Drum Circle Debate Shakes Occupy Wall Street

In this Oct. 10, 2011 photo, a protester affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street demonstration listens to a drum circle in Zuccotti Park in New York. At the Occupy Wall Street protest camp in Manhattan, protesters agonized over what to do about drum players who had turned part of the site into an impromptu dance floor. The neighbors were complaining about the racket. The protesters had tried to put a time limit on the noise, but the drummers were refusing to obey. One month after the Occupy Wall Street movement burst onto the scene and inspired similar protests across the country, it remains stubbornly decentralized, complicating everything from enforcing camp rules to writing a national platform. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton) Photo: Andrew Burton/AP2011

Within what to many has become a tiny slice of utopia, the drum circle on the west side of Zuccotti Park has been one of the most polarizing aspects of the Occupy Wall Street protest, based on complaints both symbolic (as some argue it reinforces the "dirty hippie" stereotype) and practical, with neighbors and fellow protesters complaining about the noise. "The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out," one organizer told us last week. A percussion proponent countered: "They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest," he said. "They didn’t even give the drummers a say ... Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement." After a few rocky days, the dispute appears to have been settled, at least among the demonstrators.

Last night, the literary magazine n+1 posted an anonymous (and somewhat histrionic) letter from a "respected activist" declaring Occupy Wall Street "over after Tuesday" if the drum situation didn't get sorted out. "The drummers are fighting among themselves, there is no cohesive group," the note said. On their own site, Occupy Wall Street all but pleaded for protesters to "look inward and converse with each other about our actions in this space."

And then, a miracle. n+1 reported in an update at 12:44 a.m.:

Crisis averted: tonight at the General Assembly, the working group of drummers, Pulse, in a spirit of conciliation and generosity, brought forward a proposal to limit their drumming from 12 to 2 and 4 to 6 PM only. The proposal had been worked out through weeks of mediation with the direct action working group. It was considered a first step toward showing the community board that the community in Zuccotti Park can regulate itself. The proposal was approved by consensus by the General Assembly, with applause and rejoicing on all sides. One of our observers said there hadn’t been such happiness and relief since the victory over eviction.

A community board meeting is still scheduled for tonight. The day's drumming is supposed to be over by then.

Earlier: The Organizers vs. the Organized in Zuccotti Park
Monday Night Urgent OWS Message [n+1]
Drumming and the Occupation [OWS]