Reporting and Photos: Jordan O'Brien
Las Vegas, NV - In the entertainment capitol of the world, street performing is accepted, but not welcomed. Here, the tension between street performers and the city of Las Vegas is palpable; one can see it in the architecture. Venturing downtown to Fremont Street – an antique stretch of casinos electrified by a mile-long canopy of LEDs – one will find a cabal of artists, musicians and superheroes daring to make a living in restrictive six-foot circles. Threatened by fines and/or jail time if they step beyond these borders, performers occupy their previously reserved spaces as if they’re in cages. The visual is Orwellian, but the spirited and inebriated crowd of tourists moves on. Often, a triumvirate of security officers will march among them, their watchful eyes scanning the area for perceived malfeasance. Often, it will be the LVMPD. It is a poetic microcosm of the city’s increased police presence in the era of “Vegas Strong.”
Forced Trajectory Project spoke with the performers to ascertain their experiences with law enforcement:
Anonymous for the Voiceless, an animal rights group, uses graphic slaughterhouse footage to promote veganism at the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. The group stands in front of the entrance every weekend. Las Vegas, NV.
“They’re looking for something to write you up for!” says Billy, referring to security that patrols the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. He urges fellow street performers to balance their freedom of speech with the rules, which require performers to register with the Las Vegas Business Licensing Division. Las Vegas, NV.
A street performer uses the entirety of the allotted six-foot, “poker chip” for his act at the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. The city delineates the area’s 38 legally permissible spaces through a lottery system. Performers must shift locations every odd hour between 3pm and 1am. Las Vegas, NV.
In response to police harassment that targets street performers on the Strip, Joe performs as Deadpool at the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. “There are no laws actually, on the Strip, that prohibit street performers from being there,” he says. “But the fact is that the police are going out there and arresting people…and they’re giving us tickets for obstructing a sidewalk or an elevator and saying that’s what we’re doing. But as soon as we get to court the judge will throw it out…Here, this is the first time I’ve felt safe in a long time, because it’s legal and it’s fair.” Las Vegas, NV.
Michael Troy Moore, president of the Sonic Laborers and Visual Entertainers (SLAVE) Union, shows off his nightly performing garb at the Fremont Street Experience, Sunday April 29, 2018. When he’s not entertaining crowds, he’s defending the rights of street performers in court. “The First Amendment is the only license we need to be here,” he says. “When they attack the First Amendment for the homeless and the street performers, they’re actually screwing it up and risking it…for everybody.” Las Vegas, NV.
Matthew (Spider-Man) and James (Deadpool) pose in front of The D Hotel & Casino at the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. “When it comes down to [the police] actually cracking down on us, it’s way overkill,” James says. “We get banned from Fremont for a year. We’re not allowed to register for spots at all. And on top of that, we either get jailed or fined $1200 to $1500 dollars, just for performing outside of a circle.” Las Vegas, NV.
Matthew (Spider-Man) and James (Deadpool) pose with two children in front of the D Hotel & Casino at the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. “There are not enough circles and it’s very frustrating,” Matthew says. “You hope you get registered to a circle and if you don’t, you better hope nobody kicks you out of it. That’s what sucks. It’s hard to make money because of it.” Legally, the pair cannot ask for tips. Las Vegas, NV.
John “Yurock” Lynch uses plastic containers as percussion instruments at the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. “I was arrested up on the Strip a little while ago,” he says. “They said ‘doing business without a permit.’” Comparatively, he doesn’t experience as much police harassment on Fremont. Las Vegas, NV.
John “Yurock” Lynch performs within the boundaries of his allotted space at the Fremont Street Experience, Saturday March 10, 2018. Any violation of the rules set forth in the LVMC Chapter 11.68 “Pedestrian Mall Ordinance” will result in a misdemeanor. Las Vegas, NV.