Busker Can Keep Playing D.C. Metro Stops for Now
(CN) - A musician who performs for tips at Washington, D.C. Metro stations no longer need sing the blues over being chased away from his venues of choice by police.
In response to the lawsuit filed by Alex W. Young on July 16, U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell issued preliminary injunction that will allow buskers to perform on Metro property while the case is pending.
Young, 27, of Annandale, Virginia sued the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, arguing its prohibition on "commercial activity" on its property, violates his First Amendment rights to speech and free expression.
Young says he had been engaged in performing for tips for more than a year at stations in Arlington, West Falls and Fairfax, Va., when, in October 2013, he was approached by a transit police office and told to stop playing his guitar.
Young says he always positioned himself a respectful distance from escalators, stairs, kiosks and fare card machines, and would commence to perform with his guitar case open in front of him. Despite believing he was within his rights to play, he says he complied with the officer's request and left the station.
A month later, Young says, he was performing on the sidewalk outside another Metro station when he was approached by another officer who said he'd received a panhandling complaint. This officer, Young said, threatened him for arrest if he did not leave.
Young says he then called transit police headquarters to inquire about the legality of his busking near WMATA stations. During this conversation, Young says he was advised that his performing was allowed, but that playing music for tips is "prohibited panhandling."
"Young seeks to return immediately to the WMATA Metro stations where he has previously busked and resume his busking activity,, more than 15 feet from any escalator, stairwell, faregate, mezzanine gate, kiosk, or fair machine, and without blocking ingress or egress," the musician's lawsuit says.
He is seeking to have the WMATA regulation declared unconstitutional and to have the authority enjoined from enforcing it.
Young is represented by Jeffrey L Light of Washington, D.C.
WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel declined to comment on the case. He told the Washington Post the authority is looking forward to a trial on the merits of the case.