Street performers, ACLU stall “crosswalk” ordinance

by Brandon Summers | May 4, 2022

In the past, ordinances affecting Las Vegas street performers have largely gone unchallenged prior to adoption. But that wasn’t the case Tuesday morning. A handful of buskers and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada were in attendance at a Clark County Commission meeting on May 3, 2022. They wanted to make it clear that an ordinance to turn pedestrian bridges into crosswalks would be detrimental to free speech and would result in continued harassment by LVMPD. On the agenda was an ordinance to clarify the definition of “crosswalk” to include pedestrian overpasses and underpasses and to prohibit obstructive uses in, on or within 20 feet of a touchdown structure. According to commissioners and police, the intent is to improve the flow of pedestrian traffic and quell the illegal activity that takes place on bridges. However, performers fear their negative experiences with Metro police officers will worsen.

Las Vegas street performers stand outside of the Clark County Government Center

Item 65 was introduced about one hour into the meeting and was followed by a presentation by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The presentation consisted of video footage captured by Fusion Watch surveillance, displaying a wide array of illegal activity. Convention Center Area Command (CCAC) believed this footage would be enough to convince commissioners that establishing a “no obstruction zone” on all pedestrian bridges was necessary. After several questions posed by commissioners, Captain Joshua Bitsko reassured them that the ordinance would not result in indiscriminate harassment and expulsion of performers.

Police Captain Joshua Bitsko, Convention Center Area Command (CCAC)

That promise appeared feeble in light of the testimonies shared by street performers. Jared “RED” Crawford, a bucket drummer, stated that he’s been taken to jail fourteen times for street performing, but never had a charge stick. Similar treatment was echoed by other buskers as they piled on their anecdotes.

“Street performing is deemed protected under our first amendment right, so it’s already been taken to court. But I’ve been to jail fourteen times for street performing— for obstruction of the sidewalk… I’ve never once obstructed the sidewalk.”

Bucket drummer Jared “RED” Crawford speaks about harassment from police
Saxophonist Angel Fannin shares her story of being arrested in February 2022

Athar Haseebullah, Executive Director of the ACLU Nevada, also had some strong words for county commissioners during the public comment period.

“I will tell you [county commissioners, LVMPD] if this bill is passed today in its current iteration we’ll be prepared to file a lawsuit within the next two weeks. We would rather avoid that and try to work towards a resolution.”

– Athar Haseebullah, Executive Director of the ACLU Nevada
Athar Haseebullah & Sophia Romero of the ACLU Nevada

At the conclusion of the two-hour discussion, Chairman Jim Gibson motioned to continue the matter until June 21, 2022.

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