Thursday, September 30, 2004

The marshalls and the microstation

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Posted on Thu, Sep. 30, 2004

Marshals shut down Santa Cruz radio station
By David L. Beck
Mercury News

Guns drawn, agents of the U.S. Marshals Service served a warrant on a tiny Santa Cruz pirate radio station early Wednesday, rousting and frisking the pajama-clad residents of the co-op house from which the station had been broadcasting. No one was arrested.

``This is not a criminal action against people,�� said Supervising Deputy Cheryl Koel.

The target was Free Radio Santa Cruz, an FM micro-station boasting 35 to 40 watts of power and offering round-the-clock music, activism and other local programming, in addition to such national programming as Radio Pacifica's ``Democracy Now��-- all in defiance of federal licensing laws.

The blue-jacketed marshals, along with agents of the Federal Communications Commission, dismantled the station's equipment and carried it to a waiting pickup with a camper shell as a crowd of perhaps 60 people yelled ``Shame! Shame!�� and ``Go home!��

Residents, programmers, friends of alternative radio and enemies of corporate media were joined by two city council members, one council candidate and two congressional candidates. They milled around on the sidewalk and in the street, careful to avoid traffic.

Culinary consultant Joseph Schultz, founder of the legendary but now defunct India Joze, brought vegetable soup.

But despite Koel's assurances, residents of the house on Laurel Street did feel ``acted-against.��

``They got me out of bed,�� said Erin Calentine, 21. ``They were yelling, `Federal marshals! We have a warrant! Come down! We�re here for the radio,� �� she said.

After being frisked, the residents were kept outside for about half an hour while the marshals ``secured the location,�� said Calentine, quoting the marshals.

Mayor Scott Kennedy and Councilman Mark Primack condemned the raid, while candidate Tony Madrigal, a union organizer by profession, led a chant of ``S�, se puede�� -- the Cesar Chavez motto that means ``Yes, we can.�� The student co-op house is named for Chavez.

Kennedy said the city would be willing to lend assistance, perhaps by filing a friend-of-the-court brief. The fact that the station frequently airs criticism of city government ``makes it important�� that the city support it, Kennedy told the Santa Cruz Sentinel last year.

The warrant bore no names, listing as ``defendant�� ``any and all radio station equipment . . . used in connection with the transmissions.�� It gives the station operators 20 days to respond in court.

``I don�t want the reason we�re doing this to get lost in the hubbub about the raid,�� said George Cadmon, who hosts a show called ``Peace Talks.�� ``This is civil disobedience, anti-corporate action, First Amendment protest. We feel very strongly that local voices aren�t getting out there.��

Evelyn Hall hosts a program called ``Eye of the Storm,�� which she describes as ``spiritual activism.�� Her daughter and a friend, both 11, have their own show, too, called ``For Your Information.�� And so does her mother, Michelle Hall, 74.

``Could it be,�� she wondered, ``they are really kind of worried?�� Hall asked, reflecting the paranoia and anger circulating in the crowd.

The station's technical director, who as Uncle Dennis plays 1960s and '70s rock, psychedelic music and blues, said the FCC has had its eye on the station for years. Uncle Dennis said the station has moved several times during its nine-plus years of life on the fringes of broadcasting.

The FCC spokeswoman declined comment on the case except to say that it was an open investigation. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco suggested a reporter consult the station's Web site,, where it charges that the FCC ``has proved itself to be controlled by monied interests.��

Cadmon estimated the value of the equipment seized at $5,000, including the antenna agents removed from the roof.

Contact David L. Beck at or at (831) 423-0960.

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