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People v. Wes Modes: Trying to Remove DIY from Santa Cruz

by ~Bradley (bradley [at]
Wes Modes returned to Santa Cruz County Court on July 16th. This high-profile infraction case, claimed by supporters as harassment of Modes, a well-known anarchist activist, stems from his alleged participation in the Last Night DIY New Year's parade on December 31st, 2009, as well as a knowledge that the 2009 parade did not receive a permit. A ruling in the case is expected shortly after August 9th.

According to supporters, the parade infraction is the latest in a series of police harassment that Wes has received since outing Santa Cruz police officers who infiltrated activist meetings in 2005. Longtime Santa Cruz resident and parade participant Grant Wilson stated that Wes, an outspoken critic of the Santa Cruz Police Department, is being unjustly targeted from a crowd of community organizers, facilitators and participants. Wes is apparently one of three people that were issued a citation for participating in the DIY Parade.

The July 16th hearing, originally scheduled at 1:30 in Dept. #2, was delayed and moved to Dept. #5, and eventually heard before Judge Jeff Almquist. Wes was represented in court by defense attorney Jonathan Gettleman. John Barisone argued the case for the city of Santa Cruz.

Each side called two witnesses to testify on the stand. Kathy Agnone, Special Event Permit Coordinator for the city of Santa Cruz testified on behalf of the city, as did SCPD officer Lauren Schonfield. Testifying on behalf of Wes were two parade participants, including Sherry Conable, an organizer of the Peace Walk which which led off the DIY Parade.

Approximately 30 people attended the hearing in support of Wes, and against what many people view as a clear case of selective enforcement. 30 people seems to be an impressive number of supporters to show up at a court hearing, however Wes has done so many positive things for the Santa Cruz community, therefore it would be more appropriate to have seen hundreds of people calling for the charge to be dropped due to selective enforcement.
Before the hearing began, as people were finding their seats in the courtroom, an individual was approached by the Sheriff in the court and told to leave if intoxicated. Then SCPD officer Schonfield stepped in to further harass the individual over a perceived intoxication. At this point, officer Schonfield told the individual to leave the court. I followed the three of them outside the courtroom, and Robert Norse followed behind. Officer Schonfield said the person had closed their eyes, and was therefore intoxicated. But the individual denied being intoxicated. Officer Schonfield then stated, "You can't come in because you are high."

This upset the individual, who contemplated what to do, and ultimately decided to walk back into the court. Neither Officer Schonfield nor the Sheriff made any move to kick the person out of court a second time. It should be noted that the individual did not disturb the court, and was not kicked out by Judge Almquist.

Back inside the courtroom, it was difficult at times to hear clearly what was being said. If the sound was amplified, it was not loud enough, therefore I did not hear everything. That said, the following are my notes from the trial.

* Testimony of Kathy Agnone, Special Event Permit Coordinator for the City of Santa Cruz.

Kathy is speculating who she was in contact with through email prior to the DIY Parade. She believes that she was communicating with Wes, but Kathy was unable to confirm that she was indeed communicating with him and not someone else.

Apparently Kathy was sending emails to an account that was used by numerous people and associated with the DIY Parade website,, and the emails she received did not have a name in them.

* Testimony of SCPD officer Lauren Schonfield.

Officer Schonfield was on duty on the night of December 31st, 2009 in downtown Santa Cruz. She stated that the DIY Parade caused numerous problems, including traffic, safety, and lots of people downtown without enough law enforcement officers. Officer Schonfield learned of complaints that people had a hard time getting into their car and driving down Pacific Ave.

She saw Mr. Modes around 6pm getting dressed in the Saturn Cafe / Kinko's parking lot [Pacific Ave. and Spruce St.]

After the parade ended, Wes was eating dinner at Taqueria Los Pericos [Water St. and River St]. Officer Schonfield and SCPD Sgt. Michael Harms entered after Wes, and then asked to share the table with him. Wes allowed them to share the table and spoke to them about the night's events. During the conversation, Wes stated that he participated in the parade as part of the Balinese Gamelan musical group.

Sgt. Harms asked Officer Schonfield to document people in the parade. Harms did not specify to Schonfield that she should document any particular kind of people or group.

Whitney Wilde approached a police car driven by Sgt. Harms and spoke to him through the window. Officer Schonfield was also in the car. She previously did not know who Whitney Wilde was.

Sgt. Harms and Officer Schonfield had decided in a private conversation that it would not be safe to issue citations during the parade.

Officer Schonfield stated that participation in the parade meant being in the street.

