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Posts tagged: First Amendment

Aug 18 2014

ABC NEWS – NYC Subway Performers -“We’re Being Over-Policed”

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/nyc-subway-performers-policed-24951079

Subway acrobats, dancers and musicians on Tuesday decried what they said was heavy-handed policing, gathering outside City Hall to join critics of a police clampdown on minor offenses.

One activist suggested a temporary halt to subway performer arrests, which have spiked this year as officers zeroed in on minor crimes to set a tone of not tolerating lawlessness. But several performers said they just hope to arrange a way to perform without fearing arrest.

“We dance. We sing. We’re not criminals. … We shouldn’t really get locked up for showing our talent,” said Zenon “Tito” Laguerre, a 34-year-old construction worker and subway acrobat who said he was arrested last week.

The police department had no immediate response to the performers’ complaints. Mayor Bill de Blasio said last month that subway stunts may not seem like big offenses, “but breaking the law is breaking the law.”

Transit rules generally allow performing for tips in parts of subway stations, but not in trains unless artists have permits. They can use amplifiers only under certain conditions.

More than 240 subway performers have been arrested so far this year, about four times as many as during the same period last year, according to police statistics.

Some subway riders see the performers as part of the city’s anything-goes artistic environment. But others roll their eyes at hearing “it’s showtime!” on hectic commutes. Police also say subway dancing can be dangerous, though no injuries have been reported.

The rise in arrests dovetails with Police Commissioner William Bratton’s embrace of the “broken windows” theory of policing, which holds that putting up with small-time law-breaking can foster more dangerous crime. The approach has come under scrutiny since an officer used a chokehold last month in confronting a man suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes; he died after gasping “I can’t breathe!”

Bratton noted Tuesday on WNYC-FM’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” that most major crime has dropped in the city this year — although shootings have risen — and that smaller, quality-of-life offenses are offenses nonetheless.

“If people would obey the law, then they would not draw the attention of the police,” he said.

Some subway performers who comply with the rules still get arrested or told to leave, said Matthew Christian, a violinist who spearheads an advocacy group called BuskNY. Other subway performers acknowledge they’ve broken the rules but say police should focus on crime, not on what the buskers see as entertainment and entrepreneurship.

“This is New York City culture,” says Andrew “Goofy” Saunders, a 20-year-old acrobat who has stopped performing on trains amid the crackdown. “It shouldn’t be pushed away. It should be embraced.”

———

Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.

abc-logo

Aug 16 2014

Huge win for Buskers!

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/on_the_front_lines/victory_court_orders_metro_authorities_to_allow_busker_street_musician_t

On The Front Lines


VICTORY: Court Orders Metro Authorities to Allow ‘Busker’ Street Musician to Continue Performing at DC Metro Stations


August 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — In a resounding win for the First Amendment, a federal court judge has granted a request by Rutherford Institute attorneys to enjoin the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) from preventing guitarist Alex Young from engaging in “busking” near DC-area Metro stations.

In granting the request, Judge Beryl Howell rejected the government’s claim that the time-honored practice of busking, or performing in public places for tips, is “commercial activity” in violation of WMATA’s Use Regulation policies.  By the order, Judge Howell has required WMATA officers to stop instructing Young that he cannot engage in busking near Metro terminals for the duration of the pending lawsuit.

Rutherford Institute attorneys filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in July 2014, arguing that the above-ground, “free” areas of WMATA transit stations where Young performs are traditional public forums where members of the public are entitled to engage in speech and expression under the First Amendment.

The judge’s order in Alex Young v. Richard Sarles is available at www.rutherford.org.

“In the midst of the crisis taking place in Ferguson, where even journalists are being muzzled at gunpoint, this victory serves notice to the police state that free speech and the rule of law still count for something in America,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “If we are to have any hope of salvaging our freedoms, it is more critical than ever that we stand up for the rights of those who dare to speak up and challenge the status quo, whether they be artists, activists, journalists or whistleblowers.”

Alex Young is a 27-year old guitarist who performs in public and accepts donations from passersby. Although Young does not actively solicit donations, he does set out his open guitar case in order to receive tips from members of the public who enjoy his performance. Among the places where Young performs are the above-ground, “free” areas of WMATA transit stations.  According to regulations promulgated by WMATA’s governing authority, persons are allowed to engage in “free speech activities” on WMATA property, so long as the activity is in above-ground areas and is at least 15 feet from a station entrance, escalator or stairway.

