by Brandon Summers | April 25, 2022
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has reached a settlement with violinist/street performer Brandon Summers following a civil lawsuit filed in September 2020. The lawsuit stems from an arrest in September 2018 where Summers was taken into custody after playing his violin on a Las Vegas Strip pedestrian bridge. Bodycam footage released by LVMPD via a public records request revealed that the arrest took place minutes after Summers had the initial encounter with police sergeant Mark Cirkosz #6270. In one of the eight bodycam videos, Cirkosz remarks “he’s been recording so I’m going to impound his phone and do all that”. It is plain that Cirkosz’s decision to arrest Summers and declare his cellphone (and violin, etc.) evidence was an act of retaliation. Summers was charged with a misdemeanor— obstructive use of sidewalk, but it was subsequently dismissed. Summers received his property back months later in December 2018.
At Monday’s regularly scheduled LVMPD Fiscal Affairs Committee meeting, Brandon Summers’s settlement in the amount of $100,000 appears on the agenda. A public records request revealed that LVMPD was billed $12,000 by law firm Marquis Aurbach Coffing to provide legal defense. Also on the list of settlements is a $150,000 settlement issued to the Las Vegas Review-Journal for violating state laws relating to public records; and it’s possible that a $250,000 settlement may be on the way for the newspaper. That matter is set to be approved by the board.
UPDATE: the $250,000 settlement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal was approved
September 2018 is not the first time Brandon Summers has been in handcuffs while street performing. In his lawsuit, filed by civil rights attorney Maggie McLetchie, it states that Mr. Summers has repeatedly been harassed by Metro officers for doing nothing more than playing his violin in public… Upon information and belief, Defendant Metro is aware of and has either explicitly or implicitly condoned or created a policy and practice of allowing Metro officers to enforce Clark County Code (“Clark County Code” or “CCC”) § 16.11.090 arbitrarily and/or intentionally to chill constitutionally protected street performances in and around the Las Vegas Resort District.
Summers was first arrested in 2013 in another incident related to street performing; and his citations continued to mount through 2019. He was not alone, as other performers endured similar issues. Caricature artist Larime Taylor sued Metro in 2019 and received a $150,00 settlement in 2021. Taylor was also represented by civil rights attorney Maggie McLetchie.
“It was beyond frustrating — it was demoralizing, it was degrading, it was dehumanizing,” Taylor said when recalling how Metropolitan Police Department officers gave him citations while he performed “live art” in front of the Bellagio fountains.
Taylor has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a disease that limits the use of his arms and legs. When he performed, he drew with a pencil, pen or marker in his mouth, according to the 2019 lawsuit filed in federal court. – Las Vegas Review-Journal
Despite the lawsuits and settlements, it doesn’t appear that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has changed its tune. Street performers continue to report harassment, tickets, and arrests. And just around the corner, the Clark County Board of County Commissioners is set to turn pedestrian bridges into crosswalks— making bridges off-limits for performing. The ordinance to amend Ch 16 of the County Code could be adopted on May 3, 2022.