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Drum Out of Luck

By Curtis Cartier

It took 15 months, 19 court hearings and an estimated 500 hours of legal work to convict Jack Rusk and Wes Modes of a combined three misdemeanor citations—resisting arrest and obstruction of justice, plus, in Modes' case, battery of a police officer—stemming from the September 2008 "drum circle protest" near the downtown Farmers Market.

Santa Cruz Weekly was there that warm summer afternoon when the drummers, who regularly play in the Cathcart/Cedar Street parking lot, squared off with riot-gear-clad police over who had the right to gather in the parking lot. Rusk was arrested first after officers said he pulled down fencing that was set up around the drummers' favorite tree. Modes, like dozens of others, ran to where Rusk was being handcuffed and beat his drum near the arresting officer. It wasn't clear what then prompted three officers to single out Modes from the others and take him down in a chokehold. But they did, and he was arrested too.

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 for a suspended sentence and mandatory community service. "Defending yourself in court costs time and money, and most people just don't have enough."

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