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Busking in the USA

Busking is legally considered as a form of free speech


Under Title 18 Section 241 of United States Code "Conspiracy against rights"...
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or

If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
Subsequently, Title 18 Section 242, defined as "Deprivation of rights under color of law" reads as...
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
Unfortunately, Most law enforcement officers in the US are not aware of this. And some frequently arrest buskers on some made up crime or non-existent ordinance. But so long as you record police encounters, you can make sure that you are left alone, or (in the worst case) use the video as evidence in your trial.

Being armed with copies of your local laws/ordinances can help. I always keep a copy in my guitar case and I have a couple of Information Cards that explains the law regarding busking, and has court cases that ruled on busking.

As long as you keep yourself calm and your thoughts collected during an encounter with the police, things will go smoothly.
And if you ever come across an officer who is completely ignorant of the laws, request to speak with his superior. The superior can help in some cases, but if you are arrested, request an attorney right away! They can assist you (or screw you) in dealing with the unlawful arrest that you've ended up in.

Any and all statues in US code can be found here: https://www.law.cornell.edu
Comments
  • Busking in Chattanooga, Tn. is great. I do it almost every weekend, weather permitting. I like the downtown area, up and down Frazier St., and Market St. I have never had any trouble with law enforcement. In fact, sometimes they will pull up and listen for a few minutes.
  • Another great weekend of Busking on Chattanooga, Tn.This was at the walnut St. Bridge (Downtown side)

    https://youtu.be/7BZ4FlmOODE
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