Revamped ordinance for street performers?

streetperformersAfter a summer of discourse, street performers might be legally heading back to the streets.

Aldermen on the city’s Legislative Matters Committee will meet tomorrow to possibly replace an ordinance that asks street performers to have a permit.

Some aldermen are concerned that this decades-old law violates the First Amendment. Rebekah Gerwitz, for one, said in August that she has “considerable concerns” in regards to the law and what it means to free speech.

This wasn’t an issue until last summer, when police started enforcing the controversial ordinance. Before that, street artists or buskers would perform freely throughout Somerville without being bothered. img_9866Alderman at large William White, Jr. is concerned about the bureaucracy that would come with the law.

“Who’s going to be hired to do this? It could create more of a problem than what we’re trying to remedy,” he said.

There is also a concern about street performers battling for space. Without permits, there would be nothing to regulate who gets to perform where. Gerwitz hopes the problem will solve itself.

“When two or three people show up on a bus at the same time and want a seat, people sit in the order in which they get on the bus,” she said. “The government doesn’t say who gets to sit.”

However, street performers should be advised that, even if the ordinance is replaced, they are still expected to be on their best behavior. City Solicitor Frank Wright said there are precedents that allow police to handle troublesome performers.

The meeting will be held on April 11 at 7 p.m. Click here for the amended ordinance. –Lucas Parolin

 

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