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View other events for the week of 5/28/2010
Demo and Harassment Trial for Wes Modes
Date Friday May 28
Time 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Location Details
701 Ocean St.

The rally will be at 12:30 PM on the steps of the Courthouse.

The hearing/trial will be at 1:30 PM in Dept. 2, the second courtroom you encounter after going through the metal detector in the main courthouse building.
Event Type Protest
Organizer/AuthorRobert Norse
Emailrnorse3 [at]
Address309 Cedar PMB #14B Santa Cruz 95060
I heard about this rally on second hand from Whitney Wilde. According to earlier e-mail she received the 12:30 PM was organized by Sherry Conable, then cancelled when Wes Modes thought the hearing was off, then rescheduled when Wes sent out an e-mail on 5-27 that the hearing/trial was on again.

As described below, Wes and others are being targeted.

The Guerrilla Theater was dispersed on Friday 5-21 from its customary viewing spot under the Soquel St. bridge.

The Drum Circle was relocated under police pressure from its traditional location on Cedar St. to the levy next to the Soquel Bridge area.

Street musicians downtown have reformed for mutual protection as the Street Performers Guild after being driven away with ticketing threats for false claims of "Unreasonably Disturbing Noise".

Homeless activist Becky Johnson is appealing her conviction in April for singing homeless lyrics to the Petula Clark song "Downtown" in the "Free Speech" zone in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz.

And three community activists have been ticketed for "participating" in the 2009 DIY Last Night parade, as described below.

In Dept 2 at 701 Ocean St. in the court of Judge Burdick, Free Skool, Last Night DIY, Trash Orchestra, and Sub Rosa activist Wes Modes goes on trial for 6 infractions, 5 of them nearly 2 years old, in what appears to be a joint action by D.A. Bob Lee and City Attorney John Barisone to attack community activists in town. I called the Municipal Court Clerk and was given details.

Apparently City Attorney John Barisone is prosecuting Wes for 5 infractions dating from mid-September of 2008 the week before police provoked a near riot in the parking lot next to the Farmer's Market where the Drum Circled has played traditionally for the last decade or more.

On September 17, 2008 when police showed up in force, Harms apparently had the 5 infraction charges waiting to be used to clamp down on Wes.

Clearing away the Drum Circle from its traditional spot seems to have been high on the city bureaucrat agenda for years. Using Vice-Mayor Coonerty's "Parking Lot Panic" law banning public assemblies in parking lots, Harms moved to disperse the Drum Circle in January of 2008.

The community rebuffed the police when various groups including the Raging Grannies, HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom), Food Not Bombs, and the Trash Orchestra (of which Wes was a part), joined the Drum Circle in solidarity. This widespread resistance may have made Harms reluctant to engage in mass ticketing--particularly so near the Wednesday Farmer's Market, where so many people could see and protest the crushing of legal public assembly.

Later in September, the City took to putting up green mesh fencing around the three tree areas where people gathered to drum and/or socialize on Wednesday afternoon during the Farmer's Market.

On September 17, 2008, Sgt. Harms and his underlings attempted to handcuff Food Not Bombs worker Jack Russ for allegedly taking down the fence around the area where the Drum Circle had played. Russ was ultimately never charged with that--but rather "resisting arrest". Wes was brutalized, arrested, hospitalized, and jailed.

Massive police response nearly created a riot downtown--photos can be found at . I've written many reports on the Drum Circle which can be accessed by searching for my name at See .

After a year of what he described as fruitless legal struggle, Wes copped a plea to battery and resisting arrest on December 4 last year. He was given some sort of deferred sentencing, which the D.A. has tried to revoke using the new "parade walking" charge described below, which also comes up for trial at 1:30 PM Friday May 28th in Dept. 2.

Sentencing in the misdemeanor cases is slated for June 15th at 8:30 AM in Judge Burdick's Dept.

Wes reported that Harms had five other infraction charges stemming from his peaceful solidarity with the drummers on September 10th ready to spring on him on September 17th.

They weren't pressed at the time, but they're now being belatedly pursued in court by City Attorney John Barisone nearly two years later.

These include: 9.50.020 Conduct on public property, 9.50.030 Disturbing plant lawns or grassy areas, 9.64.010 Trespass in a public parking lot, 9.50.010 Obstruction of movement in a Public Place, and 9.50.030(8) Defacing or Removing Public Property.

It's not clear to me what these charges actually refer to--other than engaging in ordinary social use of the Drum Circle area. Dozens of people also were assembling in the lot, but only Wes is charged criminally for his presence there. Wes emphasized how he was being targeted through his attorney's discovery of documents showing Harms had these charges waiting for him on September 17th when he arrived, apparently intending to use them to deter his political activity.

Wes's current defense lawyer, Jonathan Gettleman, is moving on 5-28 to dismiss these charges as untimely (i.e. delayed too long).

Infraction charges don't allow for a jury trial or free public defender. Normally they wouldn't allow for jail either. However Wes's case is special.

As described above, Barisone has leveled a new infraction charge--for participating in a non-commercial event--the DIY Last Night New Year's Parade. As I understand it, the D.A. is attempting to use this new charge as proof of a violation of the sentencing agreement in the battery, resisting arrest cases, of last December. Something about "obeying all laws".

If Wes can be convicted of this absurd infraction violation (which would also apply to hundreds of other people walking in the parade), then perhaps he can be convicted of breaking the sentencing deal with a possible consequence of months in jail under the December agreement. The hearing on that issue comes up June 15 in Dept.2 at 8:30 AM.

As far as walking in the DIY December 31, 2009 parade, hundreds of others also walked in that parade (as did I) on December 31st, but none of them is being charged. Whitney Wilde, a street artist, and Curtis Reliford, the African-American activist who convoyed food down to New Orleans after Katrina are also charged with "participating".

Their cases have not been set for trial. Though the court records their citations having been issued, both Wilde and Reliford denied receiving them in the mail and said the city attorney had not contacted them.

In fact, in solidarity with Wes, Wilde has approached the city attorney repeatedly seeking to receive notice she's been charged. Others like India Joze restaurant owner Joe Schultz have also asked Barisone to charge them as well for "criminal parading". Fines on these tickets are $293; if unpaid, they go to $593.

Confronted on May 1 publicly to get the city attorney to drop all these ridiculous DIY charges, Rotkin claimed ignorance, but promised to bring it up at the next closed session of City Council--after initially claiming it couldn't be done.

I contacted him by phone several weeks ago to find out when it would appear on the May 11th City Council agenda; he responded it would be brought up on May 24th. City Council's closed session agenda for that date showed no mention of it, and Rotkin didn't return a phone call about the issue. He reportedly ducked the issue when attorney Gettleman raised the issue.

Call him at 423-4209 to speak to him directly--though you'll usually get a message machine.

Wes describes the situation in his own words at

Added to the calendar on Thursday May 27th, 2010 5:35 PM
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
ThoughtsRobert NorseWednesday Jun 2nd, 2010 11:01 PM
Sentinel/Mercury Articlemainstream reportTuesday Jun 1st, 2010 11:22 PM
Not such a victoryquite the contraryMonday May 31st, 2010 2:06 PM
Good luck Wes!solidaritySunday May 30th, 2010 5:52 PM
Courtroom Victory for Wes ModesDept 2Saturday May 29th, 2010 2:25 AM
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