by Brandon Summers | June 17, 2021
On June 16, 2021, Not Leaving Las Vegas posted a live stream in response to a recent video uploaded by singer, guitarist and street performer William. In William’s video, Las Vegas police officer Supreet Kaur #16227 tells William “we can either keep it moving or we can go to jail”. Her ultimatum instructs William to vacate the bridge or else face arrest for storage of materials, obstructing a public right of way, and conducting business without a license— criminal misdemeanors under Clark County municipal code. William’s video captures the interaction some time after three LVMPD officers make contact, so it’s impossible to know what happened prior to that moment; but I believe it’s safe to assume that he was performing in a manner similar to the video below (uploaded June 10, 2021). You can see from this video that all of William’s equipment and personal belongings are off on the ground and on his person. While that is NOT a prerequisite for lawful public performance (outlined in Clark County municode chapter 16.11), performers have resorted to this manner of performance to avoid citations from police.
Officer Kaur: You’re accepting donations up here.
William: You’re allowed to accept donations.
Officer Kaur: No! You’re not!
One can only imagine William’s frustrations considering he made major adjustments to his busking setup following his arrest in mid-January. Prior to that arrest, where his guitar and amplifier were impounded as evidence, he performed with his instrument case on the ground, serving as a place to collect donations. The case was dismissed in February by Judge Eric Goodman.
Over the years, LVMPD has come down hard on street performers (musicians especially) and resorted to questionable, zero-tolerance enforcement of 16.11.070 “obstructive use of public sidewalk”. The consensus among police (in contrast to the language of county code 16.11 and spirit of the 2010 ACLU-LVMPD MOU) is that performers have to “keep walking at all times”; and that they can’t have anything on the ground. Performers who continue to perform on The Strip’s pedestrian bridges have lugged their amplifiers and tip jars on their person for hours on end to mitigate run-ins with law enforcement, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.
16.11.070 – Storing and unloading materials on public sidewalks.
(a) No equipment, materials, parcels, containers, packages, bundles or other property may be stored, placed or abandoned in or on the public sidewalk. This provision shall not apply to materials or property held or stored in a carry bag or pack which is actually carried by a pedestrian or items such as a musical instrument case or a backpack which is temporarily placed next to a street performer for that street performer’s use unless said musical instrument case or backpack actually obstructs the sidewalk in violation of this chapter;
Brandon Summers is a Las Vegas native, violinist, street performer, and advocate for spontaneous, unlicensed performance in public spaces. Summers has been busking for over ten years and has performed for Ciroc, Hudson Jeans, Netflix, JBL-Harman and many more. He is a graduate of Fort Valley State University where he majored in mathematics and holds BA in liberal studies.