Artistic Expression

As Summer Starts Maryland Judge Says Restrictions On Boardwalk Performers Unconstitutional

Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk

Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk

May 14, 2018: Long-Protested Restrictions For Street Performers Removed 

A U.S. district court judge in Maryland ruled that restrictions on street performers in Ocean City is unconstitutional. The decision says the restrictions placed a “substantial burden” on harmless speech.

Now, performers are no longer required to sign up for spaces on the Boardwalk a week in advance, a law performers have long been protesting. The decision also removed restrictions on dedicated work areas, performances before 10 a.m. and advertising. However, it upheld the restrictions on performances after 1 a.m., items bigger than 6 feet and performances on select streets which are key access points for emergency vehicles.

“It is established that all of the plaintiffs’ activities including singing, puppeteering, miming and drawing, are protected free speech under the First Amendment,” the opinion reads. “Further, it is established that the Boardwalk is a traditional public forum. In a traditional public forum, the government’s power to regulate speech is limited, though not foreclosed.”

“All of these performers were performers who recognized the First Amendment does not allow a town or municipality to put a performer in a little box,” the performers’ attorney said. The Plaintiffs were eleven street performers who perform or have performed on the Ocean City boardwalk.

Boardwalk performers first filed a $1 million lawsuit after the ordinance was proposed in 2015.

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