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Indybay Feature

Parking Lot Panic Law Used to Disperse Drummers

by Robert Norse
On two successive Wednesdays, police have ordered the peaceful drum circle to leave their traditional spot in the public parking lot behind Tacqueria Vallarta and Logos using Mayor Coonerty's Ban on Public Assemblies in parking lots. The new merchant-backed law prohibits lingering in a parking lot or garage unless you have a vehicle there (and then only for fifteen minutes). It removed ten blocks of public space from public use.
Suzanne, a lead drummer, reports that last Wednesday, December 26th, Sgt. Dan Flippo drove away the drum circle around 6:30 in the evening. When asked why, he claimed the Farmers Market folks had "complained". However there was no Farmer's Market that day.

Yesterday--a week later-- two police officers (Officer Kline and a female officer) reportedly drove by and ordered drummers to leave at 3:30 in the afternoon. Food Not Bombs and the drummers then moved to the sidewalk at Soquel and Pacific outside New Leaf Market.

The city has set up no promised "free speech" zones--though the entire law is an outrageous police state measure that denies decades-long traditional use of the lots and garages. The law begs for a constitutional challenge since it bans public access to areas traditionally used for First Amendment activities. No attorneys (and not the ACLU) have volunteered yet for this task.

It was passed at the urging of Coonerty, the SCPD, the Downtown Association, and the Mathews-Coonerty-Robinson Downtown Task Force--which continues to hold closed meetings.

It sailed past the Downtown Commission with no police stats showing any particular "crime crisis" in the parking lots or garages, opposed even by the local generally useless ACLU.

It seems to be part and parcel of the Coonerty Crackdown . This includes massive grants to Chief Ranger John Wallace (adding 7 cops and rangers to his park patrol), downtown sweeps, the infamous Triple Fine zones and multi-jurisdictional goonsquads at Halloween and New Years, the attack on Councilmember Madrigal for his suggestion of possible racial profiling last fall, and the increase in Sleeping Ban citations (with shelter for less than 10% of the homeless community).

City Council backers of this law, one community activist remembers, promised the law would not be used to harass legitimate First Amendment activity (like the drummers and Food Not Bombs). As I feared, this law is a cultural assault, being used to change the character of the downtown under the pretext of increasing public safety (though no such showing was made).

Call in to discuss the issue tonight on Free Radio Santa Cruz at 101.1 FM 6-8 PM (also streaming at when I'll also be interviewing one of the co-founders of L.A. Copwatch. On-air number: 831-427-3772.

See "Last Chance to Stop the Parking Lot Panic Law" at

More extensive article: "Mayor to Back Public Assembly Ban in Parking Lots; Interview Replayed 10-18 FRSC 6:15 PM" at

Leave a message for Suzanne of SAFE (Society for Artistic Freedom and Expression/Streetperformers Against Foolish Enforcemenet) at 423-4833.

Time to fight back?
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by c

That's outrageous. Friends visiting here have recognized that the Santa Cruz farmer's market has to be one of the most attended and well-supported they've ever seen. And the social ambience of the markets has to be what brings people out, rather than going to New Leaf. It feels like a social activity. Those drummers are a good 50m removed from the market as well. Is there any public space left then other than the beach or riverbank which can't be built upon due to hydrology?
by 48-yo business owner
I have been considering moving to Santa Cruz, but the repression of arts, free speech and public assembly and the draconian criminalization of the homeless in public spaces has me rethinking this very seriously. I do not want to support this repressive government.

The security racketeering is prevalent in many parts of the world. It's also clear at University of California at Berkeley, where they spent $100,000+ building a double chain-link fence around the Oak tree grove ( that is a community gathering place, slated to be destroyed by the sports/automobile/oil/construction/security racketeers/gangsters, to enslave more people to unsustainable centralized sports/entertainment, further diverting them from holding the war criminals in government and multinational corporations accountable for the rape and pillage of our country and others for their resources. Greedy people are sick and need reeducation, deprogramming from years of brainwashing.

I own a software development and web production business, operating in the Bay Area since 1989. I am a twice weekly Farmer's Market ( shopper and am also a accomplished musician (folk, rock, jazz, classical guitar) that has played music for Farmer's Market shoppers for at 4+ years. I also play at a local cafe about once a week for four hours.

