21 Aug 2014
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UPDATED 'Occupy' Invades Empty Bank, Police Surround Building

Demonstrators took over the vacant space Wednesday afternoon; Santa Cruz Police were in riot gear outside.

Updated 9:30 p.m.—Occupiers held a general assembly meeting and voted unanimously to hold the building until they are arrested. There were about 40 outside and 10 inside. The ones inside asked for welding gloves and dispatched a committee to find pallets behind grocery stores to build barricades.

At one point, in an ironic moment for people who are trying to claim their use of public space as a First Amendment right, they shouted at news reporters asking them to stop filming.

"We'll make you stop," one said when asked what they would do. "We'll keep shouting until you stop."

Updated 8 p.m.—Occupy Santa Cruz demonstrators are having a dance party in in front of a vacant bank while other protesters hold their position inside the building.

Police left the scene just before 8 p.m., as about 40 demonstrators danced around a giant public address speaker in the bank parking lot.

Riot gear-clad officers had surrounded the building after the Occupy movement took over the former Coast Commercial Bank mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Update 7 p.m. Police tried to get into the bank, but were held back.

The occupiers were about to begin their evening General Assembly in the bank's lobby when some 30 police officers surged the front doors of the building. Occupiers quickly stacked furntiure and used planks of wood to bar police from entering. 

The bulk of the crowd gathered on the front lawn of the bank and stood face to face with over two dozen shield and baton wielding members of the Santa Cruz Police.

The officers used batons to keep the protestors at bay while other police attempted to enter the barracaded bank. 

Original story, 6:40 p.m.—Occupy Santa Cruz took over the empty Coast Commercial Bank building at Water and River Streets around 3 p.m. Wednesday, because they say the building was being held hostage by Wells Fargo.

"Capitalism has taught us that no one is ever going to give us anything," said OSC spokesperson Mark Paschal. "You have to take it.''

Paschal, a graduate student whose major is "a century of crisis in education," says the building was serving no purpose other than as an asset on paper for Wells Fargo. They want to make it into a community center that would host workshops explaining their cause. OSC also plans to make the area available to other community groups that need space.

Asked how long they plan to stay, he said the people who initiated the action are not going to simply disperse when asked to.

"There are plans to barricade the building if necessary."

When asked if the 50 or so people on hand were enough of a force to hold the building one occupier who remained anonymous was more skeptical.

"They have been planning this for almost two weeks—that's a generous estimate. I think they might have jumped the gun."

Six Santa Cruz police cars, two motorcycles and a van were parked at the bank, with officers clad in riot gear observing the action from the front of the bank and near their vehicles.

When asked what their plan was, one officer asked a Patch reporter to move back and that he didn't feel comfortable answering questions.

City Council member Katherine Beiers was there. She said she was just passing by and was so surprised by the actions that she stopped to check it out.

"Some private people own the building, and so they can be outside but going in, I don't like it," said Bieirs. "I came by and was really surprised like 'whoa,' and I really thought Don Lane was negotiating with them."

An occupier then asked her who was using the building.

"No one was using it," said Beiers.

"Well, we're using it," said the occupier, getting a laugh out of the council member.

Police used the Nixle alert system to alert Santa Cruz residents about the demonstration and urged people to stay away from the area. Traffic is affected.

 

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