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Freedom of expression (for buskers)

reggie miles 28 Jun 09 - 03:30 AM
Acorn4 28 Jun 09 - 03:51 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 28 Jun 09 - 03:57 AM
GUEST,Captain Jack Sparrow 28 Jun 09 - 04:30 AM
VirginiaTam 28 Jun 09 - 05:16 AM
Sandra in Sydney 28 Jun 09 - 05:19 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 28 Jun 09 - 05:57 AM
wysiwyg 28 Jun 09 - 07:36 AM
artbrooks 28 Jun 09 - 08:04 AM
Acorn4 28 Jun 09 - 08:15 AM
Leadfingers 28 Jun 09 - 08:29 AM
reggie miles 29 Jun 09 - 12:53 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 29 Jun 09 - 01:25 AM
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Subject: Freedom of expression
From: reggie miles
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 03:30 AM

A recent court ruling by the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled in an 8 to 3 decision in favor of freedom of expression as it relates to street performing in public parks in Washington State. This reverses a previous ruling by a three judge panel of the same court.

It now appears that my constitutional rights to freedom of expression were being trampled by the actions of the head of security for the NW Folklife Festival this year. He called two units of the Seattle Police (four officers arrived) to have me escorted off the grounds for entertaining visitors casually as a street performer. He claimed that engaging in a performance art, while under a covered walkway, was not allowed by the Seattle Center rules and that he was enforcing their rules. Given that I had complied to his request to cease my activities and had already packed up my things, I wasn't exactly sure what reasoning he was using for summoning the SPD, except to simply push his weight around.

Today, I asked one of the Seattle Center employees and an officer if they had seen the article about the ruling that came out in the papers on Thursday and what they thought it meant. They said that it meant that I could perform where I wanted to on the grounds. I explained what happened to during Folklife and they were under the impression, that because the event rented the park, they could enact any kind of rules or regulations governing street performers that they saw fit during their event.

Does anyone here have any info regarding whether an event can overturn the court's decision regarding our freedom of expression on public property simply because they are renting the grounds for the weekend?

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: Acorn4
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 03:51 AM

A South African songwriter called Jeremy Taylor, very popular in England, produced a song called "Jobsworth" in the seventies.

The chorus went:-

"Jobsworth, Jobsworth, it's more than my Jobsworth,
I don't care, rain or snow, whatever you want
The answer's 'no!'
I can keep you waiting four hours in the queue,
And if you don't like it
You know what you can do!

It sounds like you've been a victim of "Jobsworths"

The word has actually gone into the Oxford English dictionary, but you may not be familiar with it in the US.

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 03:57 AM

Freedom of Expression is something we all need to fight for, because more and more it's being taken away by those who seek to control, be it in 'life' or on messageboards.

By coincidence, it's part of my email address... :0)

Hope someone comes up with the answer for you, reggie.

Love those words above, I know more than a few like that, acorn.

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: GUEST,Captain Jack Sparrow
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 04:30 AM

It's a balance. The Constitution also forbids cruel & unusual punishments. Being forced to listen to many a performer, both in folk clubs and squawking on messageboards might fall foul of that. Keel-hauling would be much more humane.

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 05:16 AM

That's a pity Reggie. I don't know what the legal ramifications are. But it seems pretty mean and petty. I imagine the police only acted because the city didn't want to offend paying customers (festival sponsor or organisers). But I guess it is like other restrictions often put in place in public areas (parking, concession vending, etc.) during events.

I should think the contract with the festival organiser would have had to read something to the effect that no non-booked performances were permitted in the grounds hired by the organiser. That contract should be available to the public. Might want to check it out.

Hope you don't have this problem again.

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 05:19 AM

words to Jobsworth

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 05:57 AM


Michael James Berger also known as Magic Mike VS City of Seattle

1. Whether or not laws or ordinances may be imposed that require single
individuals to apply and obtain a permit in advance, and wear a photographic
identification badge, in order to exercise free speech in the traditional public forum
of a public park.