Cops, governments and corporations that repress public arts and assembly are sick. End capitalism's and fascism's exploitation of the public commons.

More links: because the mega-corrupt automobile cartel is still alive and utterly pathological. Beware the greenwash. - cities without cars - cities without cars

Eliminate auto noise pollution, auto air pollution, looking for parking, holding onto steering wheels, asphalt suffocation, concrete suffocation, parking lot enslavement, parking meter enslavement, gas pump enslavement, auto insurance enslavement, auto repair enslavement, gridlock constipation, zero-exercise transportation, carbon monoxide brain death, global warming death wish, mass media brainwashing.

Ban automobile advertising.

by karl roenfanz ( rosey )
the whole country is supposed to be a free speach zone, ( constitution of the united states - bill of rights ) and with the broad application of the anti-terrorism laws you can not leave your car for more than a few seconds. thats going to become interesting,we'll have more police patrolling the parking lots than out catching the crooks, the u.s.a. has become the most repressive society in the world ( outside of sharia law )
by daniel
some of us don't like listening to drum circles drone on endlessly. it's not about your politics it's about noise and its irritating.
Photo by Robert Norse

It's not that suddenly after years of gathering and playing drums on Wednesday's in a parking lot, suddenly Farmer's Market shoppers are irritated. It's that some people feel they have the right to drive away people they are uncomfortable around. Mostly these groups are immigrants, people of color, gays and lesbians, counter-culture types,disabled, youth, and homeless people. It's interesting that the Nazis first attacked these groups, even before they moved on to the Jews.

This is about the right of the public to use public space. Emily Reilly showed us she was willing to take away our right to sit (to be) on a sidewalk from 6' from a building to 14' from a building. A poor, homeless man was given a ticket for this last week for "sitting too near a window". Cynthia Mathews thinks it just fine to "move-along" anyone she or her merchant friends don't like after an hour of "free" speech in one location. Ryan Coonerty thinks it just fine and dandy to move-along everyone and their brother after only 15 minutes in a parking lot or garage because "its not a public forum."

Wake up Santa Cruz!! A city that can ban sleeping out of doors at night from 11PM to 8:30AM is NOT progressive. The 15-minute law is THEFT of public space. Its a violation of our rights to freedom of speech and of the right of the people to publicly assemble.

These laws are passed first as a way to regulate homeless people. Then, your rights go out the door after you've let them slip away.
by strawhat
soundspace. nobody's stopping you from speaking. why stop someone speaking through a drum?

and speaking of 'drum circles drone on endlessly' it's a good thing you don't listen too hard at your own heartbeats!

by shopper
As my title says, I have mixed feelings about this. The drum circles are one part of the Santa Cruz scene and "vibe". Further, the downtown market happens during daytime, and in a largely commercial area of downtown. On the other hand, the downtown market is pretty crowded, and sometimes the noise from the drum circle is just plain too loud and annoying.
But I don't think this use of the parking lot ordinance was ever discussed. Clearing out the drum circle has nothing to do with public safety.
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
This is a video from Wed the 9th 2007. Traditionally this has been a place where Food Not Bombs has fed and musicians gathered. Before the new parking lot trespass law, as far as I am aware, there have been little to no complaints or problems. Its reminiscent of the days when the people were allowed to dance in streets in front of the Copper House and street music was and accepted part of our culture which is being ripped from underneath us.

More important is the taking of our right to use public property and not allow the City to use unnecessary laws aimed at the poor, and unconstitutional in nature.

I am disabled and find myself in my car resting and paranoid I will be cited. There is already a law for anything that can happen in a parking garage or lot. This ordinance can and will only be selectively enforced. Its a waste of time, money, resources and is just another way to slowly take away all our free speech and rights the commons have traditionally throughout history been used for.

I was not present at the time this was taken. But thank you all who attended and fought for all our rights to use our own public space without a 15 min time limit.

