Krista McClellan Clouse has been singing opera since she was 14. After a trip to Milan, she discovered her love for street performing — a small performance for her family member turned into a mini-concert, with a crowd of about 50 people. She collected about 90 euros in an overturned umbrella.
The Alexandria resident has been busking in Old Town for years. In 2012, her husband joined in.
The City of Alexandria is revamping its street performance rules after Clouse was arrested in 2016, despite following the city’s rules to stay at or below 75 decibels between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
A partner at Kirkland & Ellis, LLP in Washington, caught wind of Krista’s story, and the law firm stepped in to represent her.
“Performances, being on the street, expressing yourself; that’s all core protected First Amendment activity,” said Mike Williams, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis. “There’s no reason for a police officer to arrest a street performer — an opera singer — with handcuffs on the street in front of the public.”
City Manager Mark B. Jinks apologized to McClellan, saying, “We are obligated to enforce certain restrictions, we did not follow the correct procedure in this case.”
This week, Clouse and the city reached a settlement.
“I would hope that this would give others the confidence to know that they actually have rights. And those rights are protected,” said Clouse.
Williams says he is working to get the arrest expunged from Clouse’s record.