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Longest-Standing Pirate Radio Station Free Radio Santa Cruz Shut Down by FCC

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Pirate radio station Free Radio Santa Cruz which had been operating without a license for nearly 10 years, was raided yesterday for the first time and shut down. We go to Santa Cruz to speak with two of the station’s longtime programmers. [includes rush transcript]

Yesterday morning at 9:20 in Santa Cruz, California, two dozen armed federal agents with automatic weapons and riot gear raided pirate radio station Radio Free Santa Cruz. The station had just finished airing its regular broadcast of Democracy Now! when the agents arrived on the scene. Moments after the initial raid, 5 agents from the Federal Communications Commission arrived on the scene.

They located the transmitter and seized all of the station’s broadcast equipment, including the antenna. More than 50 local residents showed up on the scene to protest the shut-down of the independent radio station. Free Radio Santa Cruz has been on the air, operating without a license for nearly 10 years and has never been raided before yesterday. Despite its unlicensed status, the station recently won a resolution of support from the Santa Cruz City Council.

  • George Cadman, has hosted a talk show on * Free Radio Santa Cruz* for more than 5 years. She was at the station when the raid began.
  • Vinny Lombardo, former host at Free Radio Santa Cruz. He is currently covering the story for Free Speech Radio News.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re joined by George Cadman, who has hosted a talk show on Free Radio Santa Cruz for more than five years. She was at the station when the raid began. Welcome to Democracy now!


JUAN GONZALEZ: So, I guess that resolution from the Santa Cruz City Council was the kiss of death in terms of —

GEORGE CADMAN: Well, actually, we have had two resolutions from the City Council in support of us, one which came many years ago, so I don’t think that had anything to do with it, actually. About 100 people showed up to support us. There was about 15 U.S. Marshals and five F.C.C. Agents, roughly, that combed the property. I was present when they arrived. Did you want to hear what happened?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, please.

GEORGE CADMAN: Okay. Well, I was in the station. I came in to do the usual Wednesday morning programming. I put on the alternative news program, Truthout Overview, Independent Native News, Worker’s Independent News Service, and Democracy Now! is on at 8:00. I believe Democracy Now! played through. The next show, Alternative Radio is the one that got cut off. It was Howard Zinn. I put on the morning programming, I left the station, and I was walking to around the corner, and Democracy Now! was on the air. I saw a number of unmarked kind of cop cars, undercover cop cars, and I became nervous. I wasn’t sure right away what it was, because it was around the corner, but as I was leaving, I saw them swarm the house. There was a bunch of riot —- marshals, U.S. Marshals in riot gear that marched up to the property. At that point, I really didn’t have any choice but to get to a phone and call as many as I could. So, I rushed to the closest pay phone and called as many people as I could to come down. And of course, you know, they also got on the phone and began calling people. Then I went back to the station. And when that had occurred. By the time I got back there. They had gotten everyone out of the house. Many of them had their guns drawn—-I learned later from some of the tenants. They had them lined up outside, whether they were in their underwear or a bathrobe. And some of them were pretty shaken up by it, because they didn’t —- some of them were not fully aware that we were operating there because there’s a high turnover in the house. And they were very supportive, though, and basically said very positive things regardless of the situation, although they felt very upset they had not been shown a warrant yet. 20 minutes went by before they were even shown a warrant. Then they were allowed to glance at one, not even read it. Also, they weren’t allowed in -—

AMY GOODMAN: George, let me bring in Vinny — let me bring in Vinny Lombardo, who was in the house at the time that the F.C.C. Raided and shut down Free Radio Santa Cruz. Vinny, describe what happened.

VINNY LOMBARDO: I wasn’t in the house. Actually, I showed up a few — like a half hour after the F.C.C. Raid was already in progress. I formerly lived with Free Radio Santa Cruz for a number of years but we moved. In May, we relocated to a new spot, a new spot in Santa Cruz and also a new spot on the dial, primarily to avoid interference complaints that had been lodged against our station. But what happened this morning. I mean, the agents — George pretty much described it. The agents came in. They kind of secured the property, kept the people that had gathered on the streets sort of away from the edges of the property. No arrests were made. They confiscated all of our equipment, including antenna, transmitter, mixing board, 200 feet of coaxial cable, three CD players, a computer, a flat screen monitor, a Gentner phone box. The agents loaded up their vehicle and tried to drive away. And they were unable to drive away, because somebody in the crowd — I don’t know who, somebody slashed the tires on the vehicle, and on a number of other vehicles as well around the area, a number of the marshals’ vehicles that had been parked on the side streets. So, they had quite a difficult time getting away. It just — you know, they had to basically listen to the community, the people that are losing their community voice. This outlet that we had for ten years in Santa Cruz to be able to communicate with each other, share ideas, talk about politics and things that are just not being talked about in mainstream news and corporate controlled media. And these people were really upset to see their free speech, their voice taken away. So, these agents — you know, got to hear that for a few more hours while they tried to repair their tires. But that was — that is pretty much what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you going to do now, Vinny?

VINNY LOMBARDO: The collective at this point — Free Radio is a collective group, and at this point we’re still reviewing our options that are before us. Of course, we want to get back to serving our community and get back to our regular programming schedule. So, we’re going to use what we have to at our hands now. We have a web stream going at where people can tune in on our webstream and listen to the station at least temporarily. We’ll be doing that until we review other options, and see what we can do about getting back on the air. That remains to be seen. How soon we can do that, so it’s kind of — things are still being decided as we speak. We’re going to have another meeting to discuss our options further. Over the next couple of days.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Has there been any reaction from the City Council that has twice before passed resolutions in support of the station?

GEORGE CADMAN: Mayor Scott Kennedy came down to support us and he spoke to the media. And he basically said these are resources wasted right now in this time of — supposed orange alerts and war and all of that. He also said that he feels like this was against what the majority of Santa Cruz wanted. We have a lot of support, and I want to emphasize how much support we have. We have had voicemail donated to us, equipment already, we have had money donated already. We had someone donate silkscreen printed t-shirts they made and lots of supportive phone calls, even from other radio stations. Other stations came through for us at this time. Five other stations announced on the air that we were being raided and gave out the address. It brought down a lot of supporters who are the ones that are missing out now. The listeners who came down here to show their support and were very articulate about why they value and rely on the station. Many of them were talking to the Marshals and F.C.C. Agents and were passionate about what we provide to them. I want to focus back —- you know I just wanted to focus back on why we do what we do. I don’t know if the City Council is going to come out with a resolution or not. But the Mayor was there. There was a couple of City Council people that are running for City Council that were there. It shows you the level of support that we have, that the City Council feels, you know, that it’s important for them to show up for these things. I kind of want to make -—

AMY GOODMAN: we also want to just point out that this follows what happened in Knoxville, Tennessee, with the F.C.C. moving in on, raiding KFAR. Ironically enough, KFAR stands for First Amendment Radio. So, this is the second raid in just about one or two weeks.

GEORGE CADMAN: Yeah. That was about —

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us. Do you have a website that people can go to to get more information?

GEORGE CADMAN: Yes. It’s That’s freak —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, again, the latest news, F.C.C. raiding Free Radio Santa Cruz, that has been there for about ten years. Democracy Now! has visited the studios there, and we thank you for being on with us.

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