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
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The History and Cultural Impact
of Street Performing in America
by Stephen Baird © Stephen Baird 2000-2021
The following little historical references are just a glimpse of the depth and breadth of the creative spirit of the human race that blossoms on the street corners, market places, subway platforms and any other place people gather.
Buskers and street artists battle Kansas City Council to perform in public spaces
Sign the Kansas City Street Artists Petition online at:
Summary: (NOTE: Some of the article links have expired. Will update with links to copies of articles ASAP)
- Received emails and calls from Stacey Krulewich <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Laird A. Wilcox <email@example.com> February 2007 about new proposed ordinance banning of street performances in Kansas City over the collection of donations and amplification. I sent emails back outlining issues and list of possible legal help.
- Stacey Krulewich <firstname.lastname@example.org> web site on Kansas City battle: http://kcstreetart.blogspot.com/ http://www.kcstreetart.com
- Received email from Danny Croman <email@example.com> another street artist in Kansas City who uses amplification and filed many law suits to protect his and others rights to perform in public spaces. The legal challenge of the amplification ban from 11 PM-6AM in the Westport area failed, but it still upheld First Amendment protection for music and right to perform without amplification. Other issues such as a public literature bans in area were resolved by the law suit See: ( W.D. Mo.,1997. Croman v. City of Kansas City, Mo., 29 F.Supp.2d 587)
- Video of Danny performing at Plaza - Oct. 18th, '08 performance, "Linus & Lucy," & "The Israelites (take 1)" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCsTfBhYdLA
- "The Rose" to spontaneous street dancing eruption, and start and end of King Of The Road and theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly- performances 10-18-08 in Plaza http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhALT8s9O1M
- Media Reports: issue has received coverage in area newspapers and elctronic media
- March 5, 2007, Kansas City Star editorial ON CIVIL LIBERTIES AS I SEE IT: Panhandling proposal tramples the Constitution By BRETT SHIRK (Brett Shirk is the executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri) http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/opinion/16834362.htm
- February 28, 2007, Kansas City Star editorial KC doesn't really need another panhandler law The Kansas City Star http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascitystar/16798308.htm
- February 15, 2007, Kansas City Star article "Council Committee Considers Panhandling Restrictions - Street performers fear the crackdown threatens their livelihood and the city‚Äôs vibrancy. by DAVE HELLING and LYNN HORSLEY http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/16701337.htm
- KC city council considers panhandler ban :http://kshb.com/kshb/nw_local_news/article/0,1925,KSHB_9424_5340009,00.html
- Kansas City Star: In panhandler plan, logic goes begging by MIKE HENDRICKS http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/16730736.htm?source=rss&channel=kansascity_local
- Panhandler ordinance faces opposition :http://kshb.com/kshb/nw_local_news/article/0,1925,KSHB_9424_5352729,00.html
- KMBC-TV article http://www.thekansascitychannel.com/news/11016936/detail.html
- University News at the UMKC conducted poll on February 23, 2007 72% in favor of strret artists when I viewed it. Link: http://www.unews.com/poll/index.cfm?event=displayPollResults
- Copy of Proposed Ordinance posted on this site HERE
- Link to Kansas City Council http://www.kcmo.org/council.nsf/council/home?opendocument
- Copy of open public letter "Common Sense and Panhandling" sent to Kansas City Council members, area bar associations, arts organizations and media outlets posted on this site HERE
- Kansas City Street Artists Petition HERE Online Version at: http://www.petitiononline.com/KC1stAmd/petition.html
- Robert A. Asher, Jr. and Bob A. Parks letters and blog: http://www.argumentmachine.com/threads/ 2007-Feb-15/114458/114458.html
- Another blog: http://forsythe4kc.com/2007/02/kc-says-no-to-street-performers.html
Open Public Letter to Kansas City Council and Citizens:
Common Sense and Panhandling
Freedom of Religion does not cease because the plate is passed during services and the minister receives a salary. Freedom of the Press does not cease because the publication has a price on its cover, or paid advertisements or the staff receives a salary. Freedom of Speech does not cease because the radio station, political candidate or individual asks for donations and receive a financial gain.
