ACLU-NC Legal Foundation Applauds Court Decision Upholding Free Speech Rights Of Wilmington Street Musician

November 25, 2008 12:00 am


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WILMINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) applauded a ruling earlier this month by New Hanover County District Court Judge John J. Carroll, III, dismissing a criminal citation issued by Wilmington police against Peter Barbeau for playing his saxophone on the sidewalk in downtown Wilmington. Despite the fact that many people enjoyed Mr. Barbeau’s music and he never received a single complaint, he was issued a criminal citation under a City of Wilmington ordinance that prohibits solicitations of any kind in the Central Business District. Judge Carroll dismissed the criminal charge, finding that the City of Wilmington’s ordinance against solicitations in the downtown area violated Mr. Barbeau’s right to free speech and expression. Specifically, the Order states that the solicitation ordinance “is an overbroad and hence unconstitutional restriction on speech in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

“I am thrilled with the Court’s decision,” said Barbeau, who has a degree in jazz composition and arranging from the prestigious Berklee College of Music. “I knew that the City had no right to prevent me from playing my music on a public sidewalk. My rights – and those of other street musicians in Wilmington – have been vindicated. I am looking forward to getting back to my preferred spot at the corner of Front and Market Streets and performing with other musicians.”

“Today is a good day for two of my great loves – the First Amendment and music,” said Katy Parker, Legal Director for the ACLU-NCLF. “We hope that the City will now amend its ordinance so that others may also enjoy the right to free expression in the public square.”

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