During cross examination, defense attorney Jonathan Gettleman stated that there were people with children participating in the parade, and then asked Officer Schonfield if she would consider those people to be a dangerous threat. Officer Schonfield replied that yes, she did consider the people with children to be a threat.

Officer Schonfield was able to recognize and identify three parade participants: Wes Modes, Whitney Wilde, and Curtis Reliford who allegedly drove a truck with amplified sound as part of the parade.

Officer Schonfield stated that she did recognize Robert Norse on the night of the parade, but saw him outside of Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Attorney Gettleman showed a video clip to Officer Schonfield. In the clip, Sherry Conable can be seen walking up to a police car driven by Harms, where Officer Schonfield was a passenger.

Officer Schonfield recognized Wes from a drum circle at the Santa Cruz farmer's market on September 17, 2008. Wes was arrested that day and received an injury to his leg in the process. Wes was taken to a hospital and Officer Schonfield sat with Wes as he waited to see a doctor. From that time spent with Wes, she decided that it would not have been safe to ticket him on the night of December 31st, 2009.

* Defense Attorney Jonathan Gettleman makes a motion to have the case dismissed because the city failed to prove that Wes knew that the 2009 parade did not have a permit. Judge Almquist denied the motion stating that since Wes had been involved in organizing the parade in previous years, he knew that part of the point of the parade was to protest against needing a permit.

* Testimony of Sherry Conable, parade participant and organizer of the Peace Walk

Sherry participated in the 2009 parade and had contact with the police during the parade.

Sherry learned of Wes receiving a citation for his participation in the parade. In response, she contacted numerous people working for the city, including John Barisone, asking that the charges against Wes be dropped for selective enforcement, or that she receive a citation as well, since she was also a participant.

She did not receive a response to the email, or a citation.

In cross examination, Sherry was asked if she told John Barisone that she knew that the parade was unpermitted. Sherry looked at the email, which was printed out, and said that she wrote many folks knew the parade was not permitted. But no, she did not specifically write that she knew the parade was not permitted.

* Testimony of Clio B., a parade participant

She called John Barisone and left a message asking to receive a citation for her participation in the parade. She said that she worked really hard to organize for the parade and that it was not fair that only Wes received a citation. Therefore, she asked for one too. However, she did not receive a reply or a citation.

* Court adjourns.

Defense attorney Jonathan Gettleman will submit a brief on August 2nd. John Barisone will respond to the brief by August 9th. Judge Jeff Almquist will issue his ruling shortly after that.
Officer Schonfield stated, "You can't come in because you are high." However, the individual walked backed into court. This person did not disturb the court, and was not kicked out by Judge Almquist.
Add Your Comments

Comments (Hide Comments)
by (a)
Thanks for the report, Bradley!
I really hope things go well for Wes. The police have had it out for him for a while, and are looking for any and all excuses they can to drag him through legal bullshit.
by Downtown Land
Really Bradley? You call yourself a journalist. Why don't you try spell check? And the officers name is Laurel Schonfield, who happens to be kicking butt in cleaning up the city. If she says the person is high then they probably are, if you have checked the sentinel lately you would see she is handles mostly drug calls. My friend was their when you were so called reporting and Officer Schonfield specifically told that doper that he was disrespecting the Judge by showing up high. It is not Officer Schonfield's fault that the baliff was too lazy to arrest him.

And least you think I am a huge fan of Officer Schonfield, she has given me more then a few tickets but she always gives me a warning first and when I mess up again she is polite but does her job. I have seen her buy more then a few people having a bad day coffee and listen to their woes.

You guys are a waste of space.
by A!
Downtown land, you are nothing but a fucking boot-licker, you really think anyone here gives a rats ass what you think, go suck some cop-ass...
by Eyes Wide Open
"If she [Laurel Schonfield] says the person is high then they probably are,..."

Yeah, she would know, the cops know where all the dope goes. How else would they know their take?

And thank you Santa Cruz finest for saving us from those horwible parades that offend my widdle mind's warped sense of American culture.
by A
I completely support Wes and think this whole thing is ridicules, and not only a huge waste of time and resources, it is an infringement of his rights.

I bring up the following only as something we can possibly learn from, not in anyway directed as a mean or derogatory statement. Being someone who has taken the Free Skool Know your Rights Classes, I wonder why Wes did you allow the officers to chat you up at the restaurant? I can see how it could happen, and its an honest mistake to be sure. I am not implying you did anything intentional. But do you see it as a mistake now? Everything I learned from that class would have told me not to allow them to sit and answer questions, no matter how benign they seemed at the time. Would it have been better to ask if you were under arrest and to say no when they asked to sit down? I understand you had no idea what was coming. Again I am just wondering of this was something we can learn from or am i reading far more into it than there was?