According to the complaint, Young was busking at the Ballston Metro station on the sidewalk abutting N. Stuart Street in November 2013 when he was approached by a Transit Police officer and ordered to cease playing and accepting tips. The officer accused Young of engaging in “panhandling” and threatened to arrest him if he did not move elsewhere.  In a separate instance in October 2013, Young was ordered to cease his public performing at the West Falls Church Metro Station. A Transit Police officer told Young that because he was accepting donations, he was engaged in “commercial activity” that is prohibited by WMATA regulations.

In filing suit against WMATA, Rutherford Institute attorneys allege that the above-ground, free areas of Metro Stations are considered traditional public forums, areas where speech and expression is given special protection by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.  Additionally, Young’s performing in public, or “busking,” is a time-honored activity that courts have consistently found to be fully protected by the constitutional guarantee to freedom of speech.

Affiliate attorney Jeffrey L. Light is assisting The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Young.

Aug 01 2013

Ok, here’s the deal…

Here’s the deal NYPD – when I surface one hr early from the trains ’cause someone’s warned me of ‘Undercovers on the cars’ & you ask me / beg me for a song as I’m walking home. I’ll sing for you, but only in exchange for a VALID “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. Got it?  ‪#‎busk‬ ‪#‎thesubwaydiaries‬ #firstamendmnet

Jul 31 2013

Finally some positive 1st Amendment Movement re Busking….

LINK: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/federal-judge-puts-halt-to-rules-on-st-louis-street/article_76991f42-96fe-533a-b3b3-4c594e2b8d8a.html

Big News in US Busker Laws in St Louis at least. One down, many cities to go…Thank you to BUSK THE MOVIE for this info

ST. LOUIS • A federal district judge has cleared the way for performers to take their acts to the streets of St. Louis without having to audition first, pay for a license or be restricted to a certain part of the city.

Judge Catherine D. Perry on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri to prevent the enforcement of ordinances restricting the performers.

A lawsuit by the ACLU challenged the constitutionality of the city’s street performer ordinances, which require a permit to perform. The court also ordered both sides to try to resolve the case through mediation by Sept. 30. If they fail to do so, the judge will consider a permanent injunction at trial.

The decision affects street musicians, mimes, jugglers, dancers, magicians and anyone else who wants to perform.

“St. Louis’ busking ordinances are as unwise as they are unconstitutional,” Tony Rothert, ACLU legal director for Eastern Missouri, said in a statement. “Besides detracting from a creative, vibrant and diverse city, the challenged ordinances are constitutionally defective.

“Artistic expression at public places is protected by the First Amendment,” Rothert said.

Jeffrey Mittman, the chapter’s executive director, said the First Amendment protects the “marketplace of ideas — from standard political discourse, to the leafleting of unpopular speech, to the performance of a beautiful song.”

Mayor Francis Slay’s office had no immediate response.

The city has regulated street performers since 1997, but last year the permit fees increased from $25 to $100 dollars.

The ACLU had argued in the federal suit that St. Louis’ ordinances violate the First and 14th Amendments because they use vague terms that could suppress artistic expression.

City officials had argued the ordinances were not unconstitutional and said further that the regulations only affected people performing for money.

“The ordinance seeks to balance competing needs on busy streets,” city spokesman Maggie Crane said when the suit was filed in May.

In her order, Perry wrote, “I conclude (the city’s) interests in maintaining public order and convenience can be better served by measures less intrusive on First Amendment freedoms.”

The suit was filed on behalf of street musicians Nick Pence and Frederick Walker.

Alderman Phyllis Young, whose district includes downtown, sponsored legislation in 1997 to allow artists and musicians to perform in most of the city. Before that, the city prohibited street performers.

Margaret Gillerman is a reporter for the Post-Dispatch.

Mar 03 2012

PayPal Now Censoring LEGAL Fiction!

