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News :: Human Rights : Labor : Media : Organizing : Politics : Social Welfare
The Santa Cruz May Day Riot
07 May 2010
With the expanding crisis of capitalism and its growing unemployment, murderous wars of aggression, funding funneled to the repressive state apparatus and war instead of needed social programs, and the ever growing destruction of the planet through global warming; there will likely be more actions like the May Day riot. Likewise, the involvement of the local petty bourgeoisie through organizations like the Downtown Association and the City Council in promoting repression against the poor, opposition to a higher minimum wage, opposition to rent control, support for political oppression, and support for brutal cops will likely keep big and small businesses targets of this type of rebellion. Rather than supporting ratcheting up the repression, the petty bourgeoisie would do well in reconsidering what side they have been taking in the class war.
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The Santa Cruz May Day Riot

Righteous Anger versus Liberal Hypocrisy,

Vandalism versus Working Class Strike Action

By Steven Argue

On May Day there was a dance party organized in the streets of Santa Cruz to celebrate International Workers’ Day. After the dance party, a group of 250 people moved down the street and some of them, wearing masks, broke windows at an estimated 18 downtown businesses, spray painted graffiti, tried to start fires, and caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. In addition, a squad car of a cop who responded was reportedly pelted with rocks, surrounded, and paint was poured on the hood.

Coverage in the corporate media has been extremely bad, with reporters unable to get even the most basic facts right. A number of newspapers claimed, as the San Jose Mercury News did, that the action happened as “a large group of protesters demonstrating at a May Day rally for worker’s and immigrant rights downtown broke off into a riot…”. This is false. It was a dance party with a group of people breaking off to riot under anarchist slogans. Other corporate newspapers and stations did the same, the Star Telegram ran the story under the false title, “Immigration march turns violent”, AP repeated similar lies under the title, “Calif. immigrants' rights march ends in vandalism”, and NBC News reported “Santa Cruz Immigration Protest Turns Violent”.

Inspired by the lies in the corporate media Hot argued, “Tea Parties have been held in various locations for well over a year, and none of them has turned violent at all. Arizona passes an immigration law a week ago, and already we’ve had one Leftist demonstration result in violence, calls for the overthrow of the US, and rioting”. Ironically they then go on to complain about the bias in the liberal media.

The corporate media used the vandalism at the action to smear the very successful events held across the nation in favor of the rights of immigrant workers in the wake of Arizona’s racist law that scapegoats and hurts immigrants. The law authorizes officers to pull over, question, and detain anyone if they have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe they are in this country without proper documentation. This not only creates a police state for immigrants, it also legalizes racial profiling. There were at least 70 protests for immigrant rights on May Day with at least 50,000 people in LA, 25,000 in Dallas, 10,000 in Milwaukee, and 10,000 in Chicago, but Santa Cruz’s May Day riot was not one of them.

Hundreds of people showed up at the successful May Day Rally for the Rights of Immigrant Workers held in Santa Cruz’s neighboring city of Watsonville. At that event, a Liberation News flyer pointed out the need for more militant tactics, but not the tactics of the type employed at the Santa Cruz riot. The second expanded version of the flyer stated:

“While there is a boycott of Arizona that has started as a result of this law, and Liberation News does support that boycott, we think it would be far more effective if the working class carried out a general strike demanding repeal. To do so will likely take breaking the unions from the Democrats, to stop squandering our dues on the political campaigns of Democrats, and to break with their pro-imperialist “America first” ideology which ties us to our exploiters instead of inspiring united working class action against our common class enemies, the capitalists. Instead, we favor internationalist and multi-racial working class solidarity in action and advocate putting our union dues into strike funds where we can rely on our own power for political and economic demands rather than relying on our class enemies in the Democrat Party for reforms that, if they come at all, only come under the most extreme situations when the working class is strong and militant.”

