Celebrating self-expression as a basic human right essential for the

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Stephen H. Baird, Founder and Executive Director

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Santa Fe City Council proposes new time restrictions on Busking February 2014

Santa Cruz begins crackdown on street performers February 2014

New Orleans City Council considers new Noise Ordinance that would reduce sound level to 60 dB that would ban music in public spaces Dec 2013 then withdraw ordinance January 16, 2014

Two Performers with support from ACLU of Eastern Missouri  Challenge the Audition System, High Permit Fees and Performance Location Restrictions in Saint Louis, MO May 2013

New York City Curtails Street Performers and Street Artists in City Parks 2010-2011

Arrest and legal actions of Chris Drew for selling art on streets of Chicago December 2009. ACLU challenges Illinois eavesdropping act - Lawsuit cites cases of people charged with breaking the law for making audio recordings of police in action August 2010

Spokane Legal Battle Won January 11, 2010 and November 24, 2008

Ninth Circuit Appeals Federal Court Case won 8-3 Berger vs. Seattle June 24, 2009

Glen Hansard, a former Dublin busker, with singer Marketa Irglova win the 2008 Oscar and Grammy for the best song Falling Slowly

Wilmington, North Carolina, Law and Enforcement Practices Ruled Unconstitutional November 3, 2008

Boston Crack Down on Street Performers and Artists August 2008

MBTA-Radio Threatens Subway Performances Oct 2007

Jakarta, Indonesia bans donations to buskers September 2007

Kansas City Council attempts to ban street performances February 2007

The History and Cultural Impact

of Street Performing in America

by Stephen Baird © Stephen Baird 2014


The following little historical references are just a glimpse of the depth and breadth of the creative spirit of the human race that blossoms on the street corners, market places, subway platforms and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.


Santa Fe, New Mexico

UPDATE February 2014
   The Public Safety Committee will meet today, feb. 18, at 4p in city council chambers. next month, march 26, public comment will be accepted by anyone interested in the looming buskers restriction ordinance, sponsored by outgoing councilor chris calvert.
  the ordinance proposes restricting buskers to only working until 8pm. of course, this is absurd. other people working in the entertainment industry (bartenders, waiters & waitresses, cabaret singers, d.j.'s, dance bands, etc.) could not earn a living under these restrictions, and neither can, nor should, buskers.
   kansas city, austin, albuquerque and taos are also the scene of low-level to dramatic harassment of buskers. this is nothing new -- in the days of babylon, street performers tongues were sometimes torn out if they got out of line.
   i propose that anyone interested send me a reply. i am calling for buskers in sta. fe to band together, as we did 8 years ago, which resulted in our ability to work in this our hometown 7 years ago this summer.
    it took work to obtain these rights, and it will take some work to protect, maintain and expand them.
   before i get too into the details -- some of you are no longer living here, some of you might have too much muck in your inbox, some are no longer buskers, but have fallen .... i mean, been elevated, to playing in the clubs and pubs.
   if you do not wish to be on this mailing list, or involved with SantaFeBuskersAlliance, then please let me know and i will delete you from this list. if yo are interested, either as a busker, a busker lover, or supporter/friend/family member, then also please let me know.
   i am starting this e-mail account with two groups: SFBA (members, more actively interested or involved)& Buskers & BuskerLovers (a larger group who wish us well and want to be informed, and may even come out for us on occasion, but who don't busk and don't want to be involved in the grimy details.
  please let me know if you want to be in either of those groups, or if you'd prefer no be deleted from my eddresses altogether. also please fwd this to any well-wishers, interested people, or buskers/buskerlovers.
  then i'll write further, and we can hold a gathering, discuss strategy.
  peace, love, revolution y home-made soup,
       j. michael combs  <santafebuskersalliance@gmail.com>

August 10, 2006

Buskers win battle to perform in Santa Fe with support of New Mexico ACLU



Petition to Santa Fe City Council

"How quiet the streets are. Are there no itinerant bands, no wind or stringed instruments? No, not one. By day there are no Punches, Fantoccini, dancing dogs, jugglers, conjurers, orchestras, or even barrel-organs? No, not one."

--- Charles Dickens, visiting America in1841.

Buskers: Those who perform in public places for tips, such as mimes, musicians, puppeteers, jugglers, clowns, etc.


In 1833, The Santa Fe City Council met to regulate and license buskers. In Santa Fe as in other parts of the Spanish Empire and Mexican Republic, public performances were common. The Territorial Period also saw organ grinders, dancing bears & monkeys, acrobats and musicians, both local and traveling through. The 20th Century has seen less busking in Santa Fe, though it has persisted in other parts of the former Spanish Empire and its Borderlands.

