Busker’s Arrest In Baltimore Raises OC Issues

OCEAN CITY — A little more than a week after winning a preliminary injunction allowing him to practice his art in most areas on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, street performer Mark Chase tested the limits of the court’s ruling at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and soon found himself behind bars.

On Sept. 9, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of street performer Mark Chase on certain aspects of his civil suit filed against the town of Ocean City in June, issuing preliminary injunctions allowing him and other buskers to practice their arts and sell their wares on the Boardwalk and reversing the section of the newly adopted ordinance requiring registration for street performers. The judge, however, upheld a section of the ordinance prohibiting street performers on North Division Street citing safety reasons.

Perhaps buoyed by victory on the preliminary injunctions in the Ocean City case, Chase set up shop last Sunday afternoon at the Inner Harbor in the area of Light and Pratt streets, and when he was told he could not practice his art in the area without a permit, he was asked by Baltimore Police to leave. However, he did not comply and was arrested on a trespassing charge.

Chase said yesterday he was merely evoking his First Amendment right to free expression in a public place.

“The cop told me he wasn’t interested in my constitutional rights, he was only enforcing the law, which I thought was interesting,” he said. “I’m the kind of person who is not afraid to get arrested to protect my constitutional rights. I’m not going to run away with my tail between my legs.”

With the ruling on the preliminary injunction on Chase’s Ocean City case two weeks ago, a federal judge agreed the Ocean City Boardwalk is by all definitions a public place and therefore artists and street vendors are allowed to practice their arts without impediment and without pre-registering. Chase said yesterday the same principles should apply in Baltimore although the private-public issue is less clear.

“It’s pretty much identical to the issue in Ocean City, although it’s often unclear which areas are considered private property and which are considered public,” he said. “No one seems to know for certain which areas are and which aren’t in and around the Inner Harbor, which is why I ultimately got arrested for trespassing. When I explained to the cops I had just won a preliminary injunction against Ocean City, they didn’t want to hear it and I was arrested.”

Ocean City Solicitor Guy Ayres said this week there are obvious parallels between the two cases, although he wasn’t certain if Chase had set up on public or private property at the Inner Harbor.

“The issues are pretty much identical,” he said. “It’s a little more confusing up there because some areas are considered private property. If he was on private property, I don’t think the judge’s ruling on the Ocean City case would be binding. I really can’t believe it’s an arrestable offense up there. Here, it would just be a civil citation.”

Ayres said there was likely no coincidence between the timing of the judge’s ruling on the preliminary injunction in the Ocean City case and Chase’s arrest in Baltimore.

“I guess he’s trying to expand his 15 minutes of fame into 30 minutes,” he said.

However, Chase said yesterday he did not set up shop at the Inner Harbor with the intent of flaunting the judge’s recent ruling, nor did he intend to get arrested to make a point.

“Look, I’m not trying to make waves, I just want to paint, and I want to exercise my constitutional right to do so,” he said. “The judge’s ruling makes it clear I have the right to freedom of expression in a public place, but I guess freedom is never free. There always seems to be a price to pay.”

3 comments on “Busker’s Arrest In Baltimore Raises OC Issues

  1. Good on Mr. Chase for standing up for not only the First Amendment rights of all Citizens but also our Fourteenth Amendment rights as well. Artists have a First Amendment RIGHT to perform, display and to sell their Art on traditional public forums and that right is not subject to licensing schemes by City Governments. Artists are NOT commercial vendors, even when they sell their First Amendment protected Art for profit! That is “well settled” by the U.S. Supreme Court. I should know….I hold two winning rulings from the Federal Courts dealing with exactly the same questions of Constitutional Law. White vs. City of Reno, NV., U.S. Fed. Dist. Court for Nevada, (2003) and White vs. City of Sparks, NV., Fed. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, (2007).
    This case has absolutely NOTHING to do with illegal aliens and the government paying for their education!!!
    This case has everything to do with the Conservative Right Wing in this country doing their best to commercialize the Arts and Artists across the country to place the most powerful and oldest form of human expression under Government controls and licensing schemes. When they label Artists as “commercial vendors” they proceed to run every Artist out of every public park and off of every public forum. Then they issue permits for special interest groups to hold festivals and charge Artists hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to show and sell their art to the public.
    Some thing all people should stop and think about. When Cities are allowed to commercialize Artists and place them under licenses…those Cities have just denied all their Children under the age of 18 the ability to participate in the Arts in their City! Kids can’t get licenses because they are under age. Those Cities also destroy opportunities for countless Senior Citizens who can not afford the license fees or are just put off from jumping over barriers put in front of them by City Hall.
    The Federal Courts have long held that fine Art is purely expressive, having no functional or utilitarian value beyond the message they convey. As such the fine Arts reach the FULL Protection of the First Amendment and the right to sell fully protected material is also protected by the First Amendment.
    Here is a link to the ruling by the 9th Circuit Court on these matters and I think everyone could learn something by reading it.
    Link: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-9th-circuit/1300114.html
    If you are interested in learning more you should also look up Bery v. New York City, 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, (1996)
    Artist fall into the same category as non-profit, religious and political groups who are allowed to sell their First Amendment protected material on traditional public forums WITHOUT an license from the City. For a City to allow those groups to sell without a license and yet force an Artist like Mr. Chase to obtain a license is also a violation of his 14th Amendment right to equal protection under law. See Perry vs. L.A.P.D., 9th Cir. Ct. Appls. I hope Mr. Chase reads this comment and learns that he has more than the charge of First Amendment violations against him to bring into Federal Court.
    The only thing those Verminiforous Pig Nuts in government understand is $ and the Federal Courts ruling against them. I encourage more Artists to stand up for your Rights and help to SAVE the Arts in this country from extinction by those conservatives who want to commercialize Artists for the exploitation of their talents.
    Good on Ya Mr. Chase, feel free to contact me any time about these matters you are confronting.

  2. Maybe Chase should claim to be an illegal alien living in Maryland and then the state will pay for him to go to college and get an art degree and he can paint all he wants.

    maryland is really going in a bad direction man….i have zero doubt that the cop said exactly what Chase said he said about his constitutional rights. and to arrest a legal citizen for performing a legal act. yet at the same time are law makers are paying people who are HERE ILLEGALLY to go to college!!!!

  3. This guy is wrong when i asked about a painting he said 30.00 it would cost me.He should of said you can tip me.The stores on boards pay alot of rent for 4 months of season he should not be permitted to sell products art but be tipped only.This is not fare play for store owners he gets free rent.WRONG!

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