Likewise, this type of working class strategy can be counterpoised to the desperate types of tactics employed by the anarchists in downtown Santa Cruz. When the working class moves as a class we can shut down production causing far greater losses for the bourgeoisie than riots. In addition, strike actions have the potential of a far higher respectability in the public’s eyes. While the anarchists did hit the bosses in the pocket book, and this is the right idea, these anarchists, however, are thinking way too small.

Newton’s Third Law teaches us that in physics every action has an equal opposite reaction. This is not a law of politics, but it still often applies. Santa Cruz has suffered for decades under a city government that sends out brutal cops to harass and intimidate political activists and the poor, opposes an increase in the minimum wage, opposes rent control, has kept it illegal for homeless people to sleep at night, and routinely destroys the property of the homeless. The bosses of those cops are the local City Council. And behind the cops and city council, supporting both the politicians elected to that City Council and the brutal and discriminatory Santa Cruz cops are the businesses of Santa Cruz —both the big bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie— who belong to the rightwing and virulently anti-homeless Downtown Association.

Our people are disillusioned. They’ve become disenchanted. They’ve become dissatisfied, and in their frustrations they want action. On May Day the widows of those businesses that have conspired against the poor shattered and graffiti was spray painted on their walls as people rioted downtown. The chickens had come home to roost.

While Liberation News does not consider what was done to be effective tactically in reaching out to the community and educating them of our leftist demands and building the kind of movement that can do more effective actions like general strikes, we recognize that it is an unjust system that is building up the tinder box that blew-up on May Day and we do not consider what was done to have been any crime against the working class.

Nor is the destruction of property “violence”. The true violence in Santa Cruz County is being committed by cops and military recruiters who send people out to kill in the imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, with the U.S. aggression against Iraq having already killed 1.2 million people. That’s violence. Cops destroying the property of homeless people, like blankets and sleeping bags, is also a virulent form of violence that can kill homeless people on a cold night. Hell, the Santa Cruz police have even gotten away with a few cold-blooded murders of homeless people like John Dine and the people they beat to death in their sleeping bags during “Operation Code Blue”. Who knows how many other unsolved murders of homeless people were carried out by the Santa Cruz Police and / or covered-up by them due to their murderous political agenda?

Arrested by the Santa Cruz Police and charged with “felony vandalism” is a black homeless man named Jimi Haynes. While appearing in court under infamous Judge Atack, Jimi Haynes found his bail raised from $5,000 to $105,000. Judge Atack is well known by Santa Cruz activists and defense lawyers for his contempt for leftists and acting as a prosecutor from the bench. There is no possible way Jimi Haynes can get a fair trial in Judge Atack’s court room. Whether or not Haynes did what the police claim, Liberation News blames this unjust system for what happened, we do not support throwing Jimi Haynes to the wolves, and we do not support this prosecution under a system that will not give him a fair trial. Free Jimi Haynes! Remove Judge Atack from the bench!

Also arrested was another homeless person on the UCSC campus named Thomas Williams who police claim was covered in paint that they think is connected to the graffiti. They also claim he resisted arrest, a routine charge that police level against their victims after brutalizing them. Showing that the police have no case, in his preliminary hearing no charges related to the May Day demonstration were leveled, but a charge of drunk in public and resisting arrest remained. Free Thomas Williams! Jail brutal cops!

At the request of the Santa Cruz Police an extremely violent force has been brought into Santa Cruz to investigate the riot with the goal of jailing more people instead of correcting the injustices that caused the riot in the first place. This force is the FBI, America’s political police. In the 1960s and 70s, the FBI, working with local police departments, liquidated the Black Panther Party through the murders of 39 members, including the police shooting of Fred Hampton in his sleep after an FBI infiltrator drugged Fred Hampton’s drink to make sure he was sleeping when they carried out their extra-judicial execution. The FBI also liquidated the Black Panthers through political frame-ups such as that of Geronimo (Ji Jagga) Pratt who was finally exonerated (i.e. found innocent) after 30 years in prison. Other framed Black Panthers still sit in prison and Black Panther Assata Shakur lives in exile, granted political asylum by Cuba, but with a one million dollar bounty put on her head by the New Jersey government. Do not talk to the murderous FBI or their local cop buddies! Free all framed former Black Panthers including Mumia Abu Jamal and Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald!