The US Supreme Court has stated:"The fact that the particular advertisement in appellant's newspaper had commercial aspects or reflected the advertiser's commercial interest did not negate all First Amendment guarantees. The State was not free of constitutional restraint because the advertisement involved sales or "solicitations." Murdock v Pennsylvania 3l9 US l05, ll0-lll (l943), or because appellant was paid for printing it, New York Times Co. v Sullivan, 376 US at 266; Smith v California, 36l US l47, l50 (l959) or because appellant's motive or the motive of the advertiser may have involved financial gain, Thomas v Collins 323 US 5l6, 53l (l945). The existence of commercial activity in itself is not justification for narrowing the protection of expression secured by the First Amendment, Ginzburg v United States 383 US 463, 474 (l966)."Bigelow v Virginia, 421 US 809, 8l8 (l974) http://laws.findlaw.com/us/421/809.html
"Soliciting financial support is undoubtedly subject to reasonable regulation but the latter must be undertaken with due regard for the reality that solicitation is characteristically intertwined with informative and perhaps persuasive speech seeking support for particular causes or for particular views on economic, political or social issues, and for the reality that without solicitation the flow of such information and advocacy would likely cease."Schaumburg v Citizens for Better Environment, 444 U.S. 620 (1979). http://laws.findlaw.com/us/444/620.html
The first newspapers were written in verse and sung and sold as broadsides including broadsides written by Ben Franklin. Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty sang political parodies at public demonstrations while seeking support for the American Revolution cause. Thomas Paine wrote and sold copies of Common Sense on the colonial city streets and donated funds from the sales to support the Revolutionary troops. The Kansas City Council would not only ban these activities, they would fine these Fathers of the American Revolution and send them to jail.
Jazz, the blues and tap dancing were all invented and crafted on the streets of New Orleans, Saint Louis, Chicago, Memphis and even Kansas City where many of the first great country blues artists practiced their trade. Irving Berlin to George Burns, Paul Simon to James Taylor, Blind Lemon Jefferson to Louis Armstrong, W.C. Fields to Robin Williams, Tracy Chapman to the Violent Femmes have all developed their talents and audiences on the street. The Kansas City Council would fine all these artists and send them to jail.
Music is protected under the First Amendment as a form of expression and communication. The US Supreme Court has stated:Music is one of the oldest forms of human expression. From Plato's discourse in the Republic to the totalitarian state in our own times, rulers have known its capacity to appeal to the intellect and to the emotions, and have censored musical compositions to serve the needs of the state. See 2 Dialogues of Plato, Republic, bk. 3, pp. 231, 245-248 (B. Jewett‚Äôs translation, 4th ed. 1953) ("Our poets must sing in another and a nobler strain"); Musical Freedom and Why Dictators Fear It, N.Y. Times, Aug. 23, 1981, section 2, p. 1, col. 5; Soviet Schizophrenia toward Stravinsky, N.Y. Times, June 26, 1982, section 1, p. 25, col. 2; Symphonic Voice from China Is Heard Again, N.Y. Times, Oct. 11, 1987, section 2, p. 27, col. 1. The Constitution prohibits any like attempts in our own legal order. Music, as a form of expression and communication, is protected under the First Amendment. In the case before us the performances apparently consisted of remarks by speakers, as well as rock music, but the case has been presented as one in which the constitutional challenge is to the city's regulation of the musical aspects of the concert; and, based on the principle we have stated, the city's guideline must meet the demands of the First Amendment.Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 790, 109 S.Ct. 2746, 2753, 105 L.Ed.2d 661 (1989) http://laws.findlaw.com/us/491/781.html
The Kansas City Council apparently does not agree with the Supreme Court that music and the arts are protected by the First Amendment and also thinks it does not have to comply with current legal definitions and standards. The Kansas City Council sees no "intrinsic value" in its panhandling definition to singing of the National Anthem, religious hymn or any other works of art.
