“I’m an actor, musician by trade,” said Dashiell MacTavish, also known as the San Diego Silver Man.
In recent years, that career has become a bit tarnished, MacTavish said. As evidence, he showed Fox 5 a video of San Diego police officers arresting him outside Horton Plaza.
“I was just performing there. I asked, 'What did I do?' They just threw me on the ground and arrested me," he said.
The police ticketed him for solicitation, he said.
At the Embacadero, William J. Dorsett, also known as the San Diego Rose Man, shared similar stories.
“Every time I go out and try to do my art, somewhere a cop will show up and say, 'You can’t do that,'” said Dorsett.
The performers have started a Facebook to address the issue.
“I hear all the time, 'What do I do? I’ve been harassed all the time by police. They ran me out of this spot,'” Dorsett said.
Chris Morris is a civil rights attorney and the former Head of the Criminal Division under former City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Fox 5 showed him the video of police confronting street artists. He said police appear to be violating the performers' rights.
“From the video you can clearly see this is a public forum,” Morris said. “Any sort of speech whether it be through music, dancing, or movement, is still protected activity and is still protective speech."
He said the performers are protected by the First and 14th Amendments.
The San Diego Police Department told Fox 5 it does not cite for performing on the street as there is no law against such activity. There are occasions, however, when the conduct of citizens in a public place violates the law.
“I’m not breaking any laws,” said MacTavish. “I’m just performing. I’m just an artist.”
Morris said if any laws being broken, it’s the violation of his constitutional rights.
“My advice to the police department in this area is back way off,” said Morris. “To me, this is a reach, and again you’re running afoul of various First Amendment protections."