SPOKANE -- Spokane's city council is redefining your right to free speech. Street performers, who spearheaded the effort, hope new rules will open up avenues for culture. They say a vague city noise ordinance interferes with their right to free speech.
Street performers say they are often harassed on city street corners for playing music and they are asked to stop, or leave. Now they have the law on their side to express themselves.
For street performer Rick Bocook, who prefers to be called 'Harpman Hatter', is expressing his constitutional right. Bocook has been putting his music out in the open for 30 years and has run into a few bumps along the way.
'I got approached by police in April everyday for five days and they wrote two tickets. They characterize you as a panhandler lot of times, but it's a first amendment expression,' said Bocook.
Bocook took matters into his own hands last year and received a court order from a judge that allowed him to play. But that would only last for nine months. At the time, the noise ordinance did not specify how loud his music could get. But the proposal passed by city council Monday night allows him to play his harmonica at ten decibels above the outdoor background noise level. That is about the level he says he usually plays. Bocook hopes the change will encourage other street performers will exercise their right to play throughout Spokane.
The ordinance covers more than just playing an instrument. It includes singing, dancing, juggling, magic and puppetry.