Solicitation ordinance potentially expanding in city of Rock Hill, jeopardizes some livelihoods

The ordinance will affect street performers, such as musicians, if it is passed.
The city of Rock Hill is one step closer to enacting an ordinance set to cut down on people asking for money on city streets.
Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 5:59 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) -The city of Rock Hill is one step closer to enacting an ordinance set to cut down on people asking for money on city streets.

If approved, it could also put a stop to musicians - or street performers - performing on the street for money as well. City leaders say it is more of a safety issue than anything and they want to cut down on dangerous situations arising from people traveling into the streets to get the cash.

The solicitation ordinance already applies to Rock Hill’s downtown area, but a musician who uses his instrument to make some extra cash says this will tank his livelihood.

When you stop and listen to the sounds of downtown Rock Hill, there is plenty of noise from cars, conversations and construction; but there is one thing people in the area will not hear.

”This is my life,” saxophonist Joe Mitry says.

Playing the saxophone is Mitry’s favorite pastime. Sidewalks have been his stage for 20-plus years.

”I like seeing people happy and in a good mood. Music makes the soul happy,” he says. ”This is what I count on to pay the bills, just like anyone else.”

Mitry used to play in downtown Rock Hill, but an ordinance preventing people from asking or playing for money forced him to move to a nearby 7-Eleven. Sometimes students from Winthrop University come to watch him.

The same ordinance could be enforced city-wide by the end of the month.

“I’m here to stay and no ordinance is going to make me leave,” Mitry says. “I will continue to do it.”

Rock Hill Police spokesperson Lt. Michael Chavis says keeping sidewalks clear is a big deal.

”If you imagine someone in a wheelchair or a stroller, they need to use the sidewalks,” Mitry says. “They don’t need to get off on the curb to keep traveling.”

The ordinance could also address places like roadways and underpasses where asking for money can create dangerous situations.

”People stepping into the roadway, impeding traffic, putting themselves at risk and drivers at risk, slamming on their brakes, then you have collisions and accidents,” Chavis says. “It sort of cuts down on that behavior and we have seen a decrease in the amount of people downtown.”

According to him, the ordinance has been successful in the downtown area.

Chavis adds that people have been arrested or given tickets for asking for money in the downtown area, and that the success rate has a potential to bleed over into the rest of the city if the new ordinance is enacted.

Rock Hill Police Department would enforce the ordinance if it is passed, but musicians like Mitry are hoping the city makes some exceptions.

City Council is prepared to vote again on the matter on April 25.

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