2. Whether or not the governnment may impose a ban on the oral solicitation of donations where other oral communications are freely permitted;

3. Whether or not patron of a public park, who happen to be standing in
line or eating at a table, are considered a "captive audience" who may be isolated
from persons wishing to engage them with protected speech, particularly where the
"captive audience" may still be solicited by licensed venfors?

The plaintiff and appellee, Michael "Magic Mike" Berger 9"Berger") is a
street performer who has, for decades, entertained people in the Seattle area in
public venues. Berger's presentation is a mixture of entertainment (performing
magic tricks and creating "Balloon sculptures") and verbal communication, such as
promoting the value of reading to his audience.

Berger performs in the large public urban park know as the "Seattle
Center." The 84 acres consitituting the park were gifted to City of Seattle in the
19th century for "the use of the public forever."

In 2002, the Seattle Center promulgated a set of "Campus Rules" requiring
even solo performers (as is Berger) to register in advance as "street performers,"
wear a photo identification badge, and stand in one of sixteen pre-designated spots
in the park....The Rules permit gatherings of up to one hundred (so long as no
"performance" is involved) without prior notice, permit or license...

...judgment hold that the Seattle Center rules are facially unconstitutional.... The
opinion notes that "no matter how persuasive the lyrical urgings of Martha
Reeves and the Vandellas might be, there is no dancing in the street in the Seattle
Center, at least not without permission."

...the principle that the most protected venues for the dissemination and reception of free speech are
public parks, streets and sidewalks. As stated by the supreeme Court: "....Wherever the title of streets
and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public, and time out
of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thought between citizens, and discussing
public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part
of the privileges, immunities, right and liberties of citizens.

...A "speech registration scheme" " rather than a "speech coordination" that permits other sides to speak
or that ensures that the sidewalks remain passable. The Seattle Center rules are simply a gratuitous restriction
on speech....making government control and surveillance of the speakers easier. It is hard to think
of a more obviously unconstitutional measure in the First Amendment context."

A further aspect is to what extent the government may allow public parks to be
exclusevely or closely controlled by commercial interest. The trend towards
privatization is noted with concern....if privatization continues citizens will find it
increasingly difficult to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech.

Berger was presented as a troublemaker whose activities justified the Rules.

...the panel's underlying assumption that a performance can be neatly distinguished
from speech activities is difficult to justify.

It was noted that a group of 100 family member could meet at a park...while six people wearing
anti-war-t-shirts neede a permit.

The freedom to put forth one's opinions and concerns inthe marketplace of
ideas is one of the most significant right this country's citizens possess.


Some excellent previous cases are cited ... i.e. Las Vegas

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Subject: Abrazos: Freedom of expression
From: wysiwyg
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 07:36 AM

Hm..... when one rents a pavilion at a state park, for a group activity, and rents the pavilion where the seating will be tight for the expected group's picnickers..... does one think then of the freedom of assembly of a family of loudmouths who have not only ignored the posted "reserved" sign and set up in the pavilion, but who then refuse to vacate it, when the posted, authorized user of that RESERVED pavilion shows up?

Nope. One hies oneself to the ranger office to request uniformed assistance to enforce the park regulations that permit reservations. In the meantime one reads over the regs printed on the reservation agreement and sees, in the fine print, the regs one could have quoted if one had thought of showing the regs to the interlopers.

Viewpoint is everything: sometimes you're the windshield; sometimes you're the bug.

ON THE OTHER HAND it is usually possible to be gracious and, sometimes, even cooperative. The pavilion in question might be our parish's picnic, coming next week. We have welcomed many a stranger at past picnics, even if they got to "our" pavilion first. Viewpoint IS everything-- sometimes you're the driver.

The social contract involves placing cooperation above "rights" in one's personal priorities. It depends on which is the higher value. Behavior flows from that.


