Proposed law would require street performers and musicians to quiet down

Busking violinist Bill Hassay plays the violin on the corner of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue

Zhou Zola

The music that fills the summertime air in the District may be a little quieter in the coming months. At least that’s the hope of Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Jack Evans and Mary Cheh, who last month co-introduced legislation that would ban amplified noise.  

The legislation, which was removed from the agenda of the council’s July 10 meeting, called for limits on amplified noise such as microphones and electric guitars when played on the streets of D.C. 

Musicians would be allowed to play instruments that are amplified if the amplification is not audible from 100 feet away, according to the language of the bill. Violators would face a $300 fine after a revision to last week’s legislation called for a punishment of up to 10 days in jail.  

Chairman Phil Mendelson said the bill was pulled from the agenda because councilmembers were concerned about how misunderstood it was by the public. He said the bill would not ban or criminalize music.  

“It’s a very difficult issue because you’re trying to balance the first amendment right of people to express themselves while at the same time respecting the right to peace and quiet,” Mendelson said. 

The council will need more time to refine the language of the bill, but he said he has heard from many residents and business owners, including representatives of George Washington University Hospital, that noise has increasingly become a problem. 

Mendelson’s remarks came after public backlash over the introduction of the legislation, citing concerns about how the bill might disproportionately affect people of color. Opponents of the legislation gathered near the Chinatown Metro station on the day before the meeting to protest the bill’s “gentrification” by using speakers and other amplification to make their voices heard, according to DCist.  

A video shared on Twitter by musician Malik Stewart on July 9 calls for D.C. residents to email the council to speak out against the law and protect D.C.’s music culture. The video has more than 120,000 views, 1,000 likes and almost 1,500 retweets. 

Issues |Civil Rights

Region |Washington DC

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