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reggie miles NW Folklife threatens street performers (Seattle) (162* d) RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers (Seattle) 27 May 10

I'm still waiting for that "timely" rebuttal from those at the festival but I understand that it may take them quite a while to formulate just the right BS to try to defend the festival's position on this subject. Meanwhile, while we're all waiting on the edge of our seats for the next installment from those busying themselves with everything but what really matters at this event, let's hear another testimonial, from someone else, who was actually there on the grounds of the Seattle Center during the Northwest Folklife Festival and who can attest, first hand, to exactly what I'm talking about.

The issue is called abuse, abuse of power and abuse of authority to verbally browbeat, threaten, intimidate, harass, demoralize and demonize us as we are engaged in exercising our First Amendment rights on the grounds of this "public" park during this "free" event on Memorial Day weekend.

The following is from a post on facebook where I am also posting about this issue. If you'd care to, feel free to post your thoughts about this matter there as well. Here's the link to my page.



February 25, 2005
From: Michael and Miriam FitzPatrick

LETTER IN SUPPORT OF MIKE BERGER and STREET PERFORMING in general (at Seattle Center and elsewhere)
To Whom This May Concern...

We have been street performing in the Seattle area for: 18 years (Michael), and 11 years (Miriam) mostly at the Pike Place Market, but also at fairs and festivals, as well as at Westlake Park and Seattle Center. The two of us have been both musical and balloon-art performers - mostly balloon twisting in recent years. Like other street performers, we NEVER charge for our creations, though we have a sign that says: "Donations are encouraged, BUT NOT REQUIRED" and have a SUGGESTED "donation" range.

This brings us to our first point: the reason the suggested amount is on our sign is because, if it is not specified, we are repeatedly asked "how much" they are, thus we have to recite a spiel that denotes exactly the same thing the sign says. Most folks really haven't a clue, otherwise, as to what is an appropriate "tip". No one is required to give us a penny and we don't ever ask for it. We, in fact, give a tremendous number of them away for NO donation at any given venue. (We were even tipped a salmon once).

Our question is this: Since when should someone have to submit to fees and restrictive regulations - on either part - to GIVE something away or RECEIVE it? Why should we, as performers (and, yes, we give the kids a "show" as we create their balloon animals,) be enjoined from having a sign such as we have described, while it is clearly okay to verbally say the same thing (and should be).
This is exactly what Seattle Center is doing forcing a certain class of American citizens to submit to unconstitutional requirements (including photo ID) because they simply are GIVING SOMETHING AWAY! To see how far enforcement of such regulations can get out of hand, let me provide an example or two from Seattle Center, during the annual Folklife Festival last year:

I (Michael) first performed at Folklife 18 years ago (doing music). Interestingly, the festival itself is dependent ENTIRELY on VOLUNTEER performers. That's right, the musicians and dancers are all GIVING THEIR ENTERTAINMENT TALENTS AWAY (to the benefit of Folklife). Yet last year, for the first time in memory, we were enjoined by Seattle Center Security from having that simple little sign that says "... donations are encouraged but not required."
While surrounded by giggling, happy children for whom we were making balloon creations, a Seattle Center Security officer walked up and immediately, and very loudly, began to berate us for our sign and began loudly threatening to kick us out or have us ARRESTED for trespassing!

We were stunned and taken aback, but I (Michael) calmly asked him if he and I could step back from our TV tray and talk about it (while my wife kept the children distracted) because, I said, "... there are children here." He immediately, loudly, and with a stunning amount of anger, yelled. "I don't care if there ARE children here!..." and continued to loudly threaten us.

The parents of the kids appeared completely shocked (like us) and, after we took our sign down, and the security officer left, they expressed their disgust at how it was handled. The situation there quickly went from a moment of sublime joy, to one of plain old meanness on Seattle Center's part. And here we were, on taxpayer-owned property!

In another instance, a Folklife volunteer (in "charge" of street performers), gleefully told us that morning that they had forced a young, pre-teen girl to take a sign out of her violin case that said something like "working my way to music camp". If any of you reading this letter have ever been to Folklife, you know that there are literally hundreds of performers "jamming" together throughout Seattle Center grounds - simply for the FUN of it.

To force this little girl to remove her "music camp" sign meant no more tips that day, since she then looked like any other musician in the throngs of people playing for fun alone. We felt very sad for that little girl, especially since it was completely unnecessary. My guess is, if she was dependent on tips from Folklife, she never made it to music camp.

In summary, there should be no regulations of street performers beyond public safety issues. It should STILL be Constitutional (right) to give something away, and to receive a "gift" from an appreciative citizen, especially since it all occurs on PUBLIC PROPERTY. Why Seattle Center and Folklife continue to object so strenuously to any kind of "donation" sign is beyond me. In fact, the very next day they forced us to remove another, revised, sign that simply said: "Thank You for your Donations" - we were not even allowed to say thank you!

To compound our particular problem, standing directly across from where we have twisted balloons year-after-year, were several food booths giving away free samples. When our "donations" sign was forcefully removed, people started treating us like we were another free-sample booth, and tips dropped to less than HALF of what we would normally earn on a sunny, festival day.
We survive on this income source by working hard - 'till our fingers, literally, ache. We also spend well over $100 on balloons for a three-day festival like Folklife. For the first time in 18 years, however, it appears now we can no longer afford to work at Folklife if this policy is upheld.

Beyond the financial considerations, is the extreme negativity employed by the "enforcers" in what should be a joyful event for everyone. One more thing: Beyond the financial impact, for someone dependent on JOY in the performance of their JOB, to have something like this happen is EXTREMELY depressing. It becomes VERY hard to emotionally recover from such public berating and threats, and to get back to dispensing JOY to the children. This exacerbates an already disheartening situation, and cannot possibly be necessary for the "protection" of the public interest. Whether someone gives away a balloon kitty, or a song, it should be a Constitutionally-protected act to GIVE and RECEIVE anything not harmful to the general public.

I hope you will view this dispute from not only a Constitutional standpoint, but also in light of how such unneeded regulations can result in patently-unnecessary harassment by some authority figures. Seattle deserves better, America deserves better, and these artists deserve better.

Respectfully. Michael and Miriam FitzPatrick


Michael F., thanks for that post! It really puts into perspective, as to just how long we've had to endure their incessant abuse, at the hands of their Folk Nazi security force. When will their abuse stop? Maybe when we kick everyone of them, involved with perpetuating this charade of propriety, out! That's right, I want them all gone. Let's start over from scratch and put this event back in the hands of those who do all of the work to actually make it happen, the entertainment folk who started it.

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