Last Night DIY Parade Returns in Full Force
Following police spying, decentralized celebration refuses permission to bring spontaneous parade to Santa Cruz streets
Santa Cruz, CA, December 31st, 2006: Undaunted by civil rights violations last year by the Santa Cruz Police Department, this year's Last Night DIY Parade and Celebration return in full force to take over the streets.
In your near future: a New Year's eve parade crammed with jugglers, clowns, samba drums, pirates, bikes, and marching bands. The usual Santa Cruz city-sponsored New Year's eve event? Hardly. This is Last Night Santa Cruz, a people's parade, a do-it-yourself celebration that goes beyond the now-defunct city-sponsored First Night event, canceled two years ago due to money problems.
Last year, the celebration erupted into the national headlines when it was discovered that Santa Cruz Police had violated the civil liberties of organizers by spying on their meetings for three months and gathering information about the group and other unrelated activities.
This year, the celebration returns with an unabashedly defiant point-of-view. A manifesto published on the Last Night DIY website stated, "Last Night is a decentralized, collective, spontaneous, open, public New Year's Eve celebration, a completely organic event, organized and put on at a grassroots-level." DIY stands for do-it-yourself and the parade boasts no city-sponsorship and no corporate donors.
Already committed to join the celebration: Santa Cruz Trash Orchestra, Santa Cruz Art & Revolution, Bike Kids, The Great Morgani, The Winter Queen, Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, The Opera Lady, Santa Cruz Pipes & Drums, Stiltwalkers, Santa Cruz County Cycling Club, Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom, and the Santa Cruz Human Rights Organization.
The Last Night website states, "The parade is not merely a celebration, but a celebration of the power that we all have when we gather together to make something happen. Not just a street party, but a party to reclaim our streets."
This year on New Year's Eve, the celebration will meet at sunset near the Saturn Cafe parking lot on Pacific Ave.
A Brief History of Last Night
Last Night started in 2005 as a response to the implosion of the city-sponsored First Night celebration. Elsewhere that year, the government abandoned millions of poor people in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, and so Last Night was also a commemoration of the do-it-yourself spirit of those surviving communities.
That year, thousands of people came out to participate in the people's parade that marched raucously up Pacific Avenue. The parade included the Santa Cruz Trash Orchestra, martial arts displays, firedancers, the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition, Indonesian music, drum circles, floats, and the Opera Lady. The parade was high-energy and peaceful. There were no conflicts with police who's light presence remained far on the periphery. The parade and it's organizers represented a broad cross-section of the community.
In a typical overreaction of authority to the threat of people taking responsibility in their own lives, the Santa Cruz Police Department deployed undercover officers to infiltrate parade planning meetings for three months. Records released after the spying scandal came to light, revealed a pattern of abuses, including monitoring unrelated groups and other first amendment activities and compiling police dossiers of organizers. The city's own police auditor determined that police had violated the civil rights of parade organizers. After six months of effort, community, activist, and ACLU involvement, the city put in place a weak policy to curb some of the abuses of police power.
A Decentralized Community Event
Organizers, or "un-organizers" as they prefer to be called, issued a manifesto to make clear the intentions of the Last Night parade, online at the Last Night DIY website at www.lastnightdiy.org. The site also offers history, news, discussion, and press info about the Last Night DIY Celebration.
It is a people's parade and everyone is invited: parents with kids, wayward youth, the homeless, Mexican workers, students, retired people. Get your friends together and bring your creativity to the parade. Build a float or puppets. Bring your friends dressed as clowns. Make music and performance art. Show off your art cars. Form a bike gang. Bring your political message because unlike First Night, free speech is encouraged.
The celebration is decentralized -- no one person or group is making it happen. No one is in charge, but those involved in the parade claim they are all leaders. Decisions about tactical matters are made collectively by those willing to step up and make it happen. The paraders are not asking for permits and permission, nor are there any limits on participation. No one is in a position to restrict who can participate or in what way. People simply show up prepared to take part in a city-wide celebration.
Not Seeking Permits
Beyond the impossible barrier of the city's arduous and prohibitively expensive special event permit, the permit process itself is a racket. It is the process through which the city seeks to charge us for the privilege of exercising our rights to free speech and free assembly. Accepting a permit puts one someone in the position of having to take responsibility and liability for the actions of others. Parade organizers reject that way of thinking.
The focus is on self-reliance. One of the most important aspects of the Last Night celebration is that people take responsibility for themselves and for their community. As such, parade "un-organizers" take pains to address issues such as security, traffic control, sanitation, clean-up, and police liaison.
The Last Night DIY Parade is not seeking permits from the city. Last Night organizers reason, "When we ask permission to live our lives, to celebrate, to come together, to express dissent, we legitimate the power of institutions over us. We give up our power to make our own choices. We refuse to ask permission to be free."
The Last Night manifesto states, "We want to live in a world full of play and celebration, where self-expression is a matter of course. A world full of surprises, in which relationships are authentic and open-ended. A world in which we share a direct connection to the world around us. Where one does not have to ask permission of authorities to realize one's dreams of adventure and possibility."
Is there still a chance to get involved?
Absolutely. There is a lot that still needs to be done. And we need lots of
help. Here is a quick list of critical Last Night needs. Email us as soon as possible if you can help.
Critical Needs: How can you help?
- Art&Revolution's Giant Puppets needs fifteen people to operate them.
- The Trash Orchestra has more instruments than people to play them. We need ten more trash orchestra players (no previous percussion marching band experience necessary). Talk to us.
- We need your help along with a half dozen people making Last Night banners
- We need a dozen people in the parade's Sweeping Tail to clean up after the parade.
- We need two experienced people to serve as police liaison
- We need experienced people for help with traffic control, conflict management, police liaison, and safety and security
- We (might) need lawyers and legal support
- If you are an experienced videographer, we need you to document the parade
- We need still photographers to document the parade
Check out this list of 7 ways you can get involved.
What Is This?
As opposed to the city sponsored First Night, Last Night is a decentralized, collective, spontaneous, open, public New Year's Eve celebration.
DIY stands for do-it-yourself. And that is what we are doing. A little bit of planning, a little bit of work, some getting together. This is our celebration that you and I make happen. This is not a paid gig, not something organized or well-planned. It's a people's event. We are doing this just for the love of it.
The latin root of the word amateur means to love (as in te amo or mi amor). So an amateur is one who does something for the love of it. And in that sense, we are all amateurs here. Let downtown be filled with music and dancing as we ring in the new year!