The Rights, Right and Wrong Of The Drum Circle In Venice Beach

The drum circle in Venice. If you love it, you probably enjoy the collective musical experience, the flow, the “spiritual” experience of being on a beautiful beach with a large group of others engaging in the trance-like vibe. If you hate it, you hate the noise that can be heard for blocks, and are irritated by the smoking, drinking, fights, violence and bad behavior that it breeds. Last Sunday, on a hot Winter day in Los Angeles, as LAPD attempted to “shut down” the drumming at sunset, the crowd became violent and threw bottles at the police. This is the third week in a row where the crowd has been combative. It isn’t the first time… going back three years we have seen the occasional rowdy crowd, stabbings and extreme violence that prompts skirmish lines to handle the “vibe”. This weekend’s violence made the news again. The actions of some of the participants of the drum circle, and their criminal intent, prompted a massive LAPD response for backup when the cops where struck with projectiles… while all the time the crowd chanted “Fuck the Police” and refused to disperse. Regardless of your opinion of drum circles, this just isn’t cool and it needs to be addressed.

In the aftermath, comments from drum circle revelers included that they have “Federal protection” to:

  • Be on the beach
  • Have right of way
  • Have freedom of expression
  • Similar quotes about “rights” and “freedoms” and “America”….

People also express, including many misguided Los Angeles websites, that LAPD shuts down the drum circle with force. Again, not true. They monitor it though the day for all the things shown below which are flagrant violations of the law, concealed by the crowd… and then for lawful reasons. Feel free to take notes.

Here is a bit of clarification on EXACTLY what the issues and problems are regarding the drum circle… and where your “rights” have any play in the scenario.

The drum circle gathers Saturday & Sunday every weekend, year round.

Participants have the right to be on the beach and to drum.

After sunset, when the shops close and the crowds on the boardwalk thin, the noise on the boardwalk significantly decreases. However, the drumming continues and the noise level of that collective concert of people is constant; thus becoming a noise issue, which in turn violates different City of Los Angeles Municipal Code violations pertaining to noise, as well as a couple of State Penal Code sections. It is at this time that LAPD approaches the circle and gives the announcement to “Stop Drumming”. **NOTE: They can stay on the sand, they just can’t drum.

If people choose to leave because they can no longer drum, great. If they choose to stay, they must abide by the noise ordinances and laws. As history has established, when there is a group there after sunset, and when unmonitored, they continue to drum and do not respect the laws. This is where people usually make the mistake of mixing in incorrect “rights” and theories of what they are allowed and not allowed to do in respect to a range of “federal rights…etc.”

NOW… that being established… if the group REFUSES to stop drumming, now they are breaking the law. The police have the ability within their power, now that the law is being broken…to demand that the crowd disperse. Once the law is willingly violated by a group, a state of unlawful assembly can be declared, and for safety and to uphold the law, the police then force the dispersal. And it doesn’t matter if you are participating or observing, once an Unlawful Assembly is declared, you need to leave. If at that point someone decides to launch projectiles at the police, that expands the unlawful conduct… and the “rights” to be on the sand or beach after sunset now go right out the window. The “right” to be on the beach has now become an unlawful violent protest, and for the protection of the public and greater good of upholding peace, law enforcement then acts for the greater good. So, if you choose to be an idiot, or hang around idiots, you are going to befall the repercussions of their actions.

So, your whining and crying about how your rights as an American to drum on Venice Beach aren’t a wide ranging gate you get to vibe through. You can be on the beach and drum, but after sunset when the drumming violates the noise ordinance you have to stop. If that is something you are not able to personally manage, you can take your chances and stretch your perception of the law to protect you. But it probably won’t work. Be cool. Drum all day, and then stop when you are told. Be respectful of that. Hang out on the beach for hours in the dark. Go for it. But if your “right” to drum then gives you the right to throw bottles at the cops and raise hell in my neighborhood, enjoy the inside of Pacific jail. The guys there are really nice.

Reasons why I don’t like the drum circle, in photographs. (BTW, the baby in this first photo was completely unattended. It was getting dark, it was cold, and people were drunk and stumbling all over. Parents were in the circle having a great old time paying zero attention to that baby).

As you can see from the photos, and if you actually ever go into the drum circle area, a huge majority of people there are breaking a huge myriad of laws. The video at the bottom is from Easter, when two guys got in a fight and one was stabbed and had to be taken to the hospital. Yeah. Peace love and music baby.

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