Where did this come from?
A Brief History of Last Night (and Some Great Local History)
Every New Years since 2005, the DIY celebration has been peaceful, creative, and fun. Community members carefully handle organization, traffic control, and cleanup. However, because of its lack of official sanction, civic leaders have opposed the celebration from the beginning.
In October 2005, the Santa Cruz Police Department deployed undercover officers to infiltrate parade planning meetings for three months. Investigations after the spying scandal came to light, revealed a pattern of abuses, including monitoring unrelated groups and other first amendment activities and compiling police dossiers of organizers. The city's own police auditor determined that police had violated the civil rights of parade organizers. After six months of effort, community, activist, and ACLU involvement, the city put in place a weak policy to curb some of the abuses of police power. (See Police Spying Aftermath below.)
In 2006, the Last Night DIY Celebration concluded with a rollicking drum and dance party that took over Santa Cruz' de facto public square at Cooper and Pacific Ave.
In 2010, police tried to shut down the parade by selectively targeting participants months after the event. In spite of the DIY parade's spotless record, Police used the unrelated violence on May 1st, 2010 to argue that all unpermitted events were dangerous.
Police Spying AftermathIn October 2005, Santa Cruz police learned about the planned grassroots New Year's Eve parade. Without attempting to contact parade organizers, SCPD chose to send two undercover officers to the planning meetings held in a private residence to learn everything they could about the group and the event. In the internal investigation, they claim to have been alarmed by what they described as “a defiant tone.”
Though the initial conclusion of undercover officers was that the parade planning group “will be a peaceful gathering” and that they “have nothing to hide,” SCPD made no attempt to contact the group and continued to infiltrate the group for another three months from October to December.
SCPD used their presence at the planning meetings to gather information about other community groups and First Amendment activities taking place.. They used this information to monitor events and tip off other outside agencies.
In the wake of the emerging scandal, the Santa Cruz City Council stonewalled the process showing more concern for the "due process rights" of the police than the civil rights of parade organizers. Records released after the incident revealed a pattern of abuses, including infiltrating parade organizers, monitoring other unrelated groups and first amendment activities, and compiling dossiers of organizers. Six months later, after pressure from the community and the ACLU, after the city's own police auditor concluded that police had violated the civil rights of citizens, the city finally put into place a grossly inadequate SCPD policy on police spying.
While the new policy puts some limits on undercover activities, it leaves other police activities unchecked. Under the new rules, even if you are engaged in legal constitutionally protected first amendment activities, Santa Cruz police will still be able to video and audio record you, listen to your phone calls, read your mail and email, keep notes about your organization, tail you, monitor your website, subscribe to your email lists, and examine membership lists. The city failed in its promise to pass a policy providing strong protections for first amendment rights
The police spying scandal was covered by local and regional newspapers, TV, radio, and weeklies. San Jose Mercury News, Santa Cruz Sentinel (daily), Watsonville-Pajaronian (daily), Monterey Herald, Contra Costa Times, Metro Santa Cruz (weekly), Santa Cruz Good Times (weekly), Berkeley Daily Planet, Pacifica Radio, Free Speech Radio News, , KUSP FM Central Coast, KZSC FM Santa Cruz, KSCO AM Santa Cruz, KSBW TV Salinas, KPIX TV San Francisco, CBS TV San Francisco, IndyBay Indymedia, and Indymedia Santa Cruz.
For links to media articles, check out the Last Night press secion.
Santa Cruz DIY Celebration HistoryLess well-known is Santa Cruz' history of do-it-yourself celebrations and the police response to them.
On New Year's Eve 1994, riot cops moved in to clear downtown streets 10 minutes after midnight. The resulting melee between police and celebrants resulted in a riot that shattered storefronts up and down Pacific Ave. Police officials responsible for clearing the streets were later disciplined after investigations revealed that they had escalated the situation. In response to this violence, the city sponsored a First Night franchise the following New Year. Years later this police riot was used to justify spying on Last Night organizers, and is still used today (sans context) to justify police concern about historically roudy holidays.
A 1972 parade, following a County Board of Supervisors meeting where a resolution was adopted to stop the Vietnam War, resulted in a police riot in which officers beat demonstrators and bystanders with batons.
According to Sandy Lydon, the History Dude:
Following the meeting, the assembled multitude decided to hold a candlelight march down Pacific Avenue. Supervisor Harry and his wife Kay joined the parade, and flanked by the tac squad, the parade moved peacefully down Pacific Avenue.
