Boston and The Golden Cowboy move beyond summary judgment

If a mime is a terrible thing to waste (I’m not responsible for that joke), so is a living statue.

Meet Bruce Peck a/k/a Stephen Chance a/k/a The Golden Cowboy. As the plaintiff in this case, Mr. Peck has challenged the City of Boston’s recent effort to corral and pen street performers at historic Faneuil Hall.

Mr. Peck is no novice. He’s plied his trade “in over twenty different countries and has worked as an acrobat, magician, escape artist, balloon twister and human statue.” It’s his last line of work that’s at issue here.

In 2008, as a living statue, Mr. Peck performed as the Golden Cowboy at Faneuil Hall. (When I say at, I really mean just outside of the Hall.) As the name suggests, Mr. Peck wore ”a costume, covered himself from head to toe in golden colored makeup, and struck various poses. His audience would leave money in a nearby container.” When the City threatened to arrest Mr. Peck for attempting to perform outside the new “Designated Area,” he sued. The case presents a First Amendment challenge of the public fora variety.

This week, the judge denied the City of Boston’s motion for summary judgment and offered two reasons. First, the magistrate judge held, the parties dispute whether the size of the Designated Area is sufficient to accommodate those street performers who wish to perform at Faneuil Hall. Second, Mr. Peck and the City disagree whether the City’s policy on street performers was created solely for the purpose of addressing noise complaints, or whether the policy was “aimed at ensuring safety and security at Faneuil Hall as well.” The Golden Cowboy, you should know, is a silent performer.

My heroes have always been First Amendment plaintiffs.

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