Celebrating self-expression as a basic human right essential for the
healthy growth of youth, individuals and communities
COMMUNITY ARTS ADVOCATES, INC.
Stephen H. Baird, Founder and Executive Director
PO Box 300112, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-0030
Web site: http://www.communityartsadvocates.org
The History and Cultural Impact
of Street Performing in America
by Stephen Baird © Stephen Baird 2006
New license for performing in Baltimore in summer 2006 with blatant unconstitutional audition requirement. Will the city require all Baltimore newspaper writers to send samples of their writing before people can read the papers in public spaces? Will the city require everyone who wants to speak and run for public office to go through an audition? The First Amendment does not say you have to be good. The public is the judge of expression in public spaces, not the government. Entire art forms from tap-dancing to break dancing, hip-hop to blues, jazz to rock n' roll were created on street corners and it was never considered acceptable when it was first created. Ben Franklin sang the first newspapers on the streets. Sam Adams wrote political parodies that were sung on the streets. Does the Baltimore City Council think Ben and Sam would agree to an audition before they are allowed to express their views? - Stephen Baird
Street Entertainers Program You must apply for a license from the Board of License for Street Entertainers. The application is available by clicking on the link at the top of this page and from the Baltimore City Miscellaneous Tax and License Unit, 200 N. Holliday Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. A non-refundable $25 fee must accompany the application (check or money order made out to Director of Finance) and must be submitted by July 24, 2006. Auditions are required and will be held this year on July 29, 2006 at Broadway Plaza in Fells Point. Those licensed as street entertainers will be issued a badge which must be worn while performing. The license is good for one calendar year and is renewable. Street Entertainers will also be issued a sign to post next to their "hat" for donations during their performance. For information on any of the events or services provided by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, please call 410-752-8632 . http://www.bop.org/resources/up335.aspx
Can the City of Baltimore ban the reading of newspapers in public spaces because a police officer does not like one of the cartoons or letters to the editor or story? -- Stephen Baird
Juggler and Jokester Jerry Rowan banned from street performing at Baltimore Harborplace Amphitheater with a Maryland ACLU attorney announcing the filing of a Federal Law Suit that will challenge the City of Baltimore and Rouse Company to policy to ban street performances based on unconstitutional restrictions of content.
Jerry Rowan sent me and called me with these documents and online references about the banning of his street performances from Baltimore Harborplace by the City of Baltimore and Rouse Company on October 21, 2002 for telling a joke about the DC sniper case. This is not the first time censorship of Baltimore street entertainers has become an issue. Heyn Herman, Baltimore's Street Corner Astronomer, challenged the city of Baltimore and Rouse Company in the 1990s. The ACLU took on Jerry Rowan's case and filed court documents on October 7, 2003. Read my article on malls and the Federal Court Case against Faneuil Hall Marketplace for background information on the larger issues-- The Malling of America: The Selling of America's Public Parks and Streets--The Economic Censorship and Suppression of First Amendment Rights article by Stephen Baird Citizens to End Animal Suffering v Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Inc., 745 F. Supp. 65 (1990) The short outline is:
- 1981-2002 -- Jerry Rowan performs on a regular basis at the Harborplace Amphitheater. He is featured artists and emcee for many events with frequent articles in Baltimore and national publications.
- 1990s -- Heyn Herman, Baltimore's Street Corner Astronomer, successfully challenges and receives a settlement from the City of Baltimore and Rouse Company to allow him to give lectures and use his telescope at the Harborplace which they had banned.
- October 19 and 20, 2002 -- Jerry Rowan performances includes a joke about the DC sniper.
- A year ago, Rowan made a quick joke during the height of the sniper frenzy. "I heard that they've finally come out with a composite of the sniper," he said Oct. 19 and again the next day. "Apparently, he's a white guy that speaks Spanish and looks like he's Arab." from the Washington Post, Wednesday, October 8, 2003; Page B07 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59161-2003Oct7.html
- October 21, 2002 -- Rouse Company sends letter banning his performances and threaten him with arrest after three Baltimore police complain about the joke.
- November 2002 -- Articles appear in Baltimore papers The Sun on Nov 4, by Dan Rodericks and City Paper on Nov 6, by Anna Ditkoff http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=4633 and http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=4730
- December 2002 -- I received calls and emails from the Butterfly Man and Jerry Rowan requesting help. Send letters plus make calls to Maryland ACLU to support Jerry Rowans challenge to the performance ban and his right to perform.
- April 4, 2003 -- Women in Black silent vigils to protest war and violence at Harborplace banned by Baltimore police.
- October 7, 2003 -- ACLU sues the City of Baltimore for banning the silent vigils and adds Jerry Rowans street performance ban to the case. See the articles and editorials in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.
- Baltimore City Paper: Out on the Street -- By Brian Morton http://citypaper.com/2003-11-19/pf/animal_pf.html
- February 4, 2004 -- Thje City of Baltimore is considering a new street entertainers ordinance with an application fee of $75. See article in Baltimore City Paper http://www.citypaper.com/2004-02-04/mobs.html
- February 5, 2004 -- Received call from Jerry Rowan with an update on the status of his legal case against the City of Baltimore. The joining of Jerry Rowan's case with the Woman in Black war protest case by the ACLU was challenged by the city and the court agreed the cases need to be argued separately. The ACLU and Jerry Rowan are actively seeking a large law firm to support a First Amendment federal court case. Jerry has been unable to perform in Baltimore for over 16 months.
- Baltimore Sun article on June 17, 2004, by Lester J. Davis on proposed new street performance ordinance by Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.performers17jun17,0,4126689.story
- Received call on October 20, 2005 from Baltimore official. New law that was passed in 2004 charges $20/year for permit plus $75/year for performing in downtown area and $50/year for other sections of the city. They are reconsidering the fee structure. It is my opinion the current fee structure suppresses and curtails artists from sharing their First Amendment expression with fellow citizens.
- "A sense of humor returns to Harborplace" by Dan Rodricks at the Baltimore Sun article June 4, 2006, on Jerry Rowan returns to street performing http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.rodricks04jun04,0,7336708.column?coll=bal-local-columnists
Note: The US District Court in Maryland ruled in favor of street performers in Markowitz v. Mayor and City Council of Ocean City, 1995. The ACLU had brought suit on behalf of a member of the Libertarian Party who wanted to collect signatures on the Boardwalk, along with a puppeteer and a juggler who regularly performed on the Boardwalk.
Ocean City, MD: Mayland ACLU sued city in 1995 -- Markowitz v. Mayor and City Council of Ocean City. U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis called the ordinance "vastly overbroad" and said courts have allowed government to restrict free speech only when necessary to protect the public safety of health. Second case involved caricature artist Adam Pate in 2005. Ocean City officals under pressure of ACLU law suit were forced to allow him to do his art work on the boardwalk. See: ACLU helps artist earn right to paint on the Boardwalk by Stephanie Mojica http://www.oceancity.md/readstory.cfm?PubID=2911 ACLU Maryland press release http://www.aclu-md.org/aPress/Press%202005/070205_Pate.pdf
Street Arts and Buskers Advocates
Copyright © 1999-2005 by Stephen Baird