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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.

Jul 18 2013

“Oscar” the hungry NYC Sinkhole gets his own spot on PIX11 News

For the past two weeks I’ve been tracking, on my way to busk, the growth of what began as a rather small, sudden sinkhole here on 43rd St in NYC to what I now have named “Oscar” as he threatened yesterday to swallow the back wheel of a Mercedes. Tonight reporter Greg Mocker of PIX 11 News contacted me to step in & speak on behalf of my new, ever expanding friend, Oscar on the 11 o’clock news. Here’s Oscars photo album from birth to the present & Greg’s clip on NY’s PIX11 News. Nice to be a sinkhole & get your own spot/cameo! 🙂



NYC attempts to 'fill' Oscar

Oscar swallows two Orange Cones

Oscar gets 'hungry' for a Mercedes 🙂

"yummmm...dinner" says Oscar 🙂






Oscar the Sinkhole gets a Cameo on PIX11 News

Reporter Greg Mocker takin’ a break w/ my ax 🙂

Greg’s cameraman’s glasses get eaten by Oscar

Greg Mocker rescues his cameraman’s glasses from the jaws of Oscar 🙂



 Look – wood under the Streets of NYC! #cool


Jul 16 2013

Matthew Christian, a busker changing NYC

Friend & fellow busker, Matthew Christian who is a fighter (as one must be as a busker here in NYC). He is taking the time to investigate & change what goes on with buskers & street performers here in NYC. Here’s his latest blog post. Go Matthew!



The original idea for the site was to make legal information about busking accessible online. But, it didn’t take long to see that a jumble of miscellaneous ideas about arrests, complaints, rules, and so forth wouldn’t attract very much traffic, and would consequently be difficult to find through Google, negating the original purpose.

Hence the blog idea — and indeed, I’ve been having a lot of fun sharing stories from underground. (There are so many!) But, it’s time to keep working on the legal aspect, especially now that we have a bit of an audience. We’ll also soon be adding a list of legal posts on the sidebar, so these notes are easily findable for newcomers.

So here’s an important update. Yesterday, I went to the Civilian Complaint Review Board at 40 Rector St., to do an interview in follow-up to a complaint I had filed after my arrest on June 18th.

It’s easy to file a complaint, by the way. Go to this link, and fill out the form or call. You’ll see below why that might be important.

I had actually filed two complaints after the arrest. The first was for wrongful arrest. Essentially, went my complaint, it’s legal to perform, but I was nonetheless arrested for it.

The second was about what the CCRB calls “Abuse of Authority.” When I went back to the Transit District 1 Stationhouse after I was released from Midtown Criminal Court on the 19th, I asked to file a complaint about the arrest. I was told not only that I could not file a complaint there, but in fact that there was no complaint form at all! (As you can see on the CCRB page, that information is not only false, but stationhouses are in fact mandated to accept complaints in person). That conversation ended at that point, because I was threatened with arrest if I didn’t leave the stationhouse.

The CCRB has two ways to pursue complaints. One is to schedule a “Mediation” meeting with the officer in question, and the other is to investigate. However, only certain complaints are in CCRB jurisdiction; the others are referred to other offices like Internal Affairs and the Office of Chief of Staff. (This is, at least, what I was told. I was not the only complainant in the office to experience bureaucracy-induced disorientation!)

When I met with the investigator assigned to my complaint, she immediately knew that the wrongful arrest complaint couldn’t be pursued by the CCRB, because it falls outside their jurisdiction. More on that later.

We did however decide that the abuse of authority complaint could be pursued within the CCRB. So, we did a tape-recorded interview about what happened, and then investigator then asked if I wanted the complaint to go to mediation or to investigation. The process of investigation is outlined in this article by a former investigator that I read last year. The gist of it (as I hazily recall — would that I had more time for this post before getting out the door) is that CCRB investigators make a valiant attempt to substantiate charges, but because they ultimately have no power to impose sanctions, the process is more or less moot.

Point being, I opted for mediation, because it will hopefully lead to a face-to-face meeting with the sergeant who told me I had no way to complain. I have a lot of thinking to do about how to handle that, but my hope is that it could be productive.

And if not, the complaint can always proceed to investigation following the mediation meeting. So, while the CCRB may be unable to impose any kind of sanction, this process still feels tentatively promising with regards to Abuse of Authority.

Now, back to the question of wrongful arrest. My investigator does not make decisions on referrals, and she was not initially able to provide many details on where the complaint could go. (Strange, right? Can I be the only person in NYC to file a complaint over wrongful arrest? Somehow I doubt it).

However, I really worked to advocate for myself and for other buskers who experience harassment. I told her on the record that arrest, harassment, and ignorance of the rules are all widespread problems, as per what I’ve heard in the grassroots, and that I’d like to be heard on that topic, not just about my own arrest. Further, I told her that the NYPD might well be interested in seeking a solution, i.e. reducing the amount of harassment, if the issue is brought to their attention through the right channels.

The end result is ambiguous: my complaint will be reviewed and referred, hopefully within the next two months. The theory I fleshed out with the investigator is that my personal wrongful arrest claim will go to the bureau responsible for those complaints, I believe the Office of Chief of Staff, and that follow-up on performers’ rights may, fingers crossed, be brought to the notice of Internal Affairs for a meeting.

So, touch wood on that one. I do hope this post outlines many reasons why the CCRB can help us with self-advocacy, and would love to hear from performers who have had experiences with CCRB in the past. And, I’ll keep the updates coming about all of these threads — especially the possibility of Internal Affairs!

Jul 14 2013

“Heidi Kole Busking Academy” :)

This morning’s Facebook post from Columnist & Blogger at NBC Latino – Rachel Figueroa &  her daughter Adi of course : )

“Mariachi duo performs on the subway. Guy next to us gives them change. Adi sings the alphabet. Turns to guy and says “now give me money”
I ended up giving Adi a quarter because I didn’t want the other guy to (he probably would have). I told her no busking until she’s 16 (when she goes to the Heidi Kole busking academy :-P)”

Jul 14 2013

Busking Buddy d’jour

My ‘busking buddy’ from last night. His name, Paul Newman, of course 🙂