Musicians are as essential to the American boardwalk experience as saltwater taffy. But in Ocean City, Maryland, there’s a battle going on between boardwalk performers and the city, which wants to put limitations on noise.
Last summer, city leaders threatened anyone who played music that was audible within 30 feet of the boardwalk with fines and jail time. But violinist Bill Hassey Jr., who has entertained boardwalk visitors in Ocean City for nearly 20 years, wasn’t having it. He got a local civil rights organization involved, and together they took the case to court.
A judge granted a preliminary injunction stating that Ocean City’s rule imposes a burden on free speech. Although the battle is far from over, musicians were able to get back on the boardwalk mid-way through the summer.
“One of my fellow buskers here mentioned to me that in the last week the boardwalk has come alive again,” Hassey Jr. told WAMU.org. “There’s music coming from the shops, there’s music on the boardwalk from buskers, and people have a kick in their step and a smile on their face that they didn’t have a week ago.”
Ocean City Mayor Rich Meehan told the court the noise law was meant to regulate noise coming from boardwalk shops more than musicians. But really, there are plenty of places along the 3-mile boardwalk that are quiet enough for visitors who want some peace and quiet. Besides, any visitor within earshot understands that music–whether it’s blaring from a shop or coming from a solo busker–is just part of the sights and sounds of summer on the boardwalk.
What’s next, banning teenagers? Cause they certainly are noisy, too.