The Occupy encampment in San Lorenzo Park had obviously thinned out by 5pm on Wednesday, the stated deadline for the eviction notice that police issued on Monday. A couple dozen onlookers stood around the periphery of the camp, some linking arms in solidarity, some shaking their heads in dismay. A few policemen strolled around them—a stark contrast to the scene around 7am this morning, when about 90 police officers in riot gear cleared out the approximately 20 tents and people who had stayed the night. While action escalated this morning, the scene at the camp was generally calm yesterday evening. Most who remained in the center of camp sifted through their possessions with varying degrees of haste, or wandered through the remaining 30-some tents while listlessly picking up trash or just singing and talking.
When asked for comment, one of the more purposeful occupiers brusquely replied, clearly frustrated, “No, I’m busy. You can help pick up trash if you want, but I’m not going to talk. If you’re going to be down here, you have to help out.”
Occupier “Tall Mark,” who said he had been at the camp as a homeless person with nowhere else to stay, stood and watched the scene going on around him. “The threat is to have everything taken away, all the tents and everything, and give tickets, I guess,” he said. He noted that most people had packed up earlier that morning, and that those who were still there were homeless, like him, with no clear place to move to.
“Honey,” who is also homeless, said she joined the camp after she had been sleeping on the beach and had been told to move. “I’m not occupying anything by myself,” she said. “I didn’t even know Occupy was going on,” she heartily laughs, “until I asked what was going on for real.”
A nearby man added, “As homeless, we’re powerless. We just try to stay out of the way, that’s all we try to do. I’ve got a backpack and a sleeping bag and I just go wherever, and lay wherever. We’re gonna keep moving.” He paused, adding “But it sucks, you always gotta keep moving, man. It’s nice to be able to relax.”
Activist Andy Moskowitz stood and solemnly watched. “I camped out regularly, but I’m one of the people fortunate to have other places to sleep,” he said. “I wish I could say the same was true for other people. This has been a place of comfort for those who had not had comfort.”
This morning drama on the scene heightened when the police arrived just after 7am. Dale Eugene Kenville, who was there to watch the scene unfold, said, “They came down in riot gear, closed off the bridge that came down to this area and announced, ‘You have one minute to comply, to get your gear and walk away, or you’re going to jail.’”
The Sentinel reports that officers proceeded to clear out the camp at 7:45am by dismantling tents—including the iconic teepee—and carrying away whatever other sundry posessions were left.
Although most of the people who stayed the night quickly left once police arrived to finalize the eviction, a few people pushed back, ending up in six arrests, according to the Sentinel. Those arrested included both Santa Cruz county residents and transients.
At 10am several people were still gathered around the camp, watching the last of the police’s cleanup effort as they raked up the trash still left on the ground. While some of those gathered were campers trying to figure out their next move, others were there purely for the spectacle.
“I’ve never seen my tax dollars spent in a better fashion,“ said onlooker Tim South sarcastically. “It was one thing when it started out as the Occupiers out on the courthouse, but when they started putting tents out down here, it was just an excuse for homeless people to have a free place to stay.” With a grimace he added, “I want to know what Occupier is going to refund me, who’s going to reimburse me for my tax dollars cleaning up their crap.”
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly: