Carolers kicked out of Forest Hills, but T now says it wants to invite them back

A group of "church ladies" and some kids were kicked out of the Forest Hills Orange Line station tonight when they started to sing Christmas carols without an official MBTA busking permit.

But after learning of the situation, T General Manager Beverly Scott, making one of the first executive decisions of her first day on the job, decided to invite them back, to a "suitable and safe" location.

Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, reports what happened around 6:15 p.m.:

Right. 5 other church ladies, 3 kids and I were "asked to leave" the MBTA station for caroling. Apparently Christmas carols require a permit.

I get that there are rules. The cops seemed none to happy about enforcing them. But caroling? Really?

Apparently, Christmas caroling requires permits. For each church member. $30 a head.

This is the scandalous church lady life I live. Christmas caroling without a permit.

I get that public officials are under a ton of stress, especially now. But we had a bunch of sad folks looking to sing. No permit though.

After learning of the incident, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo writes:

In accordance with the Subway Performers Program's rules, Transit Police asked the 10 to 12 performers who were inside the station if they had a permit. They did not, and so they were asked to leave the busy spot teeming with pedestrians. In the spirit of the holidays, however, GM Scott would like to invite the singers back. Transit Police and station personnel will find a suitable and safe location where their voices of the season can be enjoyed by one and all.



Free tagging: 


Banned in Boston

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This is the grinchiest story I've heard in a very long time. If there was one thing we could all use today, it would be a little Christmas spirit.

Thanks to Reverend Laura and her troupe. Sorry I didn't get to hear you.

Kind of all or nothing

So they allow Carolers. That's cool, kind of nice.

What happens when a local mosque decides that live "calls to prayer" are in order in all the T stations during certain holidays?

How about Larouchies with a bullhorn?

If you can come up with a common sense regulation that doesn't exclude, I say go for it. Otherwise, it really is an all-or-nothing proposition.

Executive Power and Alternative Ideas

I guess this is what executive power is for. Carolers, by justification of tradition and culture are given a little tolerance with understanding their motivation is not the same as other music performers who is there to make a profit.

Alternatively, the rule can be changed to require permit apply to do it more than 1 or 2 times a year with intention to take money. It won't discern other religous group but one can say if this open the door to other religions (not Larouchies, they can be discerned and disallowed as a political group), but we can worry about that if it really happens. The current situation is discerning carolers from street performers and just focus on that rather than it might open doors to other groups that may not even happen (Or even if it did, I think 1-2 time prayer by Muslims in a station a year as the trade off to allow caroling is not that big of a deal).

Fictional Wars

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It's not carolers, all subway musicians need permits. And typically there is some sort of scheduling or reservation system in place for choice spots as well.

But in general most people who are taking the subway want to be left alone in peace. That means "be quiet".

Can't wait for this to hit Fox

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The perfect story for Fox and other right leaning media outlets to grab hold of and reamp the "War on Christmas" firestorm to distract American Sheeple from the call for more gun regulations in the wake of Newtown. Rodeo Clowining at its best. This is going to suck.

So people singing Christmas carols

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are somehow deemed offensive because the T wants its stations to "be quiet" for the comfort of the passengers.

If this is somehow true, then perhaps you can explain the rationale for the Salvation Army bell ringer that I've had to pass going through the North Station subway concourse twice a day since the beginning of November. Or how about the kids hawking fudge the other day at the same location, who were on the outbound Green Line platform agressively harassing everyone getting off the train.

And $30 a head for a permit to sing in a station that the taxpayers paid to build in the first place? If that's management's idea of maximizing non-fare revenue, then perhaps we need a new management.

The Grinch Who Stole My Charlie Card

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There was an issue several years ago when Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market got sued because the management was trying to control buskers. I thought the courts decided that Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market was public property, the first amendment applied, and the buskers were allowed to make mayhem (including this gawd-awful breakdancing group that drove up every day from NYC--rising gas prices put a stop to that real quick.) You don't need a busking permit to play music in the NYC subway (though musicians who get selected through a competitive auditioning process get a permit that entitles them to the prime busking spots in the system) and how is the MBTA any different than the MTA?

This is a pretty grinch move on the part of the MBTA. Good for Bev Scott.

That's not exactly

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That's not exactly correct.

Quincy Market is private property, and the audition system is still in effect.

Sam Adams Park next to Faneuil Hall is public, so anyone can perform there. In 2008 Menino tried to shut down performances, despite a 2004 court ruling that allowed them, and prohibited the city from requiring a private Quincy Market permit to perform on public property.

See and for background.

And the city certainly could crack down on bucket drummers or other very loud performances, since a reasonable law limiting noise levels would be allowed under the First Amendment.


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Musicians who are soliciting payment need permits. I don't think people need permits to just sing, because how would they enforce that? I've certainly sung while waiting for the train with my kid. Is singing forbidden, but talking is OK? What about humming? Whistling? What if you sing like Rex Harrison and basically speak the song? Hm?

The MBTA website just refers

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The MBTA website just refers to "subway performers" - doesn't say anything about whether you're getting paid.

