DIY parade participant headed back to court

by J.M. BROWN
SC Sentinel 04/29/2010

SANTA CRUZ – The man who founded the Last Night DIY parade five years ago could face consequences bigger than a $204 fine for participating in the unsanctioned event again last December.

Wesley Modes, 43, of Felton is scheduled to appear in court May 14 to determine whether his participation in the largely impromptu New Year’s Eve parade constituted a violation of a plea agreement he entered with prosecutors to settle unrelated charges stemming from a 2008 row with police at the downtown drum circle.

Modes, who works at the McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz, says he believes the city is seeking retaliation against him and is using the citation to send a warning to others who might participate in future DIY events. DIY, which stands for do-it-yourself, is based on an anarchist philosophy. Modes and other participants have refused to obtain city permits.

Assistant District Attorney Shannon Wyllie said she hasn’t decided whether to ask a judge to set aside the plea agreement and resentence Modes on battery and obstruction charges involving the drum circle case, which could result in jail time. She said she hasn’t reviewed the complaint filed against Modes by City Attorney John Barisone in February.

“Depending on the quality of the violation, it could violate terms of the existing agreement,” Wyllie said. “If that’s the case, he could be additionally punished.”

Barisone’s report refers to Modes as a “participant” in the Dec. 31 parade, which drew about 100 people, including children, riding on bicycles and homemade floats. Modes and Santa Cruz residents Whitney Wilde and Curtis Reliford were also cited as participants in the 2009 event.

“I’m not singling him out,” Barisone said. “He is the one we’ve had contact with in prior years.”

Wilde said she never received her citation and has called the city attorney to ask for it. Barisone said the citations were issued Feb. 16.

The officer who wrote the citations, Sgt. Michael Harms, explained in a report that he saw Modes, Wilde and Reliford at the parade but couldn’t identify anyone else when reviewing video footage shot by police that night.

Harms said Modes had been quoted in the Sentinel days before discussing the parade and posted a comment on the event’s website afterward saying the event was “bigger and better than ever.” The posting also said it was his “recurring dream to have a big celebration after the parade for the rest of the night at our town center at Cooper and Pacific,” according to the police report.

Modes said he didn’t organize the this year’s event and doesn’t believe simply participating should land him in hot water with prosecutors.

“They are singling me out although they have no evidence I organized it this time,” Modes said. “It’s hard to imagine that it’s not connected to the drum circle case that was recently settled.”

In September 2008, Modes and another man were involved in a confrontation with police officers who were investigating the drum circle, where there have been numerous complaints of drug dealing and loud music. In December 2009, just weeks before the parade, Modes entered guilty pleas to charges of obstruction and battering a police officer.

That hasn’t been his only dust-up with police. In 2006, he exposed the fact that undercover police had attended planning meetings for the parade under fake names. An internal investigation cleared police of wrongdoing, but council members and other citizens raised questions about police tactics.

Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin said city officials have since tried to work with Modes and others to figure out how to do the parade legally, including negotiating a cheaper or even free permit.

“They’ve been on warning every year,” Rotkin said. “The issue is we’ve asked people to apply for permits. It’s not a huge expense.”

Modes said he has not sought a permit for the parade in years past because the whole point of the event is to be free of government constraints.

“It’s the administration versus the people,” Modes said. “The administration feels like they’re losing control. But the people are like, These are our streets to control.’”

The DIY parade does not represent the first time people have been ticketed for non-permitted parades in Santa Cruz. Bicycle advocate Micah Posner was fined $110 for organizing a bike parade after he and more than 100 other cyclists flooded King Street in November 2008 to show their support for proposed bicycle improvements.