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Columns
January 18-24, 2006

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Nūz

Credible Threats

With Santa Cruzans in an uproar over any number of police surveillance scandals--Bush's illegal wiretapping of citizens who make overseas phone calls; the Pentagon's classification of the demonstration at the UCSC Career Fair last April as a "credible threat"; and the SCPD's infiltration of private homes during the "un-planning" phase of the Last Night D.I.Y. Parade--Nüz was intrigued by rumors that one highly placed local resident has actually been demanding that police watch her. Day and night.

Nüz is talking about UCSC chancellor Denice Denton, who our source says has been demanding around-the-clock security detail since August 2005.

With UCSC offices closed for Martin Luther King Day, Nüz was unable to verify this with UCSC's top brass before press time, but the alleged presence, first of First Alarm trucks, then of UCSC Parking Department vehicles, and now of cop cars in Denton's driveway from 7pm-7am each day suggest the rumor may be true--and that a whole lot of overtime is going on.

It's worth noting that Denton's predecessor M.R.C. Greenwood never had around-the clock police escort, but perhaps that's because she wasn't plagued by scandal until after her departure from campus, unlike Denton, whose problems began the minute she assumed her $275,000 a year post-- a job she began, ironically enough, on Valentine's Day '05.

So, yeah, maybe Denton is afraid that revelations that her partner Gretchen Kalonji was hired for $192,000 a year for a new management position with UC and had been granted $50,000 for moving expenses would get the goat of some downsized/underpaid UCSC worker. Or that she'd be blamed for Pentagon spying scandal, or that homophobes would harass her after Sentinel Managing Editor Don Miller named her part of a "powerful coterie of lesbians."

Or maybe she decided she needed to be guarded after someone threw a sign through her window during the Tent U affair last spring, or after a UCSC student (who now works as Metro Santa Cruz's editorial assistant) wrote a City on a Hill column in which she threatened to park her car on Denton's lawn, after policy changes made it harder for students to find free parking on campus.

Certainly, Denton's über-obsession with security would explain why she moved her office from the McHenry Building to the Kerr Building, whose second floor was ripped out in the process, to install, as our highly placed source informs us, a lockdown area for Denton's office with cameras every 3 ft-- a set-up that must have cost thousands of dollars.

But before Denton decides she also needs an underground bunker, someone needs to intervene, next time she's out throwing balls for her dog, and say, hey, this is the UCSC campus, where the worst you're likely to encounter is nudists with divining rods, vegans high on organic sugars, civil libertarians low on the Bill of Rights or, at the very worst, a mountain lion with a bad case of the munchies.

Incredulous Requests

Meanwhile, Denton has been dealing with revelations that the demonstration at the UCSC Career Fair was classified by the Pentagon as a "credible threat" by asking Assemblymember John Laird, Congressmembers Sam Farr, Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren, and Anna Eshoo and U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to request a) a definition of "credible threat;"b) determine why the April 5 demonstration was classified as one; c) learn how the information was gathered; and d) address concerns that future monitoring could have a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech on campus.

"We want to let you know" wrote Denton in Currents, UCSC's online magazine, "that UCSC has not provided any federal agency with information about the event in April, nor did we receive a request for such information."

Denton also insisted "statements that UCSC Campus Police surreptitiously gather information about campus activities are incorrect," yet at the same time admitted that "we do not know the method by which information was obtained and subsequently included in the Pentagon database." That said, she reiterated, "We do insist upon the rights of peaceful assembly as integral to the political freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We will do everything in our power to protect those rights for all."

About Last Night 3

And in the city at the bottom of the hill, the debate about First Amendment rights rages on in the context of Last Night surveillance. Following our earlier reports about Last Night planning (Nüz, Dec. 21) and the spying that occured (Nüz, Jan. 4) D.I.Y.Last Night Parade organizers Sherry Conable, Rico Thunder and Grant Wilson visited Nüz last week to clarify that the event was never described as a "demonstration," but as a do-it-yourself "parade", which included clowns, jugglers, bikes, kids, bubbles and a Peace Walk. They also argued that two police officers gave false names, introducing themselves as "Tim" and "Wes" at meetings in private homes. not public places, last fall.

Acknowledging the SCPD's argument that police were concerned about safety aspects of the event, the trio asks why the officers did not identify themselves as police, and they want to know if any other undercover surveillance has been conducted in Santa Cruz post 9/11, especially of Friday Peace Vigils and of opponents of the Iraq invasion.

Accusing the council of "damage control" and a " wait and see approach," the trio is pressing for an independent investigation. They've also enlisted the help of ACLU lawyer Mark Schlosberg, Policy Practices Director of ACLU's Norcal division, who filed a records request Jan. 11 to find out what police did discover while investigating the parade's organizing meetings.

To Conable, Wilson and Thunder's minds the SCPD's undercover ops "violated the First Amendment several times, and the Fourth Amendment at least once,' and they want to know if this was done with Homeland Security money.

The city and the SCPD have 10 days to respond to their requests.

"We want to see full disclosure of records and an independent investigation, things we feel will help the police restore public confidence, and we want explicit procedures set up to prevent a repeat," says Wilson.

Thunder acknowledges what the police did do right, namely their hands-off approach on the last night of the year.

"Their standing on the periphery made ia better event, " says Thunder, "but we were responsible for the organization and clean-up. We didn't have to rely on the city to make it happen."

Noting that the First Night event was canceled this year because organizers couldn't raise $125 K, Thunder smiles, "We did this for zero dollars, unless you count the $2.35 spent on coffee at Lulu's afterwards."

To learn more about Last Night, visit www.lastnightdiy.org


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