By J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel
A county judge on Monday found Wes Modes, a past organizer of the
unsanctioned Do It Yourself Parade, guilty of participating in an
unpermitted event, an infraction that marks a significant victory for city
officials fed up with the anarchist activist.
In lieu of a $250 fine, Judge Jeff Almquist sentenced Modes, who works in
the library system at UC Santa Cruz, to 30 hours of community service to
be completed within 60 days. Volunteering at the SubRosa Cafe, an
anarchist coffee shop and reading room that Modes co-founded, does not
count as community service, the judge clarified later Monday.
The city has repeatedly asked Modes to seek an official permit for the New
Year's Eve parade, which has drawn thousands of participants since 2005.
But he has refused, saying the parade is a largely spontaneous event
designed to occur without government approval.
"There was really no question that he knew about the ordinance and he
participated in the marching knowing there was a permit required for the
parade," said Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone. "Hopefully the
ruling lets people know that you have to cooperate with the city if you
are going to put 1,000 people in the street on one of the most highly
charged nights of the year."
But the case has far greater significance than it might appear on the
surface. Modes for years has been a thorn in the side of city officials.
Police came under fire in 2006 for sending two undercover
officers to a planning meeting for the parade, which replaced the
cancelled First Night event, which had become violent. The controversy led
to a new police policy limiting undercover investigations.
In 2008, Modes interfered with officers responding to the unauthorized
downtown drum circle. In May of this year, police said anarchists were
responsible for a riot that left 18 businesses downtown with broken
windows or other damage totaling $100,000. Modes has not been named as a
In the parade case, Modes sought to convince the judge he was being
singled out because of his personal politics and previous history with the
city. Modes put on two witnesses who said they attended the 2009 parade
and, in protest of the citation against him, had asked city officials to
ticket them, as well.
"It was just very unfortunate," Modes' attorney, Jonathan Gettleman, said
of the ruling. "It was a real opportunity for the court to stand up for
the First Amendment right of my client and people who participate in the
Barisone has said he issued a citation only to Modes because he believes,
based on the past, that Modes is an organizer of the event. If founders
had sought a permit, the city could charge them the cost of police
overtime and require insurance and other measures.
Modes will be sentenced in November for the drum circle incident. The
parade citation could threaten to upend a deal Modes struck with
prosecutors last year to reduce a charge of battery on a police officer in
exchange for more community service.