The First Amendment does not say you have to be "good." The First Amendment lets the public make up its own mind what is "good" or what has "intrinsic value." The Kansas City Council asserts it has the power to make that subjective decision for every citizen. The Kansas City Council is not just abridging the First Amendment Rights of the artists who seek to share their views in a public forum, but First Amendment Rights of every citizen who chooses to assemble, listen and support these artists.
The Kansas City Council is also using exaggerated and nonexistent safety issues as an unscrupulous use of fear to justify these unconstitutional infringements. How many injuries and deaths were caused by street performances over the past decade compared to cars and trucks accidents? What is the arrest record numbers caused by street performances over the past decade compared to people arrested for being intoxicated? Will the Kansas City Council ban automobile travel and alcohol sales on weekdays from 5 pm to 7 am plus weekends because Kansas City's own public records will over whelming prove these activities are far more dangerous than street performing? Would the Kansas City Council ban the distribution of campaign literature because the merchant association had some public complaints on litter and claimed people might trip on discarded pamphlets?
The First Amendment is not a right to whisper. The Kansas City Council amplification ban essentially silences the artists where background noise levels from cars, trucks, buses, air conditioners, fans and planes regularly exceed 80 db and drowns out normal voice levels and many instruments. New Orleans street performers in Lionhart v. Foster 100 F.Supp.2d 383 (E.D.La., 1999) LEXIS 17059 won a federal case that declared sound level of 55db to be unconstitutional. The judge refereed to cases which gave amplification First Amendment protection and cited cases in Houston: Reeves v. McConn, 631 F.2d at 381 n. 1. The court noted "there is probably no more appropriate place for reasonably amplified speech than the streets and sidewalks of a downtown business district." District of Columbia Circuit struck down a federal regulation, which prohibited the playing of musical instruments at a level higher than "60 decibels measured on the A-weighted scale at 50 feet."(Doe, 968 F.2d at 89-90, the last case also included the playing of drums in front of the White House) New Orleans artists also received a preliminary injunction restraining order on May 31, 1996 when the city tried to impose a inaudible at 25 foot requirement Case 96-1869 (E.D.La.1996) ROSELYN LIONHART, et al versus CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, et al; 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18903 (December 13, 1996).
Electronic music is also protected as a First Amendment form of expression. In Casey v. City of Newport 308 F.3d 106. 110 (1st. Cir. 2002):"...amplifiers are also used to create new "messages" that cannot be conveyed without amplification equipment. Amplification enables performers to boost the relative volume of quiet instruments, such as the bass and the lower registers of the human voice, [*29] and to adjust the tonal qualities of voices and instruments without necessarily increasing the overall volume of the performance.
Much modern music simply cannot be performed without the use of amplifiers. Thus the ban on amplification has a direct and immediate effect on the expression at issue. The record therefore does not support the district court's conclusion that appellants "could still convey their . . . messages" without amplification. Without amplification, some of the messages are not conveyed at all."
Cars have both gasoline powered generators and batteries that provide electricity for very loud amplified sound systems. Kansas City Councilor Fairfield and the Kansas City Council would never ban all cars from these areas because of the abuse of a single person with a loud car radio. The public would never support it."A free society prefers to punish the few who abuse rights of speech after they break the law than to throttle them and all others beforehand."Southeastern Promotions, Ltd. v Conrad, 420 US 546, 559 (l974). http://laws.findlaw.com/us/420/546.html
The attempted ban of panhandling by the Kansas City Council is like reading a Victorian era Charles Dickens book when poverty was criminalized. I can only humbly suggest the Kansas City Councilors and Mayor resign and spend the next four years working as volunteers at a Kansas City homeless shelter or go to Mother Theresa's charity homes in India to gain full knowledge of the scope and complexity of the poverty issues involved.
