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Wes Modes: Here's to a do-it-yourself new year (Repost Sentinel Op-ed)
by Last Night
Monday Dec 27th, 2010 1:51 PM
Here's to a do-it-yourself new year.
Friday night, the Last Night DIY Parade will celebrate its sixth year. It's an event in which the community comes together to commemorate the turn of the year and celebrate what we can create together. But what's the fuss? As they say, everyone loves a parade ... except in Santa Cruz.

Some civic leaders and Santa Cruz police are less than thrilled about it.

Last Night DIY was a celebration that fulfilled a community need. For years, the city sponsored an event on New Year's Eve until it collapsed under its own weight and expense in 2004. As a response, people in the community picked up the challenge of creating an inclusive, open do-it-yourself celebration for free without city or corporate sponsorship. For five years now it has offered a creative, peaceful and family-friendly alternative to the usual alcohol-fueled madness of New Year's Eve. People found out about the parade through fliers, the Web, and most importantly, word-of-mouth.

Rather than view this as an amazing example of the creativity, resilience and resourcefulness of our local community, civic leaders and the local police have viewed it as an ongoing problem because the people who participate [families, children, students, townies, several former mayors] refuse to file the proper forms in triplicate and pay enormous kickbacks to the city for the privilege of celebrating together and exercising their right to free expression and assembly.

So much so that in 2005,
Santa Cruz police authorized undercover officers to infiltrate parade meetings in people's homes and compile surveillance on individuals and groups engaged in First Amendment activities. Until the tide of public opinion swayed their stance, most of the City Council supported the police spying. The city's own police auditor concluded that police had violated the civil rights of parade planners. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, organizers pressured the City Council into adopting guidelines that put some limits on when and how the Santa Cruz Police Department could spy on you.

For years, Mayor Ryan Coonerty and outgoing Mayor Mike Rotkin have complained that the parade does not pay its fair share of services on New Year's. However, for its entire history, even police reports have noted that participants have taken responsibility for all the impacts of the parade, including traffic control and cleanup.

To be clear, I'm not helping organize the parade this year and, due to the city attorney selectively targeting participants last year, it isn't likely you will see me marching in it. But it is nice to see the celebration continue in the same indomitable spirit.

It is important, especially in these lean economic times, that communities learn to support themselves and each other. As civic institutions struggle to stay afloat, it is an opportunity for people to take responsibility for their own neighborhoods, safety, education, health, public spaces and even celebrations. We are fortunate to live in a community in which the do-it-yourself spirit is alive and well.

Here's to a do-it-yourself new year.

Wes Modes is a Felton resident.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by No Permit Needed
Wednesday Dec 29th, 2010 6:55 PM
I'm looking forward to this dance party!
by Robert Norse
Wednesday Dec 29th, 2010 7:43 PM
The Sentinel announced an intensified police presence as part of the City's attempt to criminalize walking in the DIY parade at .

I wrote:

The DIY New Year's parade is a traditional yearly non-violent event, which has, I believe, has had a far better record of downtown-friendly behavior than the later gatherings.

Police in 1994 provoked a riot downtown by trying to close down the parade early and physically assaulting those who didn't leave fast enough under the leadership of then Sgt. Patty Sepone. The SCPD never had to take any responsibility for that.

Police in 2005 at the instigation of Police Chief Vogel (then a Deputy-Chief) set up a political surveillance and infiltration team against peaceful organizers. Coonerty and the Council were quite okay with that--until the independent auditor criticized this behavior in a report (and particularly the choice of Vogel to "investigate" his own spy team's violations of the First Amendment.

As mentioned in prior posts, there has been no record of any kind of disturbance (much less violence) in the family-friendly annual event. Trying to whip up hysteria against glitter and balloons is a pretty cheap and transparent tactic to politically attack those whose views some of the posters don't agree with. Screaming about "public safety" has become quite fashionable, but is also irrelevant to this parade.

In fact, massive police presence can be more of a provocation than a protection--as well as a symbol of repression and failure by the city administration.

We have seen other actions against traditional community events and activities in the past year in an attempt to homogenize and commercialize the downtown.

These included the move to shut down the Guerrilla Theater (movies shown free of charge in public places), uproot and harass the Wednesday Drum Circle, intensify the crackdown on homeless people and musicians on Pacific Avenue, the oodles of money going after the peaceful but persistent PeaceCamp2010 protesters at City Hall (Klieg lights (security police, new "forbidden to protest" zones), former Mayor Mathews's crusade against the Red Church's Monday feeding program, the hiring of First Alarm security guards on Pacific Ave, etc.

As Obama prepares too sign an executive order "legalizing" indefinite preventive detention for those charged with no crimes, but held at Guantanamo &okays assassination lists for American citizens, it's important in Santa Cruz that we stand up for those rights we still have and those traditions that have mobilized positive community energy. One of which is public assembly.

The Coonerty Council and City Manager Bernal didn't demand "permits' for the Halloween event, nor for the later New Year's gathering at the Town Clock. Don't be misled by this fear-based hypocritical targeted political attack on a community-based event.

If weather permits, the day before New Year's will, as usual be a fun time to be downtown.

Provided the police don't ruin it, of course.