In the last 35 years, law enforcement and downtown merchants have resisted a resurgence of busking in Santa Fe. In 1985, Michael Combs petitioned City Council, requesting permission to perform without harassment on Santa Feís sidewalks, to no avail.


The Santa Fe Buskers Alliance was formed in 2005 to secure and protect the rights of buskers. Research shows that in dozens of American Cities, Courts have upheld street performing as a protected First Amendment right. The New Mexico Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has agreed to work with SFBA. We wrote a letter to then-City Attorney Anne Lovely in February 2006 (see attached letter). Because of the recent City elections, we have waited until now to present our petition, in spite of continued harassment by local law enforcement.





Over the past twenty years, American Courts have ruled in dozens of cases that Cities can regulate, and license busking, but they cannot prohibit it. Performance and the receiving of tips is a form of speech protected under our State and Federal Constitutions as well as under the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights. In some legal cases where the city has chosen to fight, awards and legal costs have mounted over $100,000.00.


1. Santa Fe prides itself and markets itself on its orientation to the arts and culture. Busking is another wonderful artistic, cultural outlet and phenomenon that is an integral part of many great cities.

2. Busking will enliven the streets of downtown Santa Fe and help draw locals and tourists alike to the downtown area. This builds community.

3. Local musicians benefit from an additional source of income, and Santa Fe benefits in turn by having a better music scene.


1. Persons wishing to busk in Santa Fe must have in their possession a license from the City of Santa Fe, which shall cost $25.00 for one year. At the time of receiving a license, performers shall show I.D. and agree to abide by these Regulations and the Buskers Code of Conduct. The license must be displayed when performing. At least one person among a group of buskers must have a license when performing.

2. The Portal of the Palace of the Governors will be off limits to busking when vendors are present, and busking will be off limits withiní 100 ft of the Cathedral of St. Francis.

3. Buskers may perform at any public location in Santa. Fe provided they do not block the entrance to any residence or business during the hours that business is open, and that the sidewalks are passable. Buskers must stay at least 150 ft from another busker.

4. Buskers are to remain no longer than 2 hours at any one location and may not return to that location for another 2 hours.

5. Buskers shall respect all City Noise Ordnances. In addition, busking hours are to be no earlier that 8 a.m., no later than 11pm Sunday through Thursday, and no later than 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

6. Buskers agree to and sign the Buskers Code of Conduct.


1. Understand that your behavior reflects on all buskers. Bad behavior on one personís part can give us all a bad reputation. Dress well. Behave well. No aggressive tip soliciting.

2. If all good locations are occupied, buskers are to yield up a location to another busker wishing to perform there one hour after being informed of the new buskerís desire to use that location.

3. If you have a large group or draw a large crowd, find a location where you are not blocking the sidewalk or otherwise causing problems.

4. If you play a particularly loud instrument (banjo or accordion for example) understand your sonic footprint is pretty large and you should perhaps allow more than the requisite 150 ft between you and another busker

Check out the Albuquerque Journal North, Monday, Feb. 6, 2006. We're on front page. Thanks, Polly& Katherine & Ben; great work. Que Vive la revolucion! Que Vive la Gente! Arriba el Pueblo! ...........mc

Street Musicians Have Formed Buskers Alliance to Get Law Changed: In a town touted as the City Different, street musicians might seem like a natural. But Santa Fe has an anti-solicitation ordinance that "buskers" maintain is used to keep them from plying their trade on downtown sidewalks. (Monday, February 6, 2006)


ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL, 7777 Jefferson Street NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109-4360 (505) 823-3800 Northern Bureau, 328 Galisteo, Santa Fe, N.M., 87501 (505) 988-8881

Newsletter # 1 January 2006

The Buskers Alliance had our inaugural meeting Dec. 13, 2005 in Sta. Fe at a memberís home, with four 2-legged buskers in attendance. We reviewed the current situation, to wit:

that street performers in Santa Fe are currently and have been for at least 20 years subject to illegal, intermittent harassment while trying to lawfully and peaceably ply their trade, and are thereby suffering financial hardship, social alienation, unemployment with all its attendant evils; their families are suffering diminished support, and anxiety and ruin stare them in the face.

Inspired by the examples of many courageous buskers around our nation, across the globe, and across the ages, we have determined that our cause is just and that the Constitution of our country does, in fact, guarantee us the right to play our music on these streets of our home city, and weíve seen that the courts do invariable uphold that right whenever implored to do so.

Confident, then, and determined to support each other, we delegated two of our members to draft a set of Guidelines for Performers that will be presented to the membership at the next monthly meeting for approval and modification. The source materials we will use for this are our own experiences busking on the streets of Sta. Fe and many other cities, copies of street performers regulations we have from Pike's Market, and various other cities, and sample regs offered at a website for buskers support.

