Artist Arrested For Peddling At Inner Harbor Sparks Free Speech Debate

BALTIMORE (WJZ)— The arrest of an artist at the Inner Harbor is sparking a debate about free speech.

Meghan McCorkell has more.

Mark Chase was arrested after he set up his spray paint art display at the Inner Harbor. Police told him he needs a permit. But he’s battled this before.

Chase uses spray paint to make his masterpieces. But this weekend, his art landed him behind bars.

In a home video, you can see police arresting Chase because he didn’t have a permit to perform at the Inner Harbor.

“I told them it’s my First Amendment right to be here,” he said. “This is my form of expression. This is a public forum.”

A judge recently ruled it unconstitutional for Ocean City to force Chase to get a permit.

“You shouldn’t have to have prior approval from the government to express yourself in a public forum,” Chase said.

While the cases differ, Chase’s arrest shines the spotlight on an issue brought up in a 2003 civil suit filed by the ACLU.

That suit was filed after protesters were arrested at the Inner Harbor.

David Rocah with the ACLU says artists and protesters shouldn’t need a permit.

“Normally in a society that protects free speech you shouldn’t need a permission slip from the government to engage in free speech,” Rocah said.

A settlement in the ACLU suit could help define the rules.

A police spokesman tells WJZ’s media partner, the Baltimore Sun, “I think that once that is settled, we will have firm rules in place and things will be a lot clearer. Until that gets settled, we will continue to have situations like this.”

City officials are nearing a settlement with the ACLU on that lawsuit.

Chase says he’ll continue painting at the Inner Harbor– even if it means more time behind bars. He spent 13 hours in Central Booking, charged with peddling without a permit.

More from Meghan McCorkell
  • Dennis Trencher

    Dumb jerk. He should have killed someone. Then he would not have been arrested

  • J

    He shouldn’t need a permit to paint. But, he should have one to sell.


    you can paint anywhere at anytime what is the problem not like he was doing any harm. They are more things to worry about than someone painting a picture

  • jj

    Unless he was trying to sell them I don’t know how they can call it peddling. But that’s the government for you. Next you’ll be arrested for vagrancy if you stand on the corner waiting too long for the bus

  • yy

    Corrupt DEA and FBI are tampering with their suspect’s automobiles with the intent of causing a fatal accident.

  • Bill

    We have murders and rapist running the streets and the Baltimore knuckleheads chase a painter? Great use of tax dollars? I really feel safe at the Inner Harbor knowing he is off the streets! Bring back Norris! Baltimore deserves a real man in the leadership position.

  • chearts77

    Are you serious? Baltimore police had nothing better to do or something? I see no for sale signs on any of those paintings. WTG Baltimore police. I’m sure the tourists of the Inner Harbor will feel so much safer now that this painter is behind bars. *snark*

  • April

    Really good advice to the American public: Read a book before talking about those absolute rights you think that we have. Then again, I suppose that would be a bit much to ask if it were to take you away from clips of cats on youtube.

    • Bernard Mc Kernan

      April, Stop being so silly & realistic. This is the digital age for kids with an I.Q.of 50.

  • sheriff

    I can sympathize to a degree with this man but wait a minute before you go rushing to his defense. Allow this conduct & before you know it the inner harbor will look like a Turkish Bazzar. Open market dealing, muggings, drugs & killings will go up quicker than a fart disappears in the wind. We are a society of laws & we must maintain order besides the city’s broke & needs the $$$.

  • Jim

    You do need a parade permit to demonstrate or march in public. Maybe he should get one.

  • Hidden Identify

    But with so much other crime in the city why bother and arrest this man who is doing nothing to anyone except expressing his art. That’s Baltimore for you, overlook the biggest issues that slap you in the face, and pick on those who have done nothing wrong. Oh, but that’s right the Harbor is the showplace of the city and gotta make the city look it’s best to those who know no better….while the rest of the city is going to hell and falling apart. But, who cares not the citizens, they can’t even get out to vote, yet will be the first ones to complain the loudest.

  • Jen

    The one part that I like about this entire argument is that the cop told Mr. Chase that “Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law”. The officer at this point is actually violating a FBI code “Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
    Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law”. The officer was using intimidation towards Mr. Chase when he stated this and now Baltimore police is trying to cover this up. Next thing you know is this officer won’t have a job but the artist will have one hell of a field day in court with it because of the video.

  • Ravnes1

    LEGAL: To express your self on city streets with or with out a permit.
    ILLEGAL: To sell products on ctiy streets with no permit.

    WHY IT GETS COMPLICATED: If someone offers him money for a piece of his art work, is that really selling it? Legally defining it, selling is asking someone to buy something. Technically, having someone ask you to buy it, is not selling it. But that’s where it gets complicated. The law has a lot of loop holes.

    • sheriff

      You people are picking the rat s…..t out of a comb & nitpicking to make your point favorable. Me, I don’t want any body with spray paint in the inner harbor any more than we want the Moolies with their loud boom boxes & shouting “Wh dat” Were’ you be at?

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