I've sung on the train/platform, too but there's a difference between singing and having fun for yourself and performing. Standing in a group caroling is generally going to be seen as being a performance.

I sympathize, because I have had this happen to me (bringing a group to sing in public without a permit and getting shut down) and it is embarrassing, but it's pretty standard. You do this once or twice, then next time you figure out a way to do it without running afoul of the permitting system, either by singing in a truly public place or by working with property owners to find an appropriate time/place to sing.

Permits yes, reservation system no

The permit allows you to perform at any officially designated location(s) in any station. There is no scheduling system. Whoever arrives at a location first gets to use it for as long as they want.


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The permit is $30 for a year.

It takes about half an hour to earn that.

This should not have been a surprise.

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It's well-known that permits are required for all performers in T stations, all year round. The information isn't even hard to find on the T's website. It's lovely that a group wanted to bring a little holiday cheer, but a bit of forethought and planning would have prevented an entirely predictable disappointment here. Perhaps instead of whining that the rules shouldn't apply to her group, this person might be better served by apologizing for putting another person in the position of having to tell an adult that she needs to follow the same rules as everyone else.

Without a permitting process

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Without a permitting process you would have turf wars between carollers from different churches. It would be anarchy!

Permit -- from what entity

A per performer charge makes little sense, when you are deaing with a chorus -- it's not like they are panhandling.

In any event, I've seen carolers at forest Hills in the past. Is this permit requirement relatively recent?

It is indirect panhandling.

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They want you to join their religion and then give money.

if you want to proselytize, sing music, or both THEN GET A PERMIT.

So is the

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Salvation Army. Yet, they're allowed to set up their bell ringers within and at entrances to subway stations.

Can anyone confirm that the

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Can anyone confirm that the Salvation Army does not have a permit?

Don't get me wrong.

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I appreciate and support the work the Salvation Army does. But the fact is that their bell ringers (and I pass several on my way into work every morning) have one sole purpose - to raise money for the organization. While they're generally not agressive about it, that still meets the definition of panhandling.

But as long as they have their magic "permit" in hand (or are just being ignored by the Transit Police), let's go have the security forces harass a choir group instead. Brilliant reasoning Holmes!


I was talking TO you, not ABOUT you (at least this time). ;~}

flashmobs on the T

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Has the T had any visits from flash mobbers? If so, how did they handle that?

Frankly, I think this does sound a bit Scroogy - and I'm a born again atheist.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

The T's policy on their

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The T's policy on their website states ALL performers require a permit ($25). Doesn't matter if the hat is passed or not. I would love to hear caroling while going through, but, let's be brutally honest...they apparently showed up unannounced and with no right to do so. I hope the T and this group can work out a proper arrangement.

And if they don't have a permit

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and perform anyway, what happens then. Believe it or not, everyday life will still go on.

And if performers aren't subjected to a talent screening before getting the permit, and are permitted to perform at any "offfical location" within the system once they get the permit, then perhaps we should question the need for requiring a permit in the first place.

Oh wait - the reason for the permit is so the MBTA can soak 25 (or is it now 30) bucks a head from these people for the right to perform in taxpayer-funded subway stations.

What happens then?!

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Some station employee, or cop or whoever, now has to explain to a supervisor why they ignored company policy and allowed unauthorized activity. The carolers were great, but, here's a black mark on your employment record. Welcome to the real world. The church group should have made SOME effort to reach out to the T.

It's to weed out the panhandlers with tin whistles, etc.

You have to deliver the application in person, pay the fee, have your photo taken, and submit to a criminal history check. I've done it a couple of times. It's straightforward enough for a serious musician, but burdensome enough that a casual, no-talent clown probably wouldn't bother. It's not a perfect because enforcement can never be 100%, but it does mean that if I'm playing my cello and someone else shows up who wants to bang on a xylophone and a plastic bucket, I can tell him to go pound sand.

Eliminate the permit

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Eliminate the permit requirement.

Problem solved, with no religion-based exceptions necessary.

The reason

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These good carolers weren't allowed to perform without a permit is to keep any panhandler, homeless person, or otherwise shady person looking to shakedown commuters from claiming to be a performer.

Though if there was a Sob Story Chorus , I could get behind that.

That is just crying out for a

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That is just crying out for a youtube mashup. There's at least 4 of them --they could do a decent chorus.

O give us train fare to Worcester

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O give us train fare to Worcester
O give us train fare to Worcester
My parole officer's there

We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
We won't go until we get some
And We'll hold up the train

We know this is the train to Alewife
We know this is the train to Alewife
It won't get us near to Worcester
So send us to Lowell

That doesn't happen in New

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That doesn't happen in New York, where there's no such thing as a performance permit.


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The MBTA has just become the poster child for the war on Christmas. I guess since they realize they have already lost the war on crime in the subways to the gangs and the gropers so they decided to score a quick victory over the church ladies.

I've got BINGO!

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or is that WINGO!

In any case, the Hearald comment section is over there ------------->>>>>