Likewise, the Lakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in North Dakota, who supported the culturally and politically nationalist American Indian Movement, faced brutal counter-insurgency tactics complete with FBI armed and trained death squads that murdered 61 political activists and their families on the reservation between 1973 and 1976. As part of that terror war against America’s first nations, American Indian Movement member Leonard Peltier was framed by the FBI and remains in prison to this day. FBI murderers out of Santa Cruz! Free Leonard Peltier!

At the same time that the “leftist” Santa Cruz City Council has invited the mass murdering political police of the FBI into Santa Cruz, they have now also overturned their 18 year ban of La Migra from entering Santa Cruz by inviting the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) into Santa Cruz under the guise of fighting gangs. Put any pretty gloss over it they like, anyone who has watched horror movies knows what happens when one invites vampires into their house. ICE Out of Santa Cruz! For a general strike against Arizona’s racist anti-immigrant law!

Despite lacking any real evidence, the anarchist SubRosa Café has become a target of blame for the vandalism in the ideological diatribes of the corporate media as well as by the bourgeois “leftist” Santa Cruz politicians on the city council and the rightwing law and order “community” group, “Take Back Santa Cruz”. SubRosa Café is a coffee shop —$1 per cup and no hassles for spending no money— and also serves as an anarchist info shop and library as well as a meeting place for various community groups.

On May 4th KION channel 46 made the claim that prisoner Jimi Haynes is an “employee” of the SubRosa café. Yet KION is so removed from the truth that they missed the fact that SubRosa doesn’t even have employees. Instead of being employees, the people who work at SubRosa are unpaid volunteer members of a collective. KION’s basic ignorance of that fact further corresponds with the fact that Jimi Haynes was not even a member of the collective.

Also trying to blame SubRosa was the rightwing corporate owned Santa Cruz Sentinel (part of capitalist Dan Singleton’s MediaNews newspaper empire). They claimed that SubRosa aligned themselves with the May Day actions in SubRosa’s online statement that says:

“This is a time for us all to band together, to show support and solidarity with each other in the face of a police state that has always blamed anarchists for everything destructive, while actively trying to prevent people from exercising creativity that would create alternatives to capitalist relations. The people who make this town a fantastic place to be are far more important than the walls and windows of businesses that suck our souls away for their profit.”

One does not even need to agree with the actions at the May Day riot, or even be an anarchist, to agree with SubRosa’s statement, yet the Sentinel found it somehow incriminating. And they practically ignore SubRosa’s complete denials of involvement in the previous paragraph of their statement, which the Sentinel failed to print. That paragraph says:

“We are getting blamed for the May Day dance party that resulted in broken windows in downtown SC. SubRosa had nothing to do with the event, except that there were fliers for it here, as there were allover town and allover the internet. Individuals involved with SubRosa are having their physical well being threatened. People are using what was a huge dance party with a few acts of vandalism as an excuse to attack SubRosa and anyone in any way associated with it. There are accusations that SubRosa organized the May Day event, that the event started at SubRosa and a ton of other things that aren't true.”

While failing to condemn the death threats against SubRosa collective members, Santa Cruz mayor and fake self-proclaimed “socialist” Mike Rotkin said of the statement, "If you want to disassociate yourself from this stupid violence, you need to disassociate yourself. They should condemn what happened." Unlike Mike Rotkin, Liberation News stands in solidarity with SubRosa’s First Amendment right to say whatever they like in regards to the action and condemns Mike Rotkin’s demands for a loyalty oath to the downtown merchants that, unfortunately, Mike Rotkin took his loyalty oath to long ago in order to enter the Santa Cruz City Council.