The best way to expose the hypocrisy of the proposed ORDINANCE NO. 070180 is to insert the author's names and occupations as the subject to be prohibited. The Kansas City Council would never ban their own rights to speak through amplification and "panhandle" for campaign contributions between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday, and prohibiting, in areas commonly known as the Country Club Plaza, Westport Shopping District, South Loop Area of the Downtown, and the Zona Rosa Shopping District; and providing for a penalty of a fine of $500.00 and/or imprisonment for not more than six months.
I assert not only would the document never have been written and it would also never have been brought to a public hearing for consideration. It is so much easier to trample on the rights of the poor and powerless. The arrogance of power and money by the Kansas City Council is on national display.
Stephen H. Baird
Street Arts and Buskers Advocates
Community Arts Advocates, Inc., PO Box 300112, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-0030
Telephone: 617-522-3407 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.communityartsadvocates.org
Street Arts and Buskers Advocates: Celebrating self-expression as a basic human right essential for the healthy growth of youth, individuals and communities
ORDINANCE NO. 070180
Enacting a new section 50-8.5, Code of Ordinances, entitled Prohibitions in special areas prohibiting the use of sound amplification generated by gas-powered generators or batteries larger than nine volts, prohibiting panhandling between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday, and prohibiting panhandling within five feet of any vehicular traffic lane, in areas commonly known as the Country Club Plaza, Westport Shopping District, South Loop Area of the Downtown, and the Zona Rosa Shopping District; and providing for a penalty of a fine of $500.00 and/or imprisonment for not more than six months.
WHEREAS, the Country Club Plaza is a historic section of the City of Kansas City, Missouri, that is a destination for residents and visitors to the City. The Country Club Plaza attracts millions of visitors each year. The hotels, restaurants and shopping opportunities in the Country Club Plaza provide significant tax revenue for the City of Kansas City and are a part of its economic base. The vitality of the Country Club Plaza is integral to the continued economic success of the City of Kansas City, Missouri.
WHEREAS, the Westport Shopping District is a historic section of the City of Kansas City, Missouri that is a destination for residents and visitors to the City. The vitality of the Westport Shopping District is integral to the continued economic success of the City of Kansas City, Missouri.
WHEREAS, the City of Kansas City, Missouri has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the South Loop entertainment district, the Sprint Center arena and the Convention Center in downtown Kansas City. Given the Citys investment, the prosperity of this area of downtown is integral to the continued economic success of the City of Kansas City, Missouri.
WHERAS, the Zona Rosa Shopping District is a destination for residents and visitors to the City. The vitality of the Zona Rosa Shopping District is integral to the continued economic success of the City of Kansas City, Missouri.
WHEREAS, the City of Kansas City, Missouri has a significant interest in promoting the aesthetics of the Country Club Plaza, Westport Shopping District, South Loop and Zona Rosa Shopping District as a tourist attractions, eliminating nuisance activity therein, and providing citizens with a safe, pleasant environment in which to enjoy the benefits of the Country Club Plaza Westport Shopping District, South Loop and Zona Rosa Shopping District.
WHEREAS, the proliferation of panhandlers within the Country Club Plaza Area, Westport Shopping District, South Loop and Zona Rosa Shopping District is detrimental to the aesthetics of each area, creates a nuisance therein, and prevents citizens from enjoying a safe, pleasant environment.
WHEREAS, the use of gas and battery powered sound amplification devices on crowded public sidewalks within the Country Club Plaza, Westport Shopping District, South Loop and Zona Rosa Shopping District presents a significant public health and safety issue. NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:
Section 1. That a new section 50-8.5, Code of Ordinances, entitled Prohibitions in special areas is enacted to read as follows:
Sec. 50-8.5. Prohibitions in special areas.
(a) Country Club Plaza Area, Westport Shopping District Area, South Loop Area and Zona Rosa Shopping District Area.
