St. Louis: The Washington University in St. Louis School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic and the ACLU of Missouri has filed suit against University City on behalf of two musicians who, since 2019, have been systematically barred from performing because of an unconstitutional ordinance, as well as related policies prohibiting musicians from standing still while performing or requiring permits for musicians to play on private property. University City has routinely and unconstitutionally suppressed the public performance of music in the Delmar Loop.
Raymond Douglas, whom many know as Raydle, has been a fixture of The Loop performing blues guitar on the corner in front of Fitz’s for eight years. But since the summer of 2019, Mr. Douglas has been repeatedly harassed by University City police officers. Officers told him he couldn’t play while standing still, but suggested he might be able to get a permit to perform. When Mr. Douglas attempted to obtain such a permit, the city employees told him they don’t have permits for musicians. University City has put Mr. Douglas in a real-life bureaucratic Catch 22.
The second plaintiff, Raven Wolf Felton Jennings, is an accomplished jazz musician. He has played music in The Loop for 25 years. He has also been prevented from playing music by University City Police while performing under Vintage Vinyl’s marquee even though he has permission from the business’s owner.
University City requires that musicians must perform in a non-stationary manner, making it nearly impossible for musicians to garner an audience violating musicians First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“Sidewalks are among the public places where First Amendment protections are at their strongest,” says Lisa Hoppenjans, the Director of the First Amendment Clinic. “Through its ordinance and incredibly restrictive policies, University City has unconstitutionally deprived these musicians of the opportunity to publicly share their music in The Loop.”
“Personal artistic expression is protected by the First Amendment,” says Tony Rothert, the legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The sidewalks in University City are a public forum and musicians have every right to use the sidewalks for personal expression.”
Washington University First Amendment Clinic Spring 2020 student attorneys Jeff Landers, Shontee Pant, and Hanyan Zhou drafted the complaint and motion for a preliminary injunction under the supervision of the clinic director, along with assistance from student attorneys Megan Ferguson and Elliot Rosenwald. They built on legal work and investigation conducted by Fall 2019 student attorneys Jim Coury and Rocky Esposito.