Thank you Trash Orchestra and all the other musicians and community members that attended. I believe it was your numbers that kept surveying officers at bay. There was one incident with a woman who attacked some of the drummers, but I left it out because although she screamed " I just want to shop!" over and over, and did attack and spit on people, I believe she was mentally ill, and its not appropriate to post. If others feel differently or need the video for legal reasons, just let me know. I appreciated the drummer who got the brunt of the attacks comments afterward. It showed someone who is truly dignified and peaceful.

Tim Rumford
Sleepisarigh [at]
by Tim Rumford (sleepisaright [at]
I believe music, or drumming, both are music, is a form of free speech. Music is art, art often reflects feelings, emotions, or political beliefs, yes even drumming if you are able to perceive music in such a way. Using the Drum Circle as an act of protest was a great way to show the City and Community that we WILL NOT PUT UP with this law. It worked, as unlike the last two previous weeks when numbers were less, the police only watched. Unless something happened I am unaware of after the videoing.

Its direct action that hurt no one, but made the people aware. It is important and I applaude all who attended and rallied together.

I have a hard time with people who agree the law is wrong, and likely unconstitutional, thus illegal, but do nothing but complain about the way people fight it why they do nothing. I am not addressing any one person on this thread, just a general thing I see and notice often. If people in the community told our City that this is wrong in great numbers, people would not have to protest. I have met only one person who agrees with this law, except City officials.

I have met many who disagree and do nothing. I am forty one in a month and have seen this mall since I was nine years old. What it has transformed into is a sad stain on the history of Santa Cruz in my eyes. Shop or walk is what they want. Most of the merchants I know and have spoke to disagree with this law, because if it was truly enforced, it would affect biz as usual. But of course, shopers are immune to most downtown laws as you can see by the Dogs, and people sitting on planters that the poor are cited and often arrested for doing. Just open your eyes. The people who cause problems downtown are not the poster children for the homeless population in SC. Were all human beings and should all be working together like brothers and sisters, but consumerism has become more important then humanity, which you cannot buy, but you can loose.

by Robert Norse
For more discussion of these issues, check out "Support for Evicted Market Drummers (1/9)" at

If anyone has been cited or warned under the Parking Lot Panic law (or in the last year under the earlier Parking Garage Paranoia Law), please post here or e-mail me at rnorse3 [at]
by nr5667
"I have been considering moving to Santa Cruz, but the repression of arts, free speech and public assembly and the draconian criminalization of the homeless in public spaces has me rethinking this very seriously."

Haha, a see we have a comedian amongst us.
by Sum Dim
I don't get it. Free Speech Zones? Isn't that what the sidewalks everywhere are? I mean, those drummers moved to Pacific and Soquel, you say. So what's the problem? I'm sure they are bad for business and the locals hate them, but they're still there, right? Why do we need a "designated" zone for this?
This just sounds like more HUFFing and puffing from Norse the Nuisance. Gimme a break.
by Tim Rumford
Free Speech Zones were not created nor supported by HUFF. They were created by our City Council. Little zones where its almost safe to have the free speech we should have everywhere. You mentioned you have spent 5 hours a day for years making fun of HUFF. That says everything i need to know about you.
Tim Rumford
by Tim Rumford
"Free speech zones (also known as First Amendment Zones, Free speech cages, and Protest zones) are areas set aside in public places for political activists to exercise their right of free speech in the United States. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The existence of free speech zones is based on U.S. court decisions stipulating that the government may regulate the time, place, and manner—but not content—of expression.

Free speech zones have been used at a variety of political gatherings. The stated purpose of free speech zones is to protect the safety of those attending the political gathering, or for the safety of the protesters themselves. Critics, however, suggest that such zones are "Orwellian",[1][2] and that authorities use them in a heavy-handed manner to censor protesters by putting them literally out of sight of the mass media, hence the public, as well as visiting dignitaries. Though authorities generally deny specifically targeting protesters, on a number of occasions, these denials have been contradicted by subsequent court testimony. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a number of lawsuits on the issue.

The most prominent examples are those created by the United States Secret Service for President George W. Bush and other members of his administration.[3] While free speech zones existed in limited forms prior to the Presidency of George W. Bush, it has been during Bush's presidency that their scope has been greatly expanded.[4]

Many colleges and universities earlier instituted free speech zone rules during the Vietnam-era protests of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, a number of them have revised or removed these restrictions following student protests and lawsuits."
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