Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson made a guest appearance at Liberty Park Sunday afternoon to clear the air for anyone who was in a haze about the city's drug policy: Police will arrest anyone caught with drugs at the park.

Anderson, along with police chief Rick Dinse, stopped by the weekly drum circle to remind people that drugs will not be tolerated and police will be enforcing the law.

Anderson said police have always had the authority to enter the drum circle and make arrests. But the mayor's appearance came less than a week after a story on KSL-TV reported some officers believed their hands were tied by the city and mayor from entering the drum circle even though drug use was rampant.

Hundreds of people from all walks of life attend the drum circle every weekend. Many people listen to the beat of bongo drums and dance. Many refer to the drum circle as a "spiritual experience."

But many people also admit drug use is widespread.

The problem dates back to an April 1999 incident when more than 50 officers in riot gear cleared out the park after police were threatened by members of the drum circle while trying to make an arrest. Former Salt Lake Police Chief Ruben Ortega said he was convinced a group of about 200 people was going to attack the officers with knives and swords.

Anderson, who was a candidate for mayor at the time, was highly critical of the way the incident was handled. When he was elected he said what happened at the park wouldn't happen again.

But on Sunday, Anderson made it clear that he will not stand in the way of officers doing their jobs.

"I don't want my criticism to be translated into being a sign that we condone drug usage in the city park," Anderson said.

While Anderson said he does not want a repeat of what happened two years ago, he is not going to stop officers from entering the circle and making arrests. "Treat our cops courteously. Respect the fact our police have a job to do," Anderson told the group.

"People cannot interfere with police officers. Everybody else needs to back off," he said.

Six officers on bicycles patrolled the drum circle Sunday. Officers said that's normal for any Sunday at the park.

But the officers kept an eye on everyone from inside the circle. They did more than patrol the perimeter on Sunday.

The visible presence of officers, the mayor and TV news cameras seemed to scare away many drum circle members. Between 150 to 200 people were at the circle Sunday, far fewer than the hundreds who normally attend.

By late Sunday afternoon officers reported making one alcohol-related arrest at the park. But police said the person arrested was not part of the drum circle.

When Anderson arrived at the park about 1:30 p.m., he was immediately surrounded by members of the drum circle eager to hear what he had to say.

But others weren't interested in listening to the mayor's message as much as they wanted to debate the merits of legalizing marijuana.

"Why can't I smoke a bud?" asked one man.

"(The police) don't have to come here where we gather in peace and harmony. We want to smoke what Mother Earth gave us," said another man.

Others who attend the drum circle each weekend, like Dean Wentworth, are happy with the police presence. The music from the drum circle gives everyone a good feeling, "but drugs are ruining it," Wentworth said.

Wentworth said he has seen everything from pharmaceutical drugs to hash to LSD being sold at the drum circle. "We don't need that," he said.

Dinse backed up the mayor's message, telling the group his officers were there to enforce the law and that people in the drum circle need to obey it. He also told drum circle members not to interfere with police as they do their job.

"We are going to go in the circle," Dinse said. "We are not going to allow drug use."


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