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Street performers in D.C. could soon be criminalized for being 'too loud'

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by Sam Ford and Erin Danielle Jones/ABC7

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Some street performers in D.C. could soon face some hefty fines if one version of a potential law makes it through council Tuesday.

At almost any hour of the day and up until 10 at night, you're likely to hear some musical group buskers, as they're called, performing in Chinatown for tips, but a bill known as the "Amplified Noise Amendment Act of 2018," or Bill 22-839, would make it illegal for them to use amplification.

"They can't hear in their units. They can't hear their TV or anything because the noise is so loud," said DC councilmember Jack Evans of his constituents in the area.

Rapper Terrell Online, one of the street performers, told ABC7 News, "We in the city... what do you expect? You're talking about amplified music. You also got ambulances that ride by all day... police cars… I don't understand why that's an issue."

For some music supporters, it's the latest example of gentrification.

"The same people that now want to push out these buskers are the ones that come in and are attracted to this vibrancy in the community," said Katea Stitt, Interim Program Director at WPFW Radio.

For others, this bill would just lead to more people of color being criminalized by police.

"Further criminalization of young people, black people in particular, for the comfort of the rich and the wealthy," said activist Kymone Freeman.

Several of the performers have taken to social media urging people to call their council members and to support the musicians.

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This bill would not prohibit drums, buckets, or horns without amplification, but any instrument or sound equipment with amplification would be prohibited, except for bullhorns.

One provision that was dropped from the bill was potential jail time, but performers could face fines of up to $350.

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