This morning I received a note from one of my online publisher/distribution companies re PAYPAL which is now ACTIVELY CENSORING LEGAL FICTION!!! & threatening to shut down entire businesses via deactivating their PayPal acct if they don’t remove certain titles…Please Pass this on & call your Credit Card Companies (links below) – It’s your 1st Amendment !
PAYPAL CENSORSHIP UPDATE
________________________________________

In case you haven’t heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and
gave us a surprise ultimatum: Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape
or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account. We engaged
them in discussions and on Monday they gave us a temporary reprieve as we continue
to work in good faith to find a suitable solution.

PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in
compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations (likely
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, though they didn’t mention them
by name).

Last Friday, I sent the following email to our erotica authors and publishers:
https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/27 Then on Monday, I issued an update,
and announced we would delay enforcement of PayPal’s guidelines so we and PayPal
could continue our discussions: https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/28

THE PROBLEM:

PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics
of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction.
We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair,
and it marks a slippery slope. We don’t want credit card companies or financial
institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read.
Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It’s legal.

THE SOLUTION:

There’s no easy solution. Legally, PayPal and the credit card companies probably
have the right to decide how their services are used. Unfortunately, since they’re
the moneyrunners, they control the oxygen that feeds digital commerce.

Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment processor.
That’s not a good long term solution, because if credit card companies are behind
this, they’ll eventually force crackdowns elsewhere. PayPal works well for us.
In addition to running all credit card processing at the Smashwords.com store,
PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the U.S. My conversations with
PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion that the
road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable.

BUILDING A COALITION OF SUPPORT:

Independent advocacy groups are considering taking on the PayPal censorship case.
I’m supporting the development of this loose-knit coalition of like-minded groups
who believe that censorship of legal fiction should not be allowed. We will grow
the coalition. Each group will have its own voice and tactics I’m working with
them because we share a common cause to protect books from censorship. Earlier
today I had conversations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National
Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). I briefed them on the Smashwords/PayPal
situation, explained the adverse affect this crackdown will have on some of our
authors and customers, and shared my intention to continue working with PayPal
in a positive manner to move the discussion forward.

The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago: www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/legal-censorship-paypal-makes-habit-deciding-what-users-can-read
Today, ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release: www.scribd.com/doc/83549049/NCAC-ABFFE-Letter-To-PayPal-eBay-re-Ebook-Refusal-2012

I will not be on the streets with torch in hand calling for PayPal’s head, but
I will encourage interested parties to get involved and speak their piece. This
is where you come in…

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern
all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the
ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing
without the (fading) protective patina of a “traditional publisher” to lend them
legitimacy. We indies only have each other.

Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects
women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they’re also
the primary consumers of erotica. They’re also the primary consumers of mainstream
romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies
were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I think
this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in
mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your
were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality? The insanity
needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor
of legal fiction should have to answer.).

All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial
services companies censoring books. Authors should have the freedom to publish
legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.

These corporations need to hear from you. Pick up the phone and call them.
Email them. Start petitions. Sign petitions. Blog your opposition to censorship.
Encourage your readers to do the same. Pass the word among your social networks.
Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story. Contact
your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can hear a local
author’s perspective on this story of international significance. If you have
connections to mainstream media, encourage them to pick up on the story. Encourage
them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question, “PayPal
says they’re trying to enforce the policies of credit card companies. Why are
you censoring legal fiction?”

Below are links to the companies waiting to hear from you. Click the link and
you’ll find their phone numbers, executive names and postal mailing addresses.
Be polite, respectful and professional, and encourage your friends and followers
to do the same. Let them know you want them out of the business of censoring
legal fiction.

Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission to sell
your ebooks without censorship or discrimination. Let them know that PayPal’s
policies are out of step with the major online ebook retailers who already accept
your books as they are. Address your calls, emails (if you can find the email)
and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives. Post open letters to them
on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters. Force the
credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship. And yes, express
your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well. Don’t scream at them. Ask them
to work on your behalf to protect you and your readers from censorship. Tell
them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.

Visa:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=V+Profile

American Express:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=AXP+Profile

MasterCard:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=MA+Profile

Discover:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=DFS+Profile

Ebay (owns PayPal):
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=ebay+Profile

Apr 28 2011

The First Amendment…Porn’s ok & Music’s not???

Seriously – so under the First Amendment Porn is now ok/legal in NYC Public Libraries but music is still not allowed/legal in the NYC Subways????