Thanks for everything you do.

by Sherry Conable
Saddened by a comment made by the City Attorney during the Wes Modes trial on 7/16/10, this is a personal reflection I wrote thinking back on my testimony as a witness for the defense, and what I wish I had said. I sent it to the City Attorney, the City Council, and many others.
sherry conable

For 5 years now, the Last Night Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Parade has presented a Parade on New Year's Eve in downtown Santa Cruz. Starting at Saturn Cafe, the Parade proceeds all the way up Pacific Avenue to the Post Office, people walking and dancing in the street itself, and having chosen NOT to get a permit from the City.

In 2009, three participants were ticketed for participating in the DIY Parade, the assertion being that that they took part knowing there was no permit, which is a crime. On Friday July 16th, one of them, Wes Modes, was in court defending himself against those charges.

I had the opportunity to testify as a witness for the defense. I too had participated in the Parade knowing it had no permit. I had in fact organized the Silent Peace Walk that starts the Parade off each year. And, I had even danced for many minutes around, and in front of, a police car that drove into the middle of the Parade (to my great dismay!), interacting with the officers in a friendly way. In the courtroom, there was a video shown of this very action.

When I learned that tickets had been issued to just 3 Parade participants (out of about 150), I contacted the City Attorney, the Police Chief, and City Council Members, letting them know of my participation in detail. I requested that I too be ticketed, or that the charges against the others be dropped. I told them I still had all the public announcements and press work for the Peace Walk in my computer data base for their review. I received no replies to those requests.

And so, I was called as a witness for the defense because it seemed obvious that some folks were being targeted for prosecution, while many others were allowed to walk away. At a certain point in the trial, with very intense rancor, the City Attorney said that: 'the "sole purpose" of the DIY Parade is to defy the City's permit process.' I was shocked, and as I thought about it later, my heart really ached. It ached because of the core misunderstanding that this represents.

I can speak only for myself, but I think my feelings and my purpose reflect most of the people who choose to be a part of this Parade. We do it out of love.

After First Night Santa Cruz folded for lack of funds, this event was born out of excitement, inspiration, creativity, playfulness, and with a sincere desire to give to the community a Family Friendly, Everyone is Invited Celebration on the Last Night of the Year, first in 2005, and then every year since.

Whether walking silently for Peace, showing off on stilts or unicyles, dressing up as a fairy princess or mermaid, playing in the Gamelan Orchestra in full Balinese costume, or the many things people choose to do, both children and adults, it is done to give and show to the community something each of us loves and really cares about. And to do it as a public event because we want each year to end as a celebration of the many good things that Santa Cruz is and can be.

It just so happens that, BY THE WAY, the folks who first had the inspiration to create this event, to offer it as a community celebration, have a value system in which they do not believe in the permit process. It is a moral and political value system based on a particular understanding of what will, or will not, create a more egalitarian, just, and positive world.

It really is BY THE WAY. It is not the "sole purpose," or any purpose really, of why the DIY Parade began and continues.

For myself, I am an equal opportunity Parade participant. I walk as part of the Peace Community not only in the DIY Parade, but also in the Gay Pride Parade, the DTA sponsored Downtown Holiday Parade, and occasionally in the Aptos 4th of July Parade. I carry a beautiful Flower Peace Wheel that was a gift to me, and I change my attire to blend into each event.

I walk because I care deeply about my community, and about being part of my community in a creative, outspoken way. Whether there is, or is not, a permit is of no issue to me. It is the celebration, the gift, and for me, it is having the courage to walk down the street just as myself, in my home town, offering a message of Peace, that matters.

As the Peace Walk moves by in silence on New Year's Eve, our hands raised in the Peace symbol, the whole street becomes silent with us, folks smiling and raising their hands in Peace as well, especially the children, and my heart overflows. It is truly one of my favorite events of the year.

The City Attorney is a man I know to have done MANY good things in this community, and who cares about it very deeply too. As do most city officials, and as do most of the people who live here.

The Last Night DIY Parade, in my experience, is born out of love, not out of defiance. When all of us can come together on this common ground, perhaps we will be able to talk to, and hear each other, in a way that we have not yet achieved.

For all the differences we may have in points of view, there is much that is important and good that we also share.

in Peace
Sherry Conable
Santa Cruz resident for 32 years

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