On Monday evening, the community-oriented samba-reggae percussion ensemble Batalá Durham once again held its weekly rehearsal at Durham Central Park. And once again, there was a noise complaint, and the cops showed up.
As the INDY reported last week, complaints from one resident of Liberty Warehouse Apartments have resulted in the Durham Police Department shutting down Batalá's rehearsals on two previous occasions in June and July. After the story ran, a handful of Liberty residents chimed in with their support of Batalá Durham, and several appeared at Monday night's gathering.
Most of the rehearsal went on without incident. But at 7:15, DPD officer B.K. Mincey pulled up and approached the group. He spoke with Caique Vidal, Batalá Durham's musical director, and Justin Anderson-Pomeroy, its cofounder. As the officer wrapped up the conversation, Vidal gently asked if the group had to end its rehearsal. Mincey scoffed, shook his head, and bid them a good night before he walked away.
Around 7:42, two police SUVs arrived, and heavy rain began shortly thereafter. Officers J.S. Tyler and N.T. Thorpe met with Joy Vidal, a member of Batalá Durham (she's married to Caique Vidal). They explained that they were responding to a noise complaint and were there to end the rehearsal. (The officers didn't actually stop the rehearsal, but Caique Vidal elected to bring it to a halt.)
Officer Tyler said the complaint wasn't based on specific decibel levels—in fact, the department's decibel meter is currently out of service. (Durham's noise ordinance dictates that no nighttime noise—between eleven p.m. and eight a.m.—should exceed fifty decibels, and daytime noise should not exceed sixty decibels.) Tyler told the group that it could be in violation of other ordinances, but he did not specify which ones.
"We have to use our reasonable senses," he said, adding that that the single complainer's concern was "just as valid as anybody else's."
The officers explained that the group's best route was to get a permit with a variance, which only the city manager can issue. Thorpe told Batalá that any further complaints would lead to a citation, resulting in a $35 fine, plus $173 in court costs.
Now Batalá will have to decide whether to show up again next week and risk a citation. All signs point to yes.