By SCOTT MUSKA
The Daily Times of Salisbury
OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Ocean City has consented to allow street performers to sell their wares on the Boardwalk without registration or hassle from law enforcement.
If a judge accepts the terms of a decree filed in federal court by City Solicitor Guy R. Ayres III, buskers will not have to register with the town to perform, either.
The proposed consent would settle a case filed against the town in 2011 by Mark Chase, a spray-paint artist who felt certain restrictions were violating his constitutional First Amendment rights.
In September, U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander enjoined the resort from enforcing restriction of “expressive material” by street performers. Hollander opined the resort had not shown a compelling reason for forbidding Chase and his colleagues from selling work on the Boardwalk, and her ruling was to stand until a trial took place sometime this year.
A trial will not be necessary now, however, if Hollander approves the consent decree that reads the town and plaintiff have a mutual desire to resolve the action “without the time and expense of continued litigation.”
Chase said the decree is “pretty much exactly” what he had been looking for.
“We can be artists again, and we’re not going to be prosecuted for doing it,” he said in an interview Monday.
Chase, who spends his summers painting in Ocean City, said he’s looking forward to returning to the planks this summer, and he anticipates a “nice season.” He spends the school year in Anne Arundel County, where he drives a school bus to supplement his painting income.
In September, Ayres said the resort’s main worry with Hollander’s decision was with her quashing of the busker registration rules.
“There’s some concern because we ought to know who’s up there,” said Ayres, referring to a previous incident in which a street performer in costume allegedly inappropriately touched a child.
The resort is happy, however, that performers will still be forbidden from performing at North Division Street, an area Chase used to frequent that the town made off-limits for safety reasons.
That performers will be allowed to sell and price their work wasn’t much of a “major issue,” Ayres said.
Chase is also creating a First Amendment controversy in Baltimore.
He has a pending case for peddling without a permit at the Inner Harbor, for which a trial is scheduled for later this month.
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)