The usually laid-back vibe at the downtown farmers market became even more relaxed recently, as the previously erected barricade separating the long-standing drum circle from produce shoppers was taken down.
The green mesh fencing, which was first put up in October of last year, was meant to block out the drummers who congregate each week in the parking lot at Cedar and Cathcart streets. It came in response to complaints by business owners, citizens and the merchants in the market.
Sgt. Michael Harms of the Santa Cruz Police Department reported that the complaints he received were mostly about illegal activity taking place within the circle.
“The concern was toward the drug sales of known and convicted crack and meth dealers who hid in the anonymity of the crowd and the road blockage for emergency vehicles,” Harms said.
The police department decided to back down from enforcing the use of fences due to the behavioral change in the drummers since the complaints were issued.
Drummer Brent Adams posted a code of conduct on various trees in the parking lot to avoid animosity and promote cooperation. The list asks drummers to allow free flow of traffic, to not sell drugs or drink alcohol, and to take breaks between drum sessions.
“I can’t do much about the volume or the quality of drumming, but I realized that I could create a mimetic self-policing program where everyone would help and teach others to help,” Adams said. “This way I don’t have to run around being a little deputy.”
Adams sought to remind drummers that they should follow a few peaceful rules in order to keep the police and farmers satisfied, he said, and the list will make it easier to reach all of the drummers.
David Redden, a drum circle participant and self-proclaimed Santa Cruz “yocal,” explained that drum circle participants do not intend to negatively affect the merchants’ sales or to offend citizens.
“There is a downturn in the economy, and people are looking for scapegoats,” Redden said. “Some of the merchants will blame us for a loss in sales, but we always try to understand where the merchants are coming from and listen to their concerns.”
Eva Stevens, a UC Santa Cruz student and vendor for Zipcar, takes pleasure in being able to work near the drum circle every Wednesday. She supports having the unique and lively work environment, she said.
“I absolutely enjoy the drum circle,” Stevens said. “It is a cultural and social thing that has been going on in Santa Cruz for quite some time and I do not see any harm in it.”
The gates have been down for five weeks, and police and citizens are content with the results.
“I’m very happy that it was relatively easy to build a compromise once we realized that it was something we wanted,” Adams said. “I commend Sgt. Harms for having the fences removed as an act of good faith that he intends to find other alternatives.”