Violent Arrests at Farmers Market Protest

Officer: Albert, Bruce Cline, Mike Huynh, and Michael Harms
Charge: excessive force, harassment
Date: September 17th, 2008
Location: Farmer's Market Corner of Cardiff and Cedar, Santa Cruz

On September 17th, 2008, two protesters were arrested at the scene of the farmer's market drum circle, Jack Rusk, a cook for Food Not Bombs and Wes Modes, a drummer with the Santa Cruz Trash Orchestra. Both Mr. Rusk and Mr. Modes took part in a protest at Santa Cruz Parking Lot 4 in support of the drum circle at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, and to oppose the fences erected by the city to preclude the drummers from their traditional spot around the trees in the parking lot near the farmer's market.

This was the second week of protests in this most recent attempt to evict the drum circle and Food Not Bombs. (The police had tried in January of that same year to evict the drummers but thanks to community support and protest, the drummers prevailed.) During that previous week of September 10th, Santa Cruz police Sergeant Michael Harms harassed protesters and drummers, photographing individuals and citing for minor violations. While no one was detained or arrested, Mr. Modes was served with five infractions, including destruction of city property, disturbing plants or grass, and trespassing in a city parking lot in a complaint sworn out by the City Attorney John Barrisone. This complaint was waiting for Mr. Modes when he was arrested the next week.

At the protest on September 17th, Mr. Modes again participated as a musician in Trash Orchestra, playing his blue drum. At this demonstration, Santa Cruz police Officer Albert arrested Mr. Rusk on suspicion that he removed some of the fences. Santa Cruz Police Seargent Michael Harms used pain compliance holds on Mr. Rusk. Drummers and community members rallied in support of Mr. Rusk, protesting his arrest loudly. Sergeant Harms ordered SCPD Officers Albert, Bruce Cline, and Mike Huynh to target Mr. Modes, tackling him to the ground.  Officer Cline clubbed Mr. Modes with his baton on the leg. Mr. Rusk was taken to County Jail while Mr. Modes was taken to the hospital for sutures from the baton blow and then later to County Jail.

The case took fifteen months of court, more than a dozen court appearances, three major motions, four rejected plea deals, two district attorneys, untold reams of paper, and nearly a thousand hours of defense work. In the end, Mr. Modes and Mr. Rusk took a plea deal to get on with their lives.

The series of motions, denials and plea offers finally ended on Dec. 4, 2009. "We did nothing wrong. But we eventually felt fighting the case would dominate our whole lives," says Modes who, along with Rusk, finally took a plea deal of "resisting arrest" for a suspended sentence and mandatory community service. "Defending yourself in court costs time and money, and most people just don't have enough."

When police assault and batter someone, it is standard procedure for the police and the DA to charge the victim with "battery on an officer" and "resisting arrest" to justify the excessive force.


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