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Street Report: Santa Cruz Wednesday Drum Circle Shut Down

by Robert Norse
I received an e-mail from Drum Circle Dave describing a police shutdown of the Wednesday Afternoon/Evening Drum Circle which had been playing on the levee path between the Soquel and Water St. bridges for the last two months. Hot soup was supplied by India Joze restaurant. The circle had been under surveillance by Sgt. Harms for some time. Harms has vigorously sought to disperse the Wednesday Drum Circle for the last several years, staking it out next to the Farmer's Market, following it to adjacent parking lots and downtown, and now, if this report is accurate, moving in--with a new ordinance--to disperse it again.
Dave sent me the following e-mail at 10 AM under the heading "Drum Circle Seized; One Man Arrested"

"City police shut down the drum circle on the levee at 6 pm jJan 5th 2011.

Sgt. Harms was the officer on the scene on foot.

Along with two others that came in a police Car. Harms said we could not gather on the levee after 6 pm under a City law.

One arrest was made.. A man named James. He is a drummer spending the night in Jail tonight for 'resisting arrest'.

I overheard he would not show Harms his identification, And Harms arrested him."

This report, if accurate, is a gloomy New Year's culmination of a series of police harassments and attacks on the Drum Circle over the last few years. Most recently the Drum Circle was driven away from its location on the levee across from CVS where the City cut down all the trees and shrubbery and set up "no trespassing" signs supposed to protect a "demonstration garden" they conveniently created on the spot made of wood chips.

It seems to be another instance of the City's orchestrated crackdown and assault on DIY-style public gatherings, most famously demonstrated by the threats against the DIY Last Night parade.

Repressive City Council ordinances passed by the Rotkin-Mathews Council of the 90's made it illegal to walk along the levee after dark in one of the many City Council's "empower the police, repress the poor" Downtown Ordinances. It's interesting and telling that Harms and the SCPD are suddenly dredging up this law after taking no action in the last few months against the weekly Drum Circle. It's hard to believe this action didn't have the concurrence of the Coonerty-Lane leadership.

The action also comes in the wake of renewed pressure against Father Joel Robert's Monday meal at the Calvary Episcopal Church (See "Cynthia Mathews--Scrooge for the Season" at

The Circle typically began around 3 PM and lasted into the evening.

Drummers and supporters of public assembly may be planning protest actions.

Recently, Brent Adams, a downtown drummer was convicted in Commissioner Kim Baskett's court with special city attorney intervention on behalf of a lawyer from the Atack firm making a complaint from its office above Borders at Soquel and Pacific. Brent's right to play on Pacific Avenue is now subject to a heckler's veto. Baskett and Judge Almquist made similar rulings in the case of three singers of pro-homeless songs in a case they're appealing to Superior Court.

Some past stories about the escalating police and gentrification assault on the Drum Circle and other public assemblies are listed below. This is an exhausting but not exhaustive list.

See "Drummer Claims Kangaroo Court Trial in Baskett's Court" at .
"Cops Continue to Harass Drum Circle" at
"Silencing the Drums" at
"Verdict Due in Singsong Two Trial" at
"Three Decisions in the Wes Modes Parading-without-a-Permit Case" at
"Chess, Drums, Snacks, Sleep and Sheriffs at Santa Cruz Peace Camp 2010" at
"City runs off Drum Circle again, cuts down trees and cements AREA CLOSED signs along levee" at
"People v. Wes Modes: Trying to Remove DIY from Santa Cruz" at
"Drumbeat Still Out There" at
"SCPD Arrests Woman With No Legs At SC Drum Circle" at
"Drum Circle Hits the Road, Pursued by Police" at
"Drum Circle Returning" at
"Drum Circle Defense: Confronting the Crackdown" at
"Discovery from Last Night Charges Received" at
"Sgt. Harms Reportedly Issues Ultimatum to the Downtown Drum Circle" at
"Santa Cruz Farmer's Market Expands--Is the Drum Circle Really Over?" at
"Harassment of local activist continues as city tries to put an end to Last Night DIY Parade" at
"Organizer Wes Modes Again Under Attack" at
"Two Trials and a Pieing" at
"Sinister Singers Cited on Sidewalk" at
"After Fifteen Months, Drum Circle Defender Case is Resolved" at

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