If you wanted to let the world hear the sounds of your accordion, and you wanted to do it standing on a Spokane Transit Authority Plaza sidewalk, you used to need a permit.
At least, until 2004, when a lawsuit from the Center for Justice and American Civil Liberties Union forced the Spokane Transit Authority to change their tune. Protesters, street musicians, and pamphleteers were allowed to perform, agitate and pass out flyers on the sidewalks, without permits or advance notice.
But lately, street musicians — like longtime harmonica-playing activist Rick “Harpman Hatter” BoCook (pictured) — are complaining that security has been kicking the musicians off the plaza sidewalks again.
The reason, STA spokeswoman Molly Myers says, is that under the 2004 settlement, STA can still require a permit for people who bring an “apparatus.” In their summary, the ACLU cites tables and chairs as examples of apparatuses, but STA also counts things like guitar cases and amplifiers. It’s a matter of ensuring riders aren’t blocked or impeded by stuff, Myers says. (Permits are easy to get, she explains.)
BoCook maintains the rule is too vague and, therefore, unconstitutional.
Tomorrow at 2 pm, BoCook and several other street musicians will meet with the STA ombudsman, Gonzaga Law clinic instructor Terry Sawyer and several others, to discuss the issue.