Recently, I was performing with a friend in Portland with some battery-powered amps. I am a harmonica player, and he uses an electric guitar. These instruments need minor amplification to be heard feasibly.

Several officers passed us by and didn’t say a word until, hours later, we were told we had been reported for an ordinance violation, although this officer himself was not familiar with said ordinance. I found out later on that the ordinance in question discusses amplifiers and using them for advertising and “annoying” people with musical instruments.

The same day, we overheard a drummer performing in the Old Port. This drummer was not amplified but was louder than we were. Our amplifiers allow us to be heard at a reasonable volume because harmonicas and electric guitars are not instruments capable of carrying whatsoever.

The ordinance in question is meant to overreach. An ordinance based on decibel level, not on what people deem “annoying,” should be created. Electric guitars that are not amped are nearly silent, while a drum can be as loud as 100 decibels.

This is the city discriminating against amplified music, plain and simple, and it shows that the ordinance is meant to prevent certain musicians from performing outright. Keyboardists under this rule are banned completely!

It seems to me the city has a lot of time to invest in infringing on buskers’ First Amendment rights. Certain instruments must be amplified to be heard, and they can be done so with respectful volume to the public. One person should not get to shut down someone’s right to freedom of speech unless it is so loud it is overbearing or they are blocking walking space.

Zack Pomerleau