More Dead Cops: Santa Cruz NYE demo
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. —A group of 20 people dressed in black clothing, similar to Black Bloc activists, carried banners promoting violence against police officers, Santa Cruz police said Thursday.
The demonstrators appeared in downtown Santa Cruz a few minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve. One black banner had pink spray paint reading, "MORE DEAD COPS."
Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said police did not seize the banners initially because they were an act of free speech. Officers monitored the group from a distance.
The group made its way to the Santa Cruz County Jail at 259 Water Street, where it vandalized county cars parked in the lot by throwing rocks, bottles and paint.
This was happening as a gleeful crowd of 4,000 was gathered at the Santa Cruz Clock Tower counting down to 2015.
Once crimes of vandalism unfolded, police seized banners as evidence and detained three. A 23-year-old man from Santa Cruz; a 25-year-old woman from Reedley, Calif.; and a 29-year-old woman from Sacramento were questioned and not arrested.
Officers worked to keep demonstrators out of the downtown corridor and to keep more vandalism from occurring.
"The banner is not cool, well, not the banner so much, (but) the action behind the banner. The banner is First Amendment free speech," Clark said.
Clark said the incident was "a sad reminder that that mentality is still very prevalent in certain segments of the Santa Cruz community."
Santa Cruz's police force is still recovering from the deaths of two veteran detectives, Butch Baker and Elizabeth Butler, who were shot to death in a February 2013 ambush.
Clark said Baker and Butler were unable to fire any shots before a former Army soldier, Jeremy Goulet, killed them on the doorstep of his Branciforte Drive house. Goulet stole the detectives' guns, put on their body armor, hid a few blocks away, and was killed in a shootout with police.