Two young street musicians attract crowds, police officers

Playing without a permit is panhandling, officials tell mother

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2000

A local woman feels police overreacted to her children's music playing Wednesday afternoon on a South Franklin Street sidewalk.

Homemaker Alyse Galvin said she moved to Juneau a year ago from Anchorage, where street musicians are common. When her older sons, Sean, 6, and Cooper, 9, suggested playing violin and guitar to earn pocket money, she thought nothing of it. The boys had performed often at Anchorage's Saturday Market.

"And they wanted Pokemon cards that Mom won't buy," she said with a chuckle.

In pouring rain Tuesday, the kids played Suzuki music ranging from "Camp Town Races" to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" for 20 minutes near the cruise ship docks. They blew their take on hot chocolate and Collectors Hideaway.

Wednesday they clamored to do it again, and stationed themselves between the Armadillo Tex-Mex Cafe and Alaska Express. After 45 minutes, they gathered up their things to visit a fudge shop and the library. Twenty minutes later in the library parking lot, according to Galvin, a police officer approached the family, asking, "Do you have two children who play music?"

"I said, 'Yes, I do. Is there some sort of a problem?' " Galvin said.

"He said, 'Please stay here; I'll wait and let the other officer tell you.' "

Two more police cars arrived. Officer Jason Van Sickle told Galvin the boys were conducting a form of panhandling and the activity was illegal without a business license.

Cooper, who has a strict sense of right and wrong, was upset. Bridget, 3, who had been dancing and singing, was upset. And the baby, 8 weeks, didn't know what to make of the escalating parental tension.

"I asked (Van Sickle) if three officers wasn't a bit excessive," Galvin said. "He dismissed the other officers."

"Cooper said, 'Did you get in trouble? Because you can take my money and pay for the fine.' "

No one seemed disturbed by the entertainment, Galvin said.

"Hundreds of people videotaped these kids. The comments I heard were, 'Wow, isn't it better to see them doing this than watching TV!' and 'These kids are going to go far,' " she said. "They were not driving people away. (Foot) traffic, if anything, was crossing the street to see them."

On Friday, Armadillo owner Terry Harvey said he was not the one who complained.

"Her traveling road show was kind of cute," he said.

In his years as a downtown businessman, Harvey has come to see Juneau's strict sidewalk ordinances as "fair rules."

"People complained about 10 years ago when we put tables out on sunny days. I understand that," Harvey said. "With all the tourists, there is really no room on the sidewalk for anything but walking."

Lt. Walt Boman of the Juneau Police Department said regardless of how routinely the Galvins performed in Anchorage, "the law says they can't do it here."

"Two officers go to every call. The traffic officer was there first because he saw the kids in the parking garage and called the patrol officers, who were driving around looking for them," Boman said.

The report said street music was being performed on a corner that was unsafe, Boman said. "Whenever there is a safety issue, we have to warn people the first time so they won't come back and do it again."

No citations were issued, he said.

City Attorney John Corso also took the incident seriously.

"As a practical matter, even little kids can be a tripping hazard on downtown streets. And an open guitar case (to catch coins) can take up half a sidewalk," Corso said.



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