Mike Rotkin’s escapades have included support for anti-homeless laws, support for police repression against activists —including support for the arrest, beating, and three day jailing of this activist when I was distributing literature—, and many blatant lies; including his lies regarding the movement for a higher minimum wage. When this author ran for City Councilin 2000 and 2002, Mike Rotkin claimed that the part of my platform that called for a higher minimum wage was impossible because cities cannot set their own minimum wages. He added that if municipalities could do that, the Santa Cruz City Council would have done it long ago. Yet, this was a blatant lie on every level, municipalities can set minimum wages, and when a higher minimum wage was petitioned on to the Santa Cruz ballot, Mike Rotkin campaigned against it. A well funded campaign backed by local small businesses and fake “socialists” like Mike Rotkin defeated that measure. Double the Minimum Wage! Throw Mike Rotkin Out of Government! Boycott Rotkin’s UCSC “Marxism” Classes! As an alternative, Liberation News declares our intention of teach legitimate classes on Marxism at the Santa Cruz Free School if we are allowed.

Blame directed at SubRosa has also been leveled by “liberal” vice mayor Ryan Coonerty. He is another one of the hypocritical “progressive liberals” on the Santa Cruz City Council who has supported the city’s brutal police and anti-homeless laws. Of SubRosa he stated, “If they're not involved, I'd like to see them help clean some of the glass up, and helping the businesses that were affected. That's the least they could do.” This is suggesting that SubRosa had some blame in what happened and needs to somehow make-up for it. If anything, it is the anti-poor and anti-working class policies of the likes of Ryan Coonerty and Mike Rotkin that caused the riot, not the SubRosa collective. Besides being vice mayor, Ryan Coonerty is the owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz. Boycott the Bookshop Santa Cruz! Break with all Democrats! No support to the “Progressive” Democrats of the Santa Cruz City Council!

Instead of addressing theses problems, “leftist” mayor Mike Rotkin has decided to put one million dollars into the police budget to hire eight additional Santa Cruz cops. Meanwhile, Rotkin and his ilk are attacking city workers with cuts in pay and cuts to various needed departments due to the economic crisis of capitalism and the city’s falling income coming from regressive taxation. Regarding more cops, Mike Rotkin even admitted, “We have no idea how we are going to pay for it.” Yet, there are far too many cops in Santa Cruz and much of the time they spend on the job is spent harassing homeless people with a multitude of laws that include making it illegal for the homeless to sit on the sidewalk, sleep at night, or lean against a building.

As a result of these unsubstantiated accusations, SubRosa has become the target of multiple death threats. Apparently due to the threats, SubRosa has been closed for the last few days. Instead of closing, and since the Santa Cruz Police have repeatedly refused to protect the basic democratic rights of the left, Liberation News advocates the formation of armed workers’ defense guards to give SubRosa the defense they need in the face of these proto-fascist threats. Our members have agreed that we will actively participate in any such units if SubRosa accepts our offer.

Trying to discuss the situation with the Santa Cruz City Council, but excluded from the discussion by the Santa Cruz City Council, was “The Board of the Hub for Sustainable Transportation”. The Hub for Sustainable Transportation is a nonprofit umbrella with member organizations: the Bike Church, People Power!, Green Ways to School and PedEx. We also rent space to independent projects: The Computer Kitchen, SubRosa and The Fabrica sewing collective.

Yet, invited to the meeting were the vast majority of downtown Santa Cruz businesses that are members of the rightwing anti-homeless Downtown Association, of which a large number of Santa Cruz businesses are members. Yet, “The Board of the Hub for Sustainable Transportation” was specifically excluded from this meeting on the basis that they were not members of Downtown Association. Perhaps that slap in the face will help individual members reconsider the endorsements that they gave to individual candidates on the Santa Cruz City Council. Nothing could be clearer in terms of who really runs Santa Cruz; the Santa Cruz City Council is not even interested in the voices of businesses that are not part of the Downtown Association’s brown-shirt anti-homeless organization.

