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|Bones rattled following citation|
|Written by Rebecca Rillos|
|Friday, 30 March 2012 04:38|
A city ordinance regulating street performances is facing a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union after a local performer questioned whether the regulations are constitutional.
Ronald Koch, a Tombstone busker or street performer, is better known as Johnny Bones, the vibrantly dressed one-man-band who can be found slapping his tambourine and jingling bones for tourists on Allen Street.
Bones, who has been performing in Tombstone for five years, contacted the ACLU of Arizona after he was cited in February for violating the ordinance.
The ordinance, passed by the City Council on Dec. 13, restricts performances in the Schieffelin Historic District in regards to a busker’s location, volume and proximity to other performers. It also requires that buskers obtain a permit in order to perform in Tombstone.
Under the ordinance, Bones was required to move from his long-time spot on the Allen Street’s boardwalk near the Shady Lady’s Closet to either the Visitor’s Center or Tombstone City Park. However, Bones said the move greatly affected his business. When he moved to the Visitor’s Center, he was making less than 50 percent of the tips that he made at his previous location because there was less foot traffic in the new area.
“What I do is good and wholesome. The tourists love it,” Bones said. “The city was showing that they did not care about my constitutional rights so I went to the ACLU.”
Dan Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, sent a letter to the city on behalf of Bones on March 5, requesting that the city stop enforcing the ordinance. The letter states that several provisions of the ordinance “function as unconstitutional prior restraints on speech and have unlawfully curtailed Johnny’s and other performers’ First Amendment rights.”
Pochoda referred to Berger v. City of Seattle, the Supreme Court case that stated that it’s offensive to the rights protected by the First Amendment for the government to require citizens to obtain a permit to practice free speech. He also stated Tombstone’s permit requirements for buskers are too broad.
According to Bones, City Attorney P. Randall Bays sent notices to the Marshal’s Office and the Magistrate Court after the city received Pochoda’s letters, advising them to temporarily block enforcement of the ordinance.
Bays did not return repeated requests for comment.
Pochoda wrote that the ACLU of Arizona is prepared to take the City of Tombstone to court regarding the busking issue, but would prefer cooperation to resolve the matter.
“Tombstone has a long history of denying constitutional rights to people on Allen Street,” Bones said. “Every local that I’ve talked to tells me that the Constitution does not matter in Tombstone. Nobody has the money to fight an issue with the city and the city knows it.”
For now, Bones is back in his usual spot on the boardwalk near the Shady Lady’s Closet. He will appear in the Magistrate Court on April 19 regarding his Feb. 9 citation for violating the busking ordinance.