Krista McClellan, the beautiful opera singer you have likely heard around the streets Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, was arrested by Alexandria Police for a violation of the City’s noise ordinance back in 2016.
Busking (singing) is LEGAL on the streets of Alexandria without a permit. However, if you use a noise amplification device, you need a permit. Ms. McClellan has said that the tips she earns while singing on the street helped to support her family.
Ms. McClellan was busking on a Friday night in September 2016 when she was approached by Alexandria Police officers (see video here) in the 200 block of King Street who informed her that sans permit, she was in violation of noise ordinance 11-5-4b. When she refused to stop singing, she was arrested and later released on her own recognizance.
Ms. McClellan has since sued the City of Alexandria in federal court on free speech grounds.
The city must defend Krista McClellan’s claims that it’s noise control code isn’t narrowly tailored to serve the city’s interest in protecting its citizens from unwelcome noise and doesn’t leave open sufficient alternative channels of communication, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said Jan. 28.
The city also must answer McClellan’s claim that the code is unconstitutionally vague, the court said. The code contains some provisions that use standardless language and has multiple and overlapping types of noise regulations that may be hard for people to understand, it said.
McClellan’s performances on public sidewalks in Alexandria’s central business district constituted core First Amendment activity, the court said. The city thus could limit only the time, place, and manner of this activity through restrictions that were narrowly tailored to serve its interests.
McClellan’s factual allegations supported her claim that the code didn’t meet that standard, the court said. She said, for example, that her performance fell within the code’s 75-decibel threshold, wasn’t dangerously loud, disturbing, annoying, or disruptive, and took place in a location with significant foot and motor vehicle traffic and other nearby performers.
The court said some of the code’s provisions had passed constitutional muster in other cases. These included provisions prohibiting noise that annoys “a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities,” it said.
Read more online.
For more about this case, see our other posts on this topic.