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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The side walk shuffle » » Run in with the police last night... (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Eric the Excellent
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So, last night was St. Patrick's night and since I am trying to get some publicity for my little magic business, I figured I'd hit the streets. (We also brought along a videographer.)

It was a mad house out there, so my fellow magician and I decided to set up about two blocks away from the epicenter of the party, so we could get groups of people as they were coming and going, rather than risk being trampled.

There were many walking policemen travelling around the street in groups and we decided to let them know what we were doing, and ask permission. After getting the run-around for a bit, we were given the OK by a police sergeant to do magic, geek stuff, and even fire-eating "As long as we were not doing it for money". (Which irked me, but the sergeant was nice enough even if he was ill-informed.)

So, anyway, we set up and get three wonderful huge crowds along with some small groups of three or four people. (We could have made bank, had we actively been soliciting tips, rather than just accepting them when offered.) It was great!

And then a different group of cops walk up, and before I can even get a hello out I get, "Can't do that." I explained to the man that I had asked permission from a sergeant ahead of time but he cut me off midway, "I'm his boss. Can't do that." (Despite being a cop from out of town.)

So I ask if we can continue without the fire tricks, and he says alright, he just didn't want me, "Catching everything on fire." At that, the other officers with him spoke up (obviously jumping on the opportunity to show they agreed with their boss) "Or catching yourself on fire."

We politely agreed but that still grates on me; we were next to a concrete building, on a concrete sidewalk in front of an asphalt street, and it was snowing... how the blazes was I going to catch everything on fire?

I know that I did the smart thing by politely following orders, but the whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth and I find myself half wishing I had argued the point.

Does anyone have advice for this kind of situation?
Devious
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Eric, I'm assuming you were in Butte, Montana?
The peace officer who gave you a mandate was acting out of his jurisdiction according to your post, yes?

I believe they were mostly concerned with the fire liability issue. Here in San Diego they are very liberal
as to buskers, with the exception of fire acts. Even at nearby Seaport Village that seems to be the case.
Devious Deceptions
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Eric the Excellent
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Good guess! Montana it was. (The fact that it was snowing probably gave it away, eh?)

I am not sure about jurisdiction, since my town brings in extra officers from other cities during St. Patrick's Day, but I find myself skeptical that he was in fact "the boss", since it seems like he said that to end the conversation as quickly as possible.

I have heard wonderful things about busking in San Diego. (I have some relatives there, so I may make a pilgrimage sometime.)
Devious
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Quote:
I have heard wonderful things about busking in San Diego.

Lol, did you read my "Tip Thief" post?
Devious Deceptions
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Eric the Excellent
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LOL. Yeah, well, "wonderful" as in "you can make big money" wonderful... if not the best of the best crowd-wise.

Does that happen a lot to you?
Devious
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Just one other time besides last night.
That's what they get for heckling me right?

Image
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Ekuth
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Eh, chalk it up to the old "liability" play; or to put it more succinctly- "pass the buck". No one wanted to take responsibility for giving you the "ok" if anything went wrong. They were covering their butts.

At least they didn't shut you down completely!

But yeah, folks are reeeeeeaaal funny about fire effects these days. One reason I don't do much, and then only flashpaper.
"All you need is in Fitzkee."
ed rhodes
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Yeah, after the Station night club fire here in RI, you're not going to get anybody on your side with fire effects.

BTW, you may have been surrounded by concrete and it was snowing, but you yourself were NOT concrete and were not wearing concrete and I'm betting you were using gasoline for your torches.
"There's no time to lose," I heard her say.
"Catch your dreams before they slip away."
"Dying all the time, lose your dreams and you could lose your mind.
Ain't life unkind?"
JoeJoe
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I have juggled fire sticks in the past, but that was many moons ago ... I have to agree with what people here have already said, fire is just not something you can get away with these days. You can expect hassles nearly everywhere.

-JoeJoe
Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazingJoeJoe]
Eric the Excellent
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Yeah, I know, and it makes sense that no one would want to assume responsibility for giving me the go ahead. It still bothers me, though, since I go out of my way to be safe. I always /always/ have a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, and water on hand when I perform. I there were a fire, I would probably be the one to put it out, rather than the one who started it.

Quote:
On 2012-03-20 23:31, ed rhodes wrote: ...
BTW, you may have been surrounded by concrete and it was snowing, but you yourself were NOT concrete and were not wearing concrete and I'm betting you were using gasoline for your torches.


Why exactly would you bet I was using gasoline?
ed rhodes
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Because that's the standard for torches. If I'm wrong, I'm sorry. But you had to be using something flameable and it's not impossible that you or someone in your crowd could get hurt before you got out any of those items you had ready. (Good point having them though.)
"There's no time to lose," I heard her say.
"Catch your dreams before they slip away."
"Dying all the time, lose your dreams and you could lose your mind.
Ain't life unkind?"
Eric the Excellent
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Nah, I was using white-gas. It's a good deal safer than gasoline. (Another safety measure!)

