On December 3rd, a meeting was convened inside the occupied building at 75 River St. in Santa Cruz. At the meeting, a two-page handwritten letter was composed, addressed to the Santa Cruz Police Department from The 75 River Street Community Center. The letter was left on a table for the police to find when they enter the building.
Below is the transcribed text, along with photographs of the original handwritten letter.
This letter is to contest the notion that vacant, unused private property should be ethically or legally seen as the equivalent of an occupied home. The basis for [City Manager] Martin Bernal’s criticism of our efforts to reclaim 75 River Street for the community was that this goes against existing property laws, and that the needs of this community’s poor – notably the homeless – can be met through more traditional methods, such as voting procedures, or by continuing to protest extreme social inequality without breaking the law. This argument suffers from numerous deficiencies, and as it’s been used to justify aggressive behavior towards us it’s worth scrutinizing.
With regard to voting, it should be amply clear from the two major political parties’ decision-making these past three decades that the interests of the masses, the 99%, are not the driving force in political change. Money, corporate interest groups, and international capital have been. As there is currently no political group with poor and homeless peoples’ needs in mind, and the “mainstream” political system is funded to work against these interests, it is entirely understandable that many in our community and others like it are skeptical of voting. This space has been occupied to meet urgent, concrete needs that can’t wait for election time to be met: food, shelter, bathrooms, safety from abuse, and many more.
A related argument that’s been used against us is that positive social change can occur through forms of protest that obey the law. This of course ignores the question: How is it possible to effectively protest our system of laws, while at the same time fully obeying them? Perhaps an answer would be: through mobilizing public opinion. We certainly do believe in ethically mobilizing public opinion, but the issue remains of what to mobilize it for. As stated above, we have no interest in participating in a structurally corrupt voting system dominated by two massively corporate-funded political parties – so a traditional “get out the vote” effort is not the primary goal of what we are doing. We want the public to take direct action and actually join us in solidarity – and if they cannot join us here, to do it by occupying neglected spaces in their own city. As you know, this building occupation has become an object of national, and increasingly international, interest. For people who value human life over private property, it will doubtless serve as an inspiration.
To conclude, we would like to share one very important thought: whether or not this building occupation is shut down, others will spring up. You, the police, have taken a stand against the 99% in the service of an obsolete 1%. In these times of rapid change, it is guaranteed you will lose what support you have by continuing to protect the commodities of the super-elite at the expense of people’s health, well-being, and sense of community. Please begin thinking and acting conscientiously, by joining the 99%!
The 75 River Street
Letter transcribed by Heather R. Putnam; photos by Bradley Stuart.
Crossposted at Indybay.org