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Fargo street musician says police have stopped his performances 'over 100 times'

People walking downtown Fargo's Broadway often stop and listen to the street musicians, but those performers now say things have gotten out of hand. Many of them say Fargo police are harassing them, issuing citation after citation for playing music after 10 p.m. Some musicians have received a pile of citations this summer and wonder if the city is pushing the whole issue to the courts to decide.

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Some musicians have received a pile of citations this summer, and wonder if the city is pushing the whole issue to the courts to decide.
Contributed / Fargo Police Department
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FARGO — Even on a warm October fall day, Fargo musician Patrick Kelly is tapping his foot, playing his bass on Broadway. But for the past several weeks, Kelly said, he and other musicians playing on Broadway have found themselves at odds with police.

"They're writing $120 citations, and now they're writing criminal citations," Kelly said.

Police have been cracking down on street performances after 10 p.m. in downtown Fargo because of a city ordinance about noise and street performance rules.

But for Kelly, it is happening over and over again.

"It's been over 100 times that they've talked to me, detained me, forced me to stop, ticketed me," Kelly said.

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More from WDAY's Kevin Wallevand

Kelly provided a list that details it all the complains he's received. According to the list, many of the complaints are coming from The Jasper Hotel across the street. But the musicians say their performances downtown are just part of the fabric of downtown.

What rubs some of these musicians the wrong way is that, after 11p.m., there are still bars and businesses up and down Broadway with live bands playing music or speakers outside blaring music. Those businesses are not being cited.

The musicians have no problem with that, but say the playing field is uneven.

"I think people should be allowed to come out and have a good time, and there should be food cart vendors that are playing their music. It creates ambiance," Kelly said.

Musicians like Kelly now have court dates. Other street musicians, like Chris Zerr, approached city commissioners about it at their last meeting.

"This is a criminal citation that I received for playing an unplugged bass guitar on a sidewalk in this city," Zerr said, holding up a ticket.

Both food truck operators and musicians have been caught in the middle of a changing policy. Permits are required one month, then not the next, they say. Those performing say it comes down to protected free speech, and some are ready to take the issue to court.

WDAY News reached out to the Fargo city attorney, mayor and the planning department, who all declined to discuss the issue.

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The Jasper Hotel said they "strive to strike a balance between a bustling urban environment and providing guests with a restful night's sleep."

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

Contact Email: kwallevand@wday.com
Phone Number: (701) 241-5317
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