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Sgt. Harms Reportedly Issues Ultimatum to the Downtown Drum Circle
Escalating pressure on street performers is in the news. Wes Modes faces possible jail for supporting the DIY Last Night New Year's Parade some years ago (yet he was cited for this year's, in which he wasn't involved). Becky Johnson was fined $250 for singing the homeless version of "Downtown" in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz. Two ACLU canvassers were given trespass citations and driven away from the parking lot adjoining Trader Jo's in March. Now as follow-up to the exclusionary Farmer's Market expansion, the SCPD is moving on the Drum Circle refugees.
Escalating pressure on street performers is in the news. Wes Modes faces possible jail for supporting the DIY Last Night New Year's Parade some years ago (yet he was cited for this year's, in which he wasn't involved). Becky Johnson was fined $250 for singing the homeless version of "Downtown" in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz. Two ACLU canvassers were given trespass citations and driven away from the parking lot adjoining Trader Jo's in March.
Now as follow-up to the exclusionary Farmer's Market expansion, the SCPD is moving on the Drum Circle refugees.
The weekly Wednesday Drum Circle moved to Cedar and Lincoln in the small dirt area surrounding one of the trees adjacent to the Cedar St. sidewalk across from Jack's restaurant. The Drum Circle was preempted and supplanted by for-profit businesses last week (apparently intentionally since they took over the former Drum Circle space, rather than using the side aisles). (See "Santa Cruz Farmer's Market Expands: Is the Drum Circle Finally Over" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/04/22/18645414.php).
Dave reported today that early in the afternoon Sgt. Harms arrived, double-parked his squad car, and then began to harass one of the drummers, whose vehicle was a red van, demanding registration and other information.
In spite of the police pressure, 6-12 drummers were gathered when I drove by around 3:30 pm. Folks providing coffee showed up as I left. Ronee Curry, who is working to establish a street ministry of young folks, also showed up later in the afternoon and stayed for a subsequent confrontation with police.
At 6;30 PM, I received a call from Drummer Dave, who'd been drumming through the afternoon at the new location of the Wednesday Drum Circle. He reported that Sgt. Harms gave them an ultimatum that he'd received 12-15 complaints and wanted the drummers to leave and not return.
"Big Drum" Brent Adams, who plays a 50 gallon white plastic drum, reported last week that he and other performers had faced increased harassment from police supposedly acting on "private person complaints". Both performers and onlookers have been subject to authoritarian and illegal "move along" orders from cops as well as outright assault and false arrest (See "Azua Assault" in the comment "Drum Circle Moved" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/04/21/18645349.php?show_comments=1#18645392).
Brent engaged in negotiations with Harms last year and wrote up a series of voluntary suggested rules of conduct for the Drum Circle, which were regularly draped around one of the trees on the days the Drum Circle played. (See "No More Fences at the Santa Cruz Farmers Market Drum Circle at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/04/03/18585727.php). Many credit Brent with a combination of public pressure and negotiating skills that encouraged Sgt. Harms to back off the Drum Circle and the city to stop putting up the green mesh fences which were regularly taken down by performers.
Today, Dave reported, Brent engaged in extended discussion with Harms, and stayed (along with Ronee) until Harms and two other police officers in s squad car left. Dave suggested the cops left because the merchants across the street who had complained about the drumming had already closed up shop, making the issue moot.
Dave said that Harms did threaten to return next Wednesday to ticket everyone who was there. Supposedly to convey "citizen complaint" tickets. Dave says he'll be there to resist this latest attempt to destroy the remnants of the Drum Circle.
Brent volunteered to serve as spokesperson for the Street Performers Guild last summer, but then unaccountably held no further meetings of the group, When present, he speaks up vocally and articulately, but unified action from the Street Performers Guild has been frozen, awaiting action (either a meeting or a resignation) from Brent. (See "Santa Cruz Street Performers Guild 'Big Tent' Meeting" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/06_/22/18603397.php)
Recently Becky Johnson was convicted of "unreasonably disturbing noise" for singing political songs with a keyboard between 2 and 3 PM on a Wednesday afternoon in January in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz in the Free Speech Zone next to the Scribner statue. Because it disturbed a sleeping resident on the floor above who had his window open. The case, she says, will be appealed. (See "Notes on a Sinister Sidewalk Singing Trial" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/04/22/18645414.php)
Two other "unreasonably disturbing noise" cases from the same January 6th incident--mine and Robert "Blindbear" Facer's have been postponed to July 20 10:30 AM in Dept. 10.
HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) activists have tentatively scheduled a Singing Tour of Shame for next Wednesday afternoon, where they will serenade the community at different spots on the sidewalk to memorialize spots where homeless people and street performers have been harassed or achieved historical victories.
Drummer Dave is calling for a public showing of support to keep public spaces open to traditional cultural and musical activities. The latest expansion of the Farmer's Market was taken without any discussion with the drummers and seems to be part of the Downtown Association/SCPD's on-going war on street culture.
A severe reduction in public assembly spots is planned when the new "Panhandling Meters" are put in--tentatively scheduled to ban assembly near Borders and New Leaf as well as other places. (http://184.108.40.206/sirepub/cache/2/rltjok4500xlzrnw0yal3uj5/229218904282010105121385.PDF)