With the expanding crisis of capitalism and its growing unemployment, murderous wars of aggression, funding funneled to the repressive state apparatus and war instead of needed social programs, and the ever growing destruction of the planet through global warming; there will likely be more actions like the May Day riot. Likewise, the involvement of the local petty bourgeoisie through organizations like the Downtown Association and the City Council in promoting repression against the poor, opposition to a higher minimum wage, opposition to rent control, support for political oppression, and support for brutal cops will likely keep big and small businesses targets of this type of rebellion. Rather than supporting ratcheting up the repression, the petty bourgeoisie would do well in reconsidering what side they have been taking in the class war.

While Liberation News understands that a system that keeps kicking people when they are down is bound to create a reaction, we also see this action as having been generally counter-productive. Our perspective is towards building a workers’ party that fights to overthrow the current leadership in the unions to make the unions a fighting instrument of the working class. In the course of that struggle we seek to build self-confidence in the working class coupled with a vanguard party capable, with a rebellious working class, of carrying out the workers’ revolution for real with the establishment of an egalitarian socialist society with workers’ democracy, full employment, housing for all, healthcare for all, and production carried out for human and environmental needs rather than profit. Join us.


This statement was unanimously adopted, after vigorous debate and a number of corrections, by the democratic vote of the Liberation News collective (i.e. the Revolutionary League for a Workers’ Party) and by the Defense Committee for Political and Class War Prisoners. We discussed in detail the fact that we would potentially be blamed for what happened as other groups have unfairly been, despite our opposition to the tactics used, but decided that working class solidarity and programmatic clarity was far more important than throwing our anti-capitalist comrades to the wolves, and we decided on this despite our revolutionary socialist opposition to the ideology called “anarchism”.

In addition, the Defense Committee for Political and Class War Prisoners has also decided to take up the case of Jimi Haynes, withourt deciding at this point whether he is a class war prisoner or political prisoner, and pledged itself to put $15.00 on Jimi Haynes books per week. Upon that decision, the group immediately added $15.00 to Mr. Hayne’s “books” on May 5th.. The money he receives can be used to buy writing paper, stamped envelopes, coffee, additional food, as well as a few other things he may need to break his isolation and make life more tolerable while sitting in the hell hole of Santa Cruz County Jail. Supporters of our organization in jail are also instructed to give Jimi Haynes all of the highest protections we offer. With respect, other organizations, whether political or gang, are asked to issue similar decrees to their members.

Those wishing to write Jimi Haynes can reach him at:

23542 Jimi Haynes
Santa Cruz County Jail
259 Water Street, Santa Cruz

Funds for Jimi Haynes’ “books” can be dropped of at the Santa Cruz County Jail at 259 Water Street, Santa Cruz (with a draconian $3.00 charge per donation) or sent to “The Defense Committee for Political and Class War Prisoners” P.O. Box 3020, Santa Cruz California, 95062 with checks payable to the “The Defense Committee for Political and Class War Prisoners”. If you want funds to specifically go to Jimi Haynes, mention that with a note and 100% of your contribution will go to him.

Liberation News was somewhat dormant for a period of time, partly as a result of ambiguity regarding a few other socialist tendencies, but is now reinvigorated as a revolutionary socialist tendency that has no confidence in anything regarding the ruling class and their political parties, whether they be Democrat or Republican, and no confidence in any other American socialist tendency either. The Liberation News collective is also about to release a print version of our paper for the first time in a number of years. Funds for Liberation News flyers and the upcoming regularly printed newspaper can be sent to the Revolutionary League for a Workers’ Party at P.O. Box 3020, Santa Cruz California, 95062 with checks payable to the” Revolutionary League for a Workers’ Party”. A printed financial report of all expenditures will be made to all donors.

Those wishing to enquire about joining the Revolutionary League for a Workers’ Party or attending the next meeting of the group should e-mail Steven Argue at steveargue2 (at)

Anyone wishing to subscribe to Liberation News can do so for free online at:

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