Police Dept Sources: Undercover Spying on Grassroots Parade Thought to be Anarchist Event
Santa Cruz, CA, January 2nd, 2005: Top officials from the Santa Cruz Police Department who assigned undercover officers to monitor planning meetings believed the event was sponsored by local anarchist. Sources within the department quoted Deputy Chief of Police Kevin Vogel as characterizing the do-it-yourself New Year's Parade as an anarchist event.
On December 31st, Lt. Rudy Escalanate admitted that undercover officers from the Santa Cruz Police Department have been spying on peaceful parade organizers since September of this year, but denied that police were profiling organizers. Two plainclothes officers attended small organizing meetings held in private homes, giving false names, phone numbers, and email addresses to hide their identity while they monitored meetings and profiled organizers.
The officers participated in meetings, asked questions, made suggestions, and even helped set the date, time, and location of the following meetings. At one point during a discussion of possible police response to the parade, the undercover officers were dismissive of the police.
Organizers had their suspicions confirmed by a concerned source within the police department. Parade organizers arranged to surreptitiously photograph the undercover officers at a planning meeting. Santa Cruz Indymedia photographers used long telephoto lens to obtain counter-surveillance photos of the officers.
The infiltrated group was organizing the Last Night Santa Cruz Parade, a do-it-yourself celebration that take sup where city-sponsored First Night events left off, canceled this year due to money problems.
Thousands of people came out Saturday evening to participate in the people's parade that marched raucously up Pacific Avenue and spanned many blocks. 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.
"Anarchism is about self-governing and mutual support. Do-it-yourself culture is part of anarchist thought," said Rico Thunder, one of the event un-organizers. "But the parade and it's organizers represented a broad cross-section of the community. That we would be profiled because some of us are anarchist is disturbing. We all did this together."
The Last Night website (lastnightdiy.org) states: "Last Night is a completely organic event, organized and put on at a grassroots-level. No city-sponsorship. No corporate donors. It's a do-it-yourself parade and celebration." While anarchist
"Apparently, lack of city-sponsorship makes some people nervous," said Rico Thunder, one of the un-organizers. "We chose to go the no-permit route because city regulations impose an impossible barrier to creating a spontaneous event." The city requires a one million dollar insurance bond be posted, as well as special consideration for extra police, fire, security, and sanitation for any special event. "That may be fine for the Pepsi Fun Run, or the Coors Surf Competition, but that is way beyond the means of anyone wanting to do a grassroots event," said Thunder.
Organizers are requesting that the police department turn over any files, notes, or photographs they compiled during their undercover infiltration of parade organizers.
The group has contacted the ACLU about possible violations of their constitutional rights to privacy, free speech, and assembly. Additionally, the group may challenge barriers to free speech such as the arduous special event process.