SANTA CRUZ – An apartment complex manager found inflammatory fliers Wednesday morning posted just down the block from where gang members killed a Santa Cruz High School student last fall.
The fliers set off a wave of speculation as to who is responsible, if the threats are legitimate and what can be done to quell unrest in the community.
The anti-police fliers went up in the Chestnut Townhomes and Apartments the day after two suspected gang members – one of who is a Mexican national in the United States illegally – were arrested in connection with the stabbing death of Tyler Tenorio. The 16-year-old was killed in a clash with gang members at the corner of Chestnut and Laurel streets, near the apartment complex, on Oct. 16.
“In our opinion, this is a campaign of intimidation,” Santa Cruz police spokesman Zach Friend said.
One of the fliers encourages people to push back against police. “We need to take justice into our own hands.”
The second flier is titled “hood unity” and says “No snitching. No collaboration.” It calls Santa Cruz police a “Neo-Nazi gang” and criticizes the department’s partnership with federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement gang investigators.
“Whatever other beef we might have, ICE and the police are our common enemies,” the first flier states.
Santa Cruz police started working with federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement gang investigators last month to curb gang activity in the city. Since
Tenorio’s death, five of the city’s past seven homicides were gang related, according to police.
After the fliers were reported Wednesday, police issued an officer-safety warning.
“It makes you a little more vigilant,” Santa Cruz police officer Jason Kelley said Thursday. “We just want to be careful.”
ICE officials said the agency is focused on immigration enforcement that goes after criminals first, but that people have the right to voice their opinions.
“We’re certainly get a lot of people protesting,” said Lorie Haley, ICE spokeswoman.
No direct threats have been made and police acknowledge that pasting fliers to parking signs with a glue stick is not a typical gang tactic.
The tone of the fliers leans more toward anarchist sentiments, though no one has claimed responsibility for the fliers, police said.
“These are the most clear and direct attempt at intimidation and inciting violence that have been found in recent memory,” Friend said, adding that literature associated with the May Day downtown riot and past UC Santa Cruz animal rights protests were not as inflammatory as these fliers.
The partnership with ICE, one of four federal agencies currently assisting in Santa Cruz police investigations, has been controversial, but the fliers marked the first outward expression of anger.
“It speaks to something different,” Friend said. “We’re confident that this does not reflect the overall community sentiment but the department is getting frustrated by the push-back we’re feeling from a small, unrepresentative group.”
But people are concerned about immigration officials working in the city, according to Santa Cruz councilman Tony Madrigal said. Despite some outreach by police, some Latino residents worry ICE agents are patrolling with beat cops in Santa Cruz and may stop them on the street.