Pensacolians are organizing a protest next week that organizers hope will bring local musicians to the streets to perform in protest of a proposed city ordinance that would ban panhandling and street music in the city’s downtown core.
According to event organizers, the protest will be held on Thursday, March 30 at Plaza Ferdinand in downtown Pensacola at 7:30 p.m., with musicians performing along Palafox Street and playing through the evening.
“We want to raise awareness about this ordinance,” said local musician Amanda Martins. “We want to show the city what it would be like were the city council to ban panhandling.”
Musicians, artists, and performers of any kind are invited to participate in the event, according to organizers.
Earlier this month, Pensacola city council members moved to postpone a vote on the controversial proposal which would have barred panhandlers and other donation-seekers from much of the city’s downtown core.
The proposed ordinance, cosponsored by Mayor Ashton Hayward and City Council President Brian Spencer, would ban any person from asking for donations — either verbally or using a sign — within a “Downtown Visitor’s District,” roughly encompassing the area south of Wright Street within two blocks on either side of Palafox Street. In addition to panhandlers, street performers and charities would also be barred from asking for donations.
“This ordinance criminalizes homelessness,” said Nathan Marona, organizer of the protest. “City Council is trying to say the ban is about panhandling and asking for money, not homelessness, but that’s simply not the case.”
Violators of the ordinance would be issued civil citations and fined. First offenses would come with a $50 fine, with the fines doubling on subsequent citations, first to $100, then to $200, and finally to $400 on fourth and further offenses.
City Council is expected to vote on a revised version of the ordinance on April 13th.
You can RSVP or view more info on the protest here.