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Indigenous hand drumming group confronted during performance in downtown park

Last Updated Jun 26, 2019 at 7:24 pm EST

An Indigenous hand drumming group called Swift Current Singers were performing in a downtown park when they were confronted by a group of men on Tuesday.

Maggie, one of the members of the group, told CityNews that they were approached in the park near The Esplanade and Frederick Street.

“Generally, most of the neighbourhood who was out here was enjoying the singing.” She said they were almost finished playing when the men came out and demanded they stop.

“They told us our drumming was boring and monotonous and swearing at us. They told us we need to stop and they didn’t want to hear it,” Maggie said.

She added that at some point, one of the men kicked a drum after it was dropped on the ground which was captured on video.

In another video of the altercation, a man can be seen complaining about the noise. He appears to say, “If you are drumming it’s cool, if you are dancing to it it’s cool, but if you have to listen to it, it becomes *expletive* monotonous.”

The man asked them to stop drumming and said that he lives in the area.

The group posted a statement on their Facebook page, writing that “this is what happens when society doesn’t understand our ceremonies or sacred items.”

“The truly maddening part was that this man felt ok to stand over a woman and threaten her because she continued to stand her ground … We were in a public space drumming,” it read.

Jennifer Kom, a sister of one of the group members, posted video of the incident on Twitter, stating “I think this really shows the level of respect that people in Toronto have for Indigenous people and it disgusts me.”

When one of the men who confronted the drumming group was asked what bothered him about it, he said to CityNews “The noise, for Christ sakes, what do you use for a brain?”

He was then asked whether the construction or traffic noise bothers him as well and he countered by saying the drumming was unnecessary.

The group of drummers said the men finally left them alone when the women told them they felt threatened and were going to call police, but tell CityNews they did not file a police report.

Shane Gerard, spokesman for the City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department said the city’s public spaces are open and welcoming places for artists.

“The City of Toronto supports all artists who perform and play in public spaces. Indigenous artists are especially welcome to perform in City locations. The City’s Parks are inclusive and accessible for all its residents,” he said.