To this day no one is certain what started the violence, but Harry remembered watching the officers beating a man with their batons in front of the St. George Hotel. "The guy was on the ground and three officers just whomped on him for awhile before leaving him there on the sidewalk," he said. The order was then given to clear the streets and officers ran along Pacific Avenue, swinging clubs and knocking down demonstrators and bystanders.
This parade is an impromptu 1908 July 4th celebration.
Anecdotes and Other StuffAdd your personal anecdotes that reflect on Last Night history here. This is our history that we create together, not an authoritative canon, so plunge in. Your story is as good as anyone's. Add your short bit of history by clicking on the "comment" link below, or add a longer anecdote with the "Edit This Page" link to the left.
A Letter to Our Community and Report Back
We did it. What a beautiful celebration. What an amazing group of people.
Thousands of people came out New Year's Eve to participate in the people’s parade that marched raucously up
Pacific Avenueand spanned many blocks. The parade included the Santa Cruz Trash Orchestra, martial arts displays, firedancers, the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition, peace marchers, Indonesian music, drum circles, floats, the Opera Lady, the Man in Black, zombies, and much much more. I was thrilled to see spectators on the sidelines plunge in to the parade and become participants. The parade was high-energy and peaceful. There were no conflicts with police who’s light presence remained far on the periphery.
I woke up on January 1st (in my bed, not in the hoosegow, I was happy to note) and thought "This is our year." This is the people's year to do exactly what needs doing. No one can stop us.
I had the good fortune to be a tourist in Oaxaca City, Mexico years ago when the Zapatista delegation was making its historic trek to Mexico City to make their demands to the Mexican government. I'll never forget a rally in the central plaza with thousands of people chanting "¡El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido!" Roughly, "the people united, will never be defeated!" Indeed.
That's how it felt on Saturday night. Joyous. Defiant. Victorious. Heartwarming. Thrilling. All those things and more, a swirl of emotions. The magic and mystery of the unknown, the unplanned, the unscripted.
In September, I wrote: "This is our town, our celebration, our night. Let's do our own parade. A Last Night celebration. A last night of waiting for governments, institutions, or anyone else to entertain us, satisfy us, bring us security, freedom, or joy. We reclaim our streets and usher in the new year with our own celebration."
Throughout this year, I want to keep that in mind. This is our town. We make it happen. We make up our community and we are what makes this town vital and full of life. This is our year. If we want to see something happen, we make it happen.
If there's a war on that we need to stop, let's stop it. If there is injustice, let's right it. If there is suffering, let's put an end to it. If we need to celebrate, let's do it.
That was our last night, of waiting and seeing.
Love and celebration,
Rico, January 2006
Last Night Inspiration
I came back from my summer travels to a ton of overwhelming news about Katrina and New Orleans. It seemed unreal. It seemed unimaginable that our government who makes such a big fucking deal about keeping us scared and then claiming to protect us could so thoroughly fuck shit up for so many people.
I mean, on one hand, did we ever have any illusions that the safety they talked about applied equally to everyone, rich and poor? And did we really think it was much more than an excuse to achieve full US domination of the globe and simultaneously erode our liberties and fatten the wallets of corporate cronies? Good god, I hope we're not that naive. But nevertheless...
I think, we did imagine that our governments and institutions would make a token effort to at least keep us safe and fat and happy. But I think Katrina shatters that illusion.
You knew of course, that the administration directly funneled money away from reinforcing the New Orleans levies just this year for other pet projects and wars? You knew that there were few national guard troops and equipment to help victims of the hurricane because they were all busy in Iraq. You knew that the president was golfing and Condi Rice was shopping for shoes in NY as the storm raged? You knew that the the nepotistically-appointed head of FEMA was more worried about the public perception of his performance than actually helping people? You knew, of course, that local police were not letting poor residents of the flooded quarters of New Orleans escape the city across the bridges on foot? Didn't you already know that?
Our government cannot and will not keep us safe, happy, and free.
I came back feeling like, What the fuck? These are the people we depend on to tell us what we can and can't do? Are we crazy? Our institutions can barely manage their own affairs.
I don't hate them, I just think they are largely irrelevant in our lives. WE make this country. And WE make this city. And WE make our communities. Us. Not a bunch of elected yahoos. We are what make our communities connected and vital and full of life.
When I heard that First Night Santa Cruz, our little city-sponsored humdrum New Year's safe-and-sane entertainment, had finally collapsed in on itself in a corpulent pile, I thought, of course. Exactly.
This is our town, our celebration, our night. Let's do our own parade. A Last Night celebration. A last night of waiting for governments, institutions, or anyone else to entertain us, satisfy us, bring us security, freedom, or joy. We reclaim our streets and usher in the new year with our own celebration.
Rico, Santa Cruz, September 2005