We have set up an E-mail address: santafebuskers@yahoo.com

Our next meeting will be January 17.@ 7pm. Call 438-6636 for mtg. info. We may go busk on San Francisco St. the day before, sort of a group demonstration. If the heat makes a showing, we intend to peacefully withdraw K& desist.

One of our members is also a dues-paying, card-carrying member of that nest of vipers, the A.C.L.U. We hope that we will get our guidelines approved by the downtown merchants, the city attorney, the chief of police, and the city council WITHOUT any resort to the courts.

If you or a friend wish to receive this newsletter, please e-mail us. If you can make a donation to help printing, stamps, please jej-mail us & weíll set it up. If you have any ideas, energy to contribute, contacts, goodwill, send it to us.

Jerry Faires composed a beautiful poem about street musicians; it is attatched.

Michael Combs will perform @ Upper Crust Pizza, Friday the 13th, 6-9pm.



London, Paris, Buenos Aires, New Orleans or Rome

San Juan, San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Carcason

Nairobi, Copenhagen, Vancouver, Old Hong Kong,

All hear the gift of music from the buskerís tune and song


In parks on corners on subways, on concrete or polished floors

The music flows on freely from the sidewalk troubadors

In every village, country, continent, like a vast great tapestry

The tradition lives in the gift it gives: Music played for free.


Some pass straight by and scarcely hear, donít think it worth the mention

Others stand a great long time in silent rapt attention

Some join in, some shake their heads, most hesitate awhile

Then take away to their busy day a tiny, tuneful smile


And in the basket, tin, or instrument case drop the currency of the nation

To give back to the givers some small token of their appreciation

Itís part of human nature, the culture of the song

Itís the drum within the breast, the heartbeat deep and strong

So we build the mighty concert halls and gladly bear the cost

To support great musicians so great music wonít be lost

But there never was a symphony whose music was more sweetjerr

Than the music given freely by the player on the street

And as important as the Opera House, the libretto and the scores

Is the music played straight from the heart of the sidewalk troubadors.


Jerry Faires

Santa. Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A.


Copyright, used by permission, mailto:jerry@jerryfaires.com http:/jerryfaires.com



Santa Fe Street Musicians; MLK Direct Action & Invitation to January's Meeting


Santa Fe Buskers' Alliance is getting encouraging assistance from American Civil Liberties Union. Some of their Lawyer-members are planning to attend our next monthly meeting. Our objective is to secure lasting protection from decades-long illegal harrasment of street performers by Santa Fe Police.

January's newsletter will come out in a week, after our monthly meeting and direct action.If you did not receive December's or jerry Faires' fantastic ballad of Street Musicians ( just waiting for someone to add the music) then ask & we'll send it.

Direct action planned in observance of Martin Luther King Day: Monday, January 16, 2:30p.m. meet at corner Burro Alley & San Francisco St, play music up SFO St. to Pla za corner, back down to Burro, 1 hour. Meet at 2:00p.m. at unemployment office on De Vargas St. to leave vehicles & load instruments. This will be non-confrontational; if police show up, we will dialog in a friendly manner. We may not busk, i.e. open cases for tips, but rather just make a showing. info> 438-6636

January meeting info: Tue, 1/17, 7:00 p.m.; @ michael combs' house, 2816 (left) La Junta, 1 bl. south or west from Camino Carlos Rey & Siringo, 438-6636. All are welcome. We will hear from ACLU lawyers & also hear progress on draft of proposed street performers' guidelines; input welcome.

For Media info: M. combs @ 438-6636

Note new e-mail adress: santafebuskers@yahoo.com

Que Vive La Revolucion! Power to the People!

Santa Fe Buskers' Alliance.



I received this email letter from Michael Combs in November 2005. The Santa Fe Buskers Alliance was formed in December and started monthly meetings and newsletter (copy below) Contact: Email santafebuskers@yahoo.com Telephone: 438-6636

I am a street performer who is inspired by your example and am preparing to legally challenge the City of Santa Fe for it's prolonged illegal harrassment of street performers. I've performered here off & on since 1985, have worked as a street performer in many No. American cities, and now my son is also busking, and being harrassed. I would appreciate any advice, links. Am intending to form a guild first, have a a member of ACLU as charter member (he's a novice musician, not a busker,) nd will proceed and keep you posted as events develop. Much inspired and encouraged by yousens example. I do well when allowed to work, but the door to my abundance has been slammed shut in my face, and my work is criminalized. All the high-sounding proclamations and documents and school textbooks aint worth the paper they was printed on if they don't translate into justice at the level of the street. I'll send you a few $$$ when I'm able, to support your website. Thanx, Michael Combs



My response:

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