the first floor windows of the 75 River Street building, as reported in the Patch.

    I personally observed — and scolded — Darocy for harassing a professional photographer, also working for the Patch as it happens, who was attempting to take picture of a “General Assembly” being held on the lawn in front of 75 River. Nor does there appear to be any actual “reporting” of the 75 River takeover by Darocy.

    Real reporters file stories. Real reporters don’t actively participate in the events they’re covering. Real reporters don’t infringe the First Amendment rights of other reporters.

    Darocy’s no journalist.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2012/04/03/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy Stone Mirror (the Great and Terrible)

    “Both photojournalist Allen and Darocy, a videographer, claim they were not participating in the protest but simply acting as reporters covering the news.”

    Darocy, at least, was observed by multiple people putting up paper over the first floor windows of the 75 River Street building, as reported in the Patch.

    I personally observed — and scolded — Darocy for harassing a professional photographer, also working for the Patch as it happens, who was attempting to take picture of a “General Assembly” being held on the lawn in front of 75 River. Nor does there appear to be any actual “reporting” of the 75 River takeover by Darocy.

    Real reporters file stories. Real reporters don’t actively participate in the events they’re covering. Real reporters don’t infringe the First Amendment rights of other reporters.

    Darocy’s no journalist.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy.html Robert Norse

    A narrowly-focused story which reiterates more extensive info already published on http://www.indybay.org/santacruz.

    Pierce also misses the dire First Amendment implications of the 2 1/2 month late prosecutions which selected 11 out of more than 300 (not 75).

    This attack on local activists and journalists is of a piece with prosecutions around the country against Occupy-inspired activism exposing bankster crime, anti-homeless abuses, and the privileges of the wealth. 

    It is really an attempt to frighten people away from direct action activism.  In no other city, have activists occupying buildings been charged with felonies even when there was vandalism done. 

    There is also little or no discussion of the target of the occupation—Wells Fargo Bank—the biggest foreclosure criminal and bailout panhandler in the nation.  Nor of its local scams.

    Pierce does mention the apparent presence of the Sentinel photographer in the building.  But he doesn’t go into the presence of other city officials and other more favored media (Santa Cruz Patch writers). 

    Wells Fargo fancier D.A. Bob Lee produced no evidence of any vandalism by Bradley and Alex at their Preliminary Hearing,  Yet even after the judge dismissed felony vandalism and conspiracy to commit vandalism charges, Lee’s hatchet woman Rebekkah Young (the D.A. who is arguing these cases) moved to refile these spurious charges.

    For more information that goes to the heart of these malicious and bogus charges, go to “Drop the Charges; Bust the Banksters…”  at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/04/04/18710717.php

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2012/04/03/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy Robert Norse

    A narrowly-focused story which reiterates more extensive info already published on http://www.indybay.org/santacruz.

    Pierce also misses the dire First Amendment implications of the 2 1/2 month late prosecutions which selected 11 out of more than 300 (not 75).

    This attack on local activists and journalists is of a piece with prosecutions around the country against Occupy-inspired activism exposing bankster crime, anti-homeless abuses, and the privileges of the wealth. 

    It is really an attempt to frighten people away from direct action activism.  In no other city, have activists occupying buildings been charged with felonies even when there was vandalism done. 

    There is also little or no discussion of the target of the occupation—Wells Fargo Bank—the biggest foreclosure criminal and bailout panhandler in the nation.  Nor of its local scams.

    Pierce does mention the apparent presence of the Sentinel photographer in the building.  But he doesn’t go into the presence of other city officials and other more favored media (Santa Cruz Patch writers). 

    Wells Fargo fancier D.A. Bob Lee produced no evidence of any vandalism by Bradley and Alex at their Preliminary Hearing,  Yet even after the judge dismissed felony vandalism and conspiracy to commit vandalism charges, Lee’s hatchet woman Rebekkah Young (the D.A. who is arguing these cases) moved to refile these spurious charges.