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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: artbrooks
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 08:04 AM

It doesn't seem to me that this has/had anything to do with freedom of expression, but that it did have a lot to do with safety. As a once-regular and now sometimes attendee, it has always been my understanding that Folklife doesn't ban buskers, as such, but they do regulate them. Performing in covered walkways is specifically banned under the street performer rules. Anyone who has ever been to Folklife knows that it is very crowded and that having a crowd stopping to watch a performer in a cramped area quickly brings movement to a complete halt.

I don't know where Mr. Miles was, but I can only think of 2 covered walkways at Seattle Center. Both are about 8-10 feet wide; one has a wall on one side and a pond on the other and the other has vendors' booths on both sides during Folklife. There is a 3rd covered area where a flight of steps passes between two buildings, and 1 of the entrances is enclosed. Walking through any of these when they are jammed with people is difficult, even if the crowd keeps moving.

It sounds a lot like the old "freedom of expression doesn't let you yell 'fire' in a theater" issue to me.

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: Acorn4
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 08:15 AM

I am nonetheless reminded of that scene in one of the Pink Panther films where Inspector Clouseau is busy arguing with the busker that he is booking, while two men are robbing the bank behind him.

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: Leadfingers
Date: 28 Jun 09 - 08:29 AM

Busking in an area where an event that is raising money for some sort of cause BY ARRANGEMENT is effectively sealing from the organisers . Mr Miles is , I believe , a very competent musician
but SO are a lot of the Illegal Buskers who take advantage of the crowds at Sidmouth Festival , and collect money that SHOULD go to the Festival .

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: reggie miles
Date: 29 Jun 09 - 12:53 AM

This event gets plenty of $ from the craft folk that pay to vend their various crafts there and the merchants that wish to offer food booths. The performances at this event, including those by street performers, are already donated by the performance artists and have been for decades. There is no need for the event to enact further regulations that reach into the pockets of those artists who offer their talents and performances for free. Those folks already agree to play without being compensated.

If this event wants their 15% so badly, I think that the performance artists would be happy to give it, if they were getting compensated reasonable fees for their performances. However, given that this event has a long history of not providing compensation to performance artists and since each artist agrees to offer their talents for free, including those who host workshops, I think that the event saves a vast amount from this source alone and shouldn't be in the business of extorting further fees from the artists who participate.

Want to know just how much this event does reap in unpaid performance fees alone. Let's contact each and every act that has played this event in the past and ask each of those artists or groups what they normally get for one of their performances from other festival venues. Add all of that up and you'll quickly realize just what a bargain this event has been getting from the performers who agree to play for free.

One MC member here said that they had 5000 volunteers too. Near where I was performing, before I got the boot, I saw about a dozen of them at the north Mercer entrance just standing around at the gate and in the info booth with nothing to do. If this event can't figure out how to host their show, that reaps hundreds of thousands of dollars from craft and food vendors and has thousands of volunteers, including free performances from the artists involved, without fleecing street performers, then perhaps they should just throw in the towel and let this event die a natural death.

I think that it would be far better to see this event take a giant step backward, to what it used to be before all of the money grubbers took over and I don't think that I'm alone in that wish. Turn back the clock and let this event become what it was intended to be before the mismanagement and megalomania crept in. Of course, it's not unusual, when in a time of stress, to allow one's thoughts to hearken back to an earlier time, when the pressures of present circumstance did not weigh so heavily. Escapism is all a part of life on the planet and the human condition.

I predict that it is likely that this event will die a horrid and unnatural death due to the influences of those who can't leave well enough alone. It may, in fact, already be in the process of such a death. Given that this event's organizers deem it necessary to fleece the poorest among us with fees and percentages, demanding payola in return for the constitutional right to freedom of expression, I'd say they've already revealed their own demise.

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Subject: RE: Freedom of expression
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 29 Jun 09 - 01:25 AM

The man in the legal brief does have class (or is in jail) there is no mention on his page of the "victory."

Mike Berger - Webpage - Many news-clippings.regarding the history of the issue.

"In the early 1990's Seattle Center began to treat all street performers who were busking with their hat out as vendors."


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