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New rules lead Faneuil Hall street performers to go on strike

The Faneuil Hall Marketplace Merchants Association, which every year enters into management agreements with the street performers, has tightened up its rules.Globe Staff/file 2010/Globe Staff

The chilly rain wasn't the only thing keeping a group of buskers from showcasing their talents at Faneuil Hall Marketplace Monday.

More than 40 musicians and entertainers are on strike, organizers say, following the release of a proposed "Street Performer Management Agreement" that they say limits their freedom of speech and puts their acts in jeopardy.

The Faneuil Hall Marketplace Merchants Association, which every year enters into management agreements with the street performers, has tightened up its rules regarding crowd control, noise violations, and entertainers who don't show up for their time slots.

A two-strike rule is also being proposed for violations of specific rules, including when acts refuse to perform in conditions where direct sunlight and extreme heat are an issue.


"Anyone who does not perform due to the sun will receive a written warning," the rules state. A second offense is grounds for elimination from the program.

The striking performers are refusing to sign the document until the disputed measures are amended.

Performers have a meeting scheduled with management on Tuesday to discuss the regulations, said Brent McCoy, who has been performing at Faneuil Hall for seven years as "The Real McCoy."

"The changes that are coming into the general rules and regulations directly impact our ability to make a living," he said.

He said the changes "ignore the real-time impacts that weather, heat, and ambient noise have on the quality of our services, and infringe on our rights of free speech."

But not all of the performers are joining the protest, according to Ann Murphy, spokeswoman for Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

She said the company is working with many street performers who have already agreed to the terms of the management agreement, and some others who said they would sign. She did not say how many.

"We also have dozens of requests from new acts who want to perform at Faneuil Hall," she said in a statement.


Murphy was unaware of the meeting planned between those boycotting and the managers of the tourist attraction.

The strike marks the second time in recent months that performers have clashed with property managers.

In May, buskers balked at paying hefty annual fees to secure their spots at Faneuil Hall. Management said the money was needed to offset administration, promotion, and security costs.

After performers learned about the proposed fee structure, they boycotted the summer auditions and management backpedaled on the plan.

Nick Broad, who runs the Busking Project, an organization that represents street performers worldwide, sent an open letter addressed to both the Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., the New York real estate firm that manages the marketplace, and the merchants association.

The letter calls the proposed regulations "an insult to every busker" who performs at the historic site. "The thing that gets me more than anything else is that Faneuil Hall is the 'Cradle of Liberty.' It's just unbelievable," he said.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.