(1) Country Club Plaza Area. The area shown on Exhibit A attached hereto and generally described as the area between 46th Terrace on the north, J.C. Nichols Parkway on the east, Ward Parkway on the south and Jefferson on the east, shall be known as the Country Club Plaza Area. The Country Club Plaza Area includes the public areas on both sides of the named boundaries.
(2) Westport Shopping District Area. The area shown on Exhibit B attached hereto and generally described as the area between 39 th Street on the north, Main Street on the east, Westport Road to Pennsylvania Avenue to 40 th Street on the South and Southwest Trafficway on the West, shall be known as the Westport Shopping District Area. The Westport Shopping District Area includes the public areas on both sides of the named boundaries.
(3) South Loop Area. The area shown on Exhibit C attached hereto and generally described as the area between 12 th Street on the north, Oak Street on the east, Truman Road on the south and Wyandotte Street on the East, shall be known as the South Loop Area. The South Loop Area includes the public areas on both sides of the named boundaries.
(4) Zona Rosa Shopping District Area. The area shown on Exhibit D attached hereto and generally described as the area between Missouri Highway 152 on the north, Interstate 29 on the east, to Barry Road, to Northwest Prairie View Road, to Northwest 86 th Terrace and to North Congress Avenue on the west, shall be known as the Zona Rosa Shopping District Area. The Zona Rosa Shopping District Area includes the public areas on both sides of the named boundaries.
(b) Sound amplification devices. No person shall use any gas powered device, or any battery powered device using batteries larger than 9 volts, amplifying speech or sound, in or upon any public street, sidewalk, alley, park or other public place within the Country Club Plaza Area, Westport Shopping District Area, South Loop Area, or Zona Rosa Shopping District Area.
(1) As used in this section, panhandling means any solicitation made in person upon any public street, sidewalk, alley, park or other public place, in which a person requests an immediate donation of money or other gratuity from another person, and includes but is not limited to seeking donations:
(i)By vocal appeal or for music, singing, or other street performance; and,
(ii) Where the person being solicited receives an item of little or no monetary value in exchange for a donation, under circumstances where a reasonable person would understand that the transaction is in substance a donation.
(2) It shall be unlawful to engage in an act of panhandling during the hours of 5:00 pm to 7:00 am, Monday through Friday, or at any time on Saturday or Sunday, within the Country Club Plaza Area, Westport Shopping District Area, South Loop Area, or Zona Rosa Shopping District Area.
(3) It shall be unlawful to engage in an act of panhandling, at any time, from the designated median or within five (5) feet of any vehicular traffic lane of any boulevard, parkway, or trafficway, within the Country Club Plaza Area, Westport Shopping District Area, South Loop Area, or Zona Rosa Shopping District Area.
(d) Penalty. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall, upon being found guilty thereof, be punished by a fine of not less than $500.00 or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Assistant City Attorney
Kansas City Street Artists Petition
JPEG Version HERE PDF Version HERE Online Version at: http://www.petitiononline.com/KC1stAmd/petition.html
Public performances and art on sidewalks, plazas and parks are an important cultural asset to Kansas City and the community, and most importantly are an historic expression of constitutional First Amendment Rights
The Kansas City Council is considering a new ordinance with discriminatory and unreasonable new restrictions on street artists.
This unconstitutional proposed new ordinance will:
• Greatly limit locations and hours of expression including evenings after 5 PM and weekends
• Totally eliminate the public's right to financially support First Amendment expression
• Ban most, even modest amplification
We, the undersigned, support the tradition of diverse artistic expression in public spaces. We petition the Kansas City Council to reject this unconstitutional proposed ordinance.
Signature Name Address Email
The Street Arts and Buskers Advocates will collect and send the petitions to Kansas City Mayor's Office, Kansas City City Council's Office,
Attorney General's Civil Rights Office, national, state and local media outlets, internet web site, as well as used in public forums.
Street Arts and Buskers Advocates, PO Box 300112, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-0030 Telephone: 617-522-3407
Email: email@example.com Web site: http://communityartsadvocates.org/saakansascity.html
Copyright © 1999-2021 by Stephen Baird