Riot breaks out in downtown Santa Cruz; windows broken on dozens of businesses, porch of cafe set on fire

Santa Cruz Sentinel | May 2, 2010
By Alia Wilson

SANTA CRUZ - A large group of protesters demonstrating at a May Day rally for worker's and immigrant rights downtown broke off into a riot vandalizing about a dozen businesses around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, police said.

Many in the group were carrying makeshift torches as they marched, breaking storefront windows and writing "anarchist graffiti" on buildings, according to Capt. Steve Clark. Many businesses sustained multiple broken windows including very large storefront windows at Urban Outfitters and The Rittenhouse building. Police believe at least 15 businesses suffered damage.

The violence was initiated from a group holding a rally at the town clock for May Day. Windows at Jamba Juice and Velvet Underground were left shattered and graffiti including anarchy signs were tagged onto buildings.

Because of the size and violent demeanor of the crowd, Santa Cruz police asked for help from all agencies in the county to break up the riot. At one point, protesters lit a fire on the porch of Caffe Pergolesi and blocked access to firefighters, officers said. Police were able to clear out the demonstrators before more damage was caused.

A large rock sat outside Verizon Wireless on the 100 block of Cooper Street, where vandals tried to break the window twice, according to Clark.

"The damage that was caused was without purpose," Clark said. "It was senseless violence that victimized a community who cannot afford to be victimized in this manner. This did nothing to add credit to whatever they believed their cause was."

One person, 24-year-old Jimi Haynes, a transient from Fresno County, was arrested for felony vandalism for damaging a window. Haynes is also wanted on a parole violation, Clark said. Police are searching for others responsible for the damage. Protesters cleared the downtown area around midnight.

"Our entire team of investigators are processing the scene of violence for evidence," Clark said. "We will be looking at video available  to try to ID who's responsible."

Haynes was observed traveling with this group and breaking windows at the Dell Williams Jewelry store. Haynes broke two large display windows in the front of the store. The witnesses followed him and called police. Haynes was located by arriving Watsonville PD officers who detained Haynes, Clark said.

Haynes is on parole out of Fresno County for burglary. He has been in Santa Cruz for the past several weeks where he has established an arrest history, Clark said. Haynes admitted to participating in the rally after receiving a flyer at a local anarchist café. Haynes was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail.

Once order was restored, police detectives worked throughout the night to collect evidence and document the damage to each of the businesses, Clark said. The police department guarded exposed storefronts, and arranged for private security to watch the businesses until windows could be boarded, and responsible persons contacted.

The police department encourages anyone with information (include any photos or video footage) to make contact and report the information. The police department will be working to identify and prosecute additional individuals involved in the march and subsequent violence.

Police ask anyone with information about the incident to contact the investigations department at 420-5820.