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January 25-31, 2006

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Last Night Parade

Photograph by Leyna Krow
King for a Day: Impossibly cute kids join the festivities beneath the Town Clock.

Nūz

Unanswered Questions

Following reports (Nūz, Dec. 21, Jan. 4 and 18) that the SCPD spied on Last Night DIY Parade meetings, City Councilmember Tony Madrigal is calling for an independent investigation of "police surveillance at community meetings," on top of the internal investigation that the SCPD has already launched.

But with the ACLU already having filed a public records request, Wesley 'Rico Thunder' Modes, who police describe as "the primary organizer" of the DIY parade, says the ACLU materials "leave lots of questions unanswered."

Included in the ACLU package are copies of Last Night's own literature; Nūz 's serialized exposé of the undercover surveillance; a ticket that Lt. Rudy Escalante wrote at midnight, Jan. 1, 2006, citing Modes' failure to obey traffic control devices and pedestrian yield right of way laws, but with which Modes says he has yet to be served; grainy DVD footage of drum-beating stilt-walking DIY paraders; a "confidential informants" procedures package; and a redacted copy of the SCPD's New Year's Eve ops report.

Perhaps most interesting are email exchanges between police and city officials. These show the SCPD began undercover ops on Oct. 27, sending two officers on a Oct. 29 "intelligence gathering mission" at the Big Yellow House on Branciforte Avenue, carrying radios to communicate with officers outside. Then there's the Dec. 12 email from Mayor Cynthia Mathews to SCPD Chief Howard Skerry and Assistant City Manager Martin Bernal asking if they'd had any contact with the DIY Parade organizers.

"If so, or even if not: what do you anticipate as the prevailing mindset," Mathews wrote. "Anti-establishment, for sure, but beyond that: confrontational? unpredictable? If you think I could be of help in supporting even informal communication, I'd be happy to be involved."

No copy of Skerry's reply to Mathews is included, but two days later the Redevelopment Agency's Julie Hendee emails RDA executive director Ceil Cirillo, asking if she knows about an "informal parade."

Cirillo then emails Parks & Recreation Director Dannettee Shoemaker, Public Works Director Mark Dettle and SCPD Chief of Police Howard Skerry, asking if they know about the parade. Again, there's no record of Skerry's reply, but subsequent emails between Lt. Rudy Escalante, Lt. Colleen Mcmahon and Deputy Chief Kevin Vogel discuss the Last Night's DIYers' Dec. 16 meeting and conclude the group is "still very much disorganized and will have one more meeting 12.29 at Gelatos downtown."

This particular email ends with Escalante musing, "I wonder what they would do if I showed up in uniform."

Loud Mouth Regrets

Asked what he would have done if Escalante had shown up on Dec. 29 in police regalia, Modes said, "I would have politely declined, but would have been totally happy to talk to the police in another forum. And I probably wouldn't have said, 'There may be undercover cops in this room!' Had we taken our own joke more seriously, we would have been more diplomatic and careful. I was the loudest mouth. So, had I known they were there, I would have shut the f--- up more. Now I have a file, with my Social Security number, name and address in it--even if it is my old address."

As for his New Year's Day citation, Modes sees that as "a place holder to create a case number and file all the information."

Modes observes that "there's zero in the package about how the police came to that conclusion or their decision to infiltrate." All of which fuels his suspicions that police have previously infiltrated peace/antiwar gatherings.

Surmising that "a whole lot of money was spent on the undercover operation," Modes wonders if the money came from "Joint Terrorism Task Force funds."

Modes says he's particularly disturbed by a Jan. 2 email from Lt. Lee Sepulveda to undercover cop Carter Jones telling him, "If the notes you gave me this morning are not on your own personal (H) drive please move them there immediately. The notes should not be stored on any other drive or available to anyone other than you."

Last but not least, Modes fears undercover surveillance reports will chill free speech and antiwar activities.

"How many people are going to be up front about who they are, their real names and beliefs, and what they are involved in?" Modes asks.

Hooray for MLK

Meanwhile, Nūz is happy to report that a strong interest in the civil rights movement remains alive and well in Santa Cruz, as evidenced by the Jan. 16 Martin Luther King JR. Day People's Freedom Rally, which community members of all ages attended at the town clock at noon, Jan. 16.

"From 8 to 80, we've all got a part in this. This isn't just a day to remember the past. This is a day to look towards the future as well," said rally organizer Curtis Reliford as the event kicked off.

Rally participants marched along Pacific Avenue to the Vets Hall, where they sang "Amazing Grace" and "This Little Light of Mine."

Co-organizer Pat Clark reminded the crowd of the civil rights movement's origins and urged those present to keep past struggles in mind as they look toward future progress.

"In this past, there were fire hoses. There were batons and there were dogs. I am so pleased to see how far we have come. I've got five grand kids and I don't want them to ever know what a fire hose feels like," Clark said.

At the Vets Hall, speakers addressed issues relevant to the modern civil rights movement and the black community, particularly the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

Reliford, who has visited New Orleans three times to assist with the cleanup efforts, spoke of his experience and encouraged others to continue to donate.

"My message to the people of this country is that the state of Louisiana is still in a state of emergency," Reliford said. "There is still so much more work to be done down there. I think Martin Luther King would have spoken up for these people, so that's what I'm doing today."


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