    For more information that goes to the heart of these malicious and bogus charges, go to “Drop the Charges; Bust the Banksters…”  at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/04/04/18710717.php

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy.html Robert Norse

    “Darocy’s photojournalism is impressive in my book—pictures speak more strongly than words and describe more vividly.  I like his work.

    I’ve also been impressed with some of the Patch reporting (Santa Monica Patch reporting of the recent pepper spraying down there has been eye-opening, particularly the comment stream. See
    http://santamonica.patch.com/articles/police-pepper-spray-smc-students )

    In point of fact weren’t Patch reporters in the 75 River St. building?  Didn’t they identify themselves to police?  Should they then be tried for “trespass” and “conspiracy”?

    Obviously they shouldn’t be.  No one should be.

    But it’s even more abusive that what looks like a symbolic consciousness-raising assemblage is being used to shoot down those actively critical of banksters and local police abuses with years in prison.

    The whole case is a targeted cooked-up case to “chill out” the Occupy Santa Cruz movement as has been done throughout the country.  The targets include high-profile activists, reporters, and whistleblowers generally.  The objective: to divide and frighten the broader activist community.

    But nowhere have the charges been so bloated and repressive as in Santa Cruz.  And no one charged is guilty of any real crimes.

    Except, of course, the real criminal, Wells Fargo, who seems to be calling the shots.

    I encourage the journalistic community to recognize this and realize that “if we don’t hang together, we will all hang separately.”

    When a significant number of people raise an issue sharply enough to bring it to public notice (as happened at 75 River St.), authorities use this as a pretext to demonize and imprison peaceful activists months later who have been long-time critics of abuses here in Santa Cruz.

    Debates about who’s an “arm of the activists” and who’s an “arm of the police” will go on.  Reporters will be accused and labeled.  It’s important that they go on reporting.

    Without fear of criminal charges.

    In these days of dwindling civil liberties, locally and nationally, we must continually remain aware of the broader issues.  We can’t afford to let ourselves be divided even in the face of personal conflicts.

    There is something bigger and darker happening here that must be fought.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2012/04/03/journalists_say_they_were_targeted_for_covering_occupy Robert Norse

    “Darocy’s photojournalism is impressive in my book—pictures speak more strongly than words and describe more vividly.  I like his work.

    I’ve also been impressed with some of the Patch reporting (Santa Monica Patch reporting of the recent pepper spraying down there has been eye-opening, particularly the comment stream. See
    http://santamonica.patch.com/articles/police-pepper-spray-smc-students )

    In point of fact weren’t Patch reporters in the 75 River St. building?  Didn’t they identify themselves to police?  Should they then be tried for “trespass” and “conspiracy”?

    Obviously they shouldn’t be.  No one should be.

    But it’s even more abusive that what looks like a symbolic consciousness-raising assemblage is being used to shoot down those actively critical of banksters and local police abuses with years in prison.

    The whole case is a targeted cooked-up case to “chill out” the Occupy Santa Cruz movement as has been done throughout the country.  The targets include high-profile activists, reporters, and whistleblowers generally.  The objective: to divide and frighten the broader activist community.

    But nowhere have the charges been so bloated and repressive as in Santa Cruz.  And no one charged is guilty of any real crimes.

    Except, of course, the real criminal, Wells Fargo, who seems to be calling the shots.

    I encourage the journalistic community to recognize this and realize that “if we don’t hang together, we will all hang separately.”

    When a significant number of people raise an issue sharply enough to bring it to public notice (as happened at 75 River St.), authorities use this as a pretext to demonize and imprison peaceful activists months later who have been long-time critics of abuses here in Santa Cruz.

    Debates about who’s an “arm of the activists” and who’s an “arm of the police” will go on.  Reporters will be accused and labeled.  It’s important that they go on reporting.

    Without fear of criminal charges.

    In these days of dwindling civil liberties, locally and nationally, we must continually remain aware of the broader issues.  We can’t afford to let ourselves be divided even in the face of personal conflicts.

    There is something bigger and darker happening here that must be fought.