A Vancouver-based lawyer is taking the city on over what he claims is overzealous police enforcement against a popular drum circle at Third Beach.
The group of drummers meets every Tuesday at around 5:30 p.m., and pumps out beats until sunset. The event draws dozens of participants and an even larger crowd.
At this week’s event, which continued after the posted 10 p.m. closing time for the beach, David Aaron was slapped with a ticket by the Vancouver Police — something he claims violates his Charter rights to assembly.
Aaron declined to be interviewed, but circulated a “notice of dispute” he filed with the city over the ticket.
“With streaks of pastel orange lighting up the sky, the drum jam remained at its peak when a fleet of quad-mounted Vancouver Police officers moved in for shut down — the white glare of their headlights cutting sharply into the symphonic resonance of the dancing crowd,” Aaron wrote.
“Being at the periphery, my djembe in deep with the jam, I was asked by the quad-mounted commanding officer to cease drumming immediately.”
Aaron said he asked for two more minutes, so the drummers could play while there were still a few streaks of sunlight in the sky and was promptly ticketed.
The City of Vancouver referred the issue to the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).
The VPD wouldn’t speak to Aaron’s case, but said the drum circle itself, which has been growing in size with the summer weather, has been on its radar of late.
“We don’t have an issue with the drum circle itself, but sometimes with the crowds getting bigger we don’t want that to get out of hand,” said VPD Sgt. Jason Robillard
He said police have had to step up their enforcement in the area with growing complaints including piles of trash and public urination.
“We’ve seen some safety issues, such as people that have possibly been consuming liquor and swimming or even swimming late at night when it’s dark. That can be a dangerous activity,” Robillard said.
“We’ve also seen some disturbances where crowds are perhaps getting a little bit boisterous and our officers are having to get involved.”
Those are concerns Aaron himself acknowledged in his notice to the city, noting that “in the absence of latrines, attendees are relieving themselves indiscriminately,” and that “Wednesday mornings reveal a shameful scene of litter.”
But he said the event has social value and brings the community together for “warmth, care and connection.”
Aaron is proposing a solution — the formation of a drum circle non-profit that would fundraise for litter collection and work with the city on crowd control, ensuring there’s enough toilets.
But in exchange, he wants his ticket dropped, and police to leave the drummers be “until the cessation of sunlight in the sky.”