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Occupy Wall Street Drummers Generate Loud Debate

<p>The scene on Oct. 10 at one of the Occupy Wall Street drum circles in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park.</p>
Andrew Burton

The scene on Oct. 10 at one of the Occupy Wall Street drum circles in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park.

"The defining sound of the Occupy Wall Street" protests in Manhattan, as Weekend Edition Sunday's Audie Cornish has said, is "the never-ending drum circle."

The drums aren't quite "never-ending," of course. But the rhythmic banging goes on so loudly and for so long each day and night that some wonder, as Gawker says today, whether the drum circle may "kill occupy Wall Street."

Not only are the people who live in the neighborhood around Zuccotti Park getting tired of the beat, so are many of the non-drummers among the protesters. Josh Nelson, a 27-year-old protester from Nebraska, told New York magazine's Daily Intel blog that "they drum incessantly all day, and really loud."

The Occupy Wall Street blog writes that:

"For weeks, occupiers, working groups, individuals from the community board, and neighbors have approached the drummers on the west side of Liberty Square in an effort to involve them in conversations revolving around their constant presence. The drummers have been asked to stop drumming during quiet hours, to not drum during GA, and to allow other music to enter the square. The drummers, who feel that they are bringing rhythm to the revolution and have a voice that must be heard have felt disrespected and disparaged. The situation has been heated."

Compromises have been tried. The blog says that:

"A group of mediators began to work with the drummers and reached an agreement that they would instead drum for 4 hours per day, from 12pm - 2pm and 4pm - 6pm. The OWS Community Relations team, drummers, mediators, and several local residents from the community board spent weeks listening, building trust, and figuring out ways for drummers to work in solidarity with the occupation. As a result, drumming dropped from consistent 10 + hours a day, but is occurring more than the 2 hours consensed to by the General Assembly, and more then the 4 hours consensed [sic] to by the drummers."

But now, according to a letter posted at the website of the magazine n+1, drumming that has again gone on until 10:30 p.m. some nights has put the support of allies on the local Community Board and other lawmakers at risk and "we need to take this seriously, and be clear that if we can't deal with conflict and self-organizing then we are facing eviction very soon (this week)."

There's a Community Board meeting tonight. The n+1 letter-writer says members of the board have been "logging when they hear drumming and keeping a record. But:

"If we can show that we've made progress in implementing the Good Neighbor Policy that limits drumming then they won't call for our eviction (they in fact have been bending over backwards to support and defend us). If we can't get support here ... then we are facing an eviction vote at tomrorow's [sic] meeting, in front of all the cameras, and we lose the electeds and allies who've gone to bat for us."

As for the drummers, New York's blog says that "Shane Engelerdt, a 19-year-old from Jersey City and self-described former 'head drummer,' " thinks the protesters who are trying to limit the beat are "becoming the government we're trying to protest. ... Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.