Yes, it is conceivable that I could be hurt while doing this and although it is even less likely, it is still conceivable that an audience member could be. I do /see/ the opposition's point of view on this, but how can I deal with it?
JoeJoe
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I can suggest you get off the sidewalks and on to private property.

-JoeJoe
Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazingJoeJoe]
Eric the Excellent
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Fair enough.

I am thinking about getting in touch with the local sheriff's office to ask permission for the future, but I am not sure if I want to risk getting an "absolutely not never no how uh-uh."
Police Magician
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Eric, as a cop, I think the problem would be a permit as many areas make money selling permits in their area. That may be what the cops were referring too.

In the future, check local ordinances where you intend to perform and see the regulations on it. If you have a problem, you can show your permit. Ask about any ordinances pertaining to fire use as well and let them know exactly what you do with it.

Last, ask them if tips are ok for you to receive after doing a performance. This covers all ground. Make sure you have permission from any owner's of private property, in writing, if you go onto private property so you won't encounter a ticket, jail or just being thrown off.

Hope this helps.

Glenn
Eric the Excellent
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Glenn, thank you for your information filled reply.

I've tried to find local ordinances but I admit to the complete ignorance of where I'd look or how I'd check. The same for buying a permit. Do you know how I could go about this?

I have contacted both the local police department and the local fire department in the past, but I have never heard back. (I think they might just be taking my emails in jest rather than seriously.) I'd push harder for an answer, but I fear that if I did I would get a "no" just so I would quit bugging them.

Thank you kindly.
ed rhodes
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Go down to City Hall, ask where the Bureau of Licenses is and ask them.
I'm not certain whether you should go to you local fire station of if there's a centralized department that they would answer to, either way physically go to the head of the department, no e-mails.

My City Hall in Providence gave me a license with no fee. Unfortunately, it has "at the descretion (sp) of the local police" written on it which one officer decided meant he could say "no" for no reason. Another officer later told me the license was invalid as it had to be renewed each year which the board of licenses denied when I first received the license and later when I complained about the officer. (In the first case. I was told the officer in question, a lieutenant, was "gone," presumably transferred after a number of complaints, the other officer would be "spoken to" and his lieutenant would be contacted. I had the license retyped to state "this license does not expire" just to make certain the point was clear.)
"There's no time to lose," I heard her say.
"Catch your dreams before they slip away."
"Dying all the time, lose your dreams and you could lose your mind.
Ain't life unkind?"
Police Magician
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Eric, what Ed said is good advice. If the venue is in the city limits, City Hall would be a good start. If the venue is in the county, check with the county offices on it. I am unfamiliar with their set up in your state. I know those who want to do something in our city limits have to contact City Hall and the County offices, if in the county, for permits or licenses.

I am not familiar with fire regulations in your state, so ask at the City Hall or County Offices about it as well. If they don't know, they should be able to direct you to the office you can inquire.

Most city and county governments have a website showing codes and ordinances on it to allow you to see what can and cannot be done. You might want to go online to see if your area has one of those and get familiar with the codes and laws pertaining to this.

Ed, that term of the cops having discretion on it sounds horrible. That means they can shut you down for no reason. I will say that there are some cops who go overboard with their authority just to bust someone's chops, which is wrong. Sorry to hear you encountered such a cop. They give us a black eye in this business when they overstep their bounds.

Complaints made against an officer should be investigated and they should contact you back to let you know their decision with it. When a person wants to file a complaint against an officer here, I tell them to go to the main headquarters and file a written complaint. That way, it is a matter of record. I cannot speak for other agencies, but that is how we do it here.

Glenn
Jim Sparx
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One of the great things I loved about San Francisco was the park downtown packed with tourist and buskers. This is where Harry Anderson got his start and you can do just about anything except three card monte w gambling. The park was packed with undercovers for the tourist. Also areas at Fishermans Wharf and just about anywhere except Chinatown. This was in the 70s & 80s. Don't know what its like now.
JoeJoe
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If you go to City Hall, the person to talk to is the City Clerk - they will know who issues the permit. Could be the City Manager, the Bureau of Licenses, or even the Clerk themselves. But whoever it is ... the City's Clerk job is to know who and will be able to tell you. And the upside is that they are often the nicest person working for the city.

I generally don't like asking police, they always seem to know the least. If you ask 3 cops if you are allowed to perform in a city, you will most likely get three different answers - I know because I have done this. I'm not sure you would have better results with the fire department, their job is to put out fires and rescue people - not regulate street performers.

Email has always had poor results for me, addresses change and spam piles up. If you can't go in person, call.

If it were me, I would try to look up the code myself. Failing that, I would ask the City Clerk ... and if I wasn't happy with her answer, I would talk to the City Attorney.

-JoeJoe
Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazingJoeJoe]
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