December 8, 2011

San Lorenzo Park Benchlands Illegal Encampment Has Ended - Six People Arrested

On Thursday December 8th, the Santa Cruz Police Department, along with other local law enforcement agencies, arrested six people and ended the illegal encampment at the San Lorenzo Park Benchlands.  This action, led by the Santa Cruz Police Department, follows a nuisance abatement order that was issued by the City of Santa Cruz last week.  The people responsible for the illegal encampment were given until 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday December 7th to remove themselves and their property from the park.  The nuisance abatement order was challenged in Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon by an attorney representing this group.  The attorney attempted to seek a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the City from enforcing the nuisance abatement order.  On Wednesday afternoon, a Superior Court Judge conducted a hearing on this matter and issued an order denying the application for a temporary restraining order which cleared the way for the nuisance abatement order to take effect as scheduled.  As of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, a number of those participating in the illegal encampment chose to leave the park, however many decided to stay.

This morning at approximately 7:15 a.m., a contingent of 90 police officers and deputies from the Santa Cruz Police Department, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, UCSC, cities of Watsonville, Capitola, Scotts Valley and State Park Rangers descended upon the San Lorenzo Park Benchlands to clear out the illegal encampment that has existed there for two months.  When police arrived, there were a number of people in the park in violation of the nuisance abatement order.  The police department gave a series of warnings over a loudspeaker advising people to leave the park immediately.  Some people vacated the park, however several remained.  After waiting more than 10 minutes, police swept through the park in a slow, deliberate manner.  During the sweep, six people were arrested for failing to leave the park and other various charges, including resisting arrest and threatening a police officer.  One person was arrested for a felony drug possession warrant.  Many of the people who were seen in the park before the sweep were anarchists, such as those responsible for the May Day riot downtown in 2010.  Those arrested by the Santa Cruz Police Department include the following individuals:

Gabriella Ripley Phipps
Alfonso Martinez
Patrick Wilhelmy
Amanda Senseman
Christina Foster
Unknown woman who refused to identify herself

Gabriella Ripley Phipps was the lead negotiator with police for the group that took over and occupied the vacant building at 75 River Street last week for three days.

In addition to the six arrests, more than12 tons of trash were removed from the park by City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation and Public Works staff.

The Santa Cruz Police Department would like to thank the community for its patience in the manner in which we chose to address the illegal encampment over the past two months.  We have watched how other jurisdictions have handled these types of incidents and learned valuable lessons along the way, which we used to our advantage in our strategic planning efforts to address the illegal encampment and occupation of the San Lorenzo Park Benchlands. 

Finally, we cannot thank the community enough for their support during this time and their calls of encouragement of how we handled the illegal encampment.   I personally share the frustrations of many that this was a completely unacceptable way to garner attention to their vague cause.  It is a pleasure to be able to return San Lorenzo Park to this community so that it may be used for its intended purpose, a neighborhood park that creates a safe and inviting environment for everyone to enjoy.  

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.


Kevin Vogel
Chief of Police