Unchain my cello.

That was Austin Fitzhenry's message to passersby at the Dock Street Theatre.

For emphasis, he draped a padlocked chain around his neck and the instrument.

His plea to be allowed to play classical music on the sidewalk outside the venue while collecting donations for his college tuition fell on sympathetic ears.

Fitzhenry, 23, said that he is a Holy City native majoring in biology at the College of Charleston.

Some visitors here for Spoleto Festival U.S.A. said it was unfortunate that the city restricted street performers in such a fashion.

"I think it's a really sad situation," said Doni Jordan of Columbia, education committee chairwoman of the Symphony League of the S.C. Philharmonic.

Jean Cook of Columbia said she attends Spoleto every year. Street performers are a European staple, she said.

"I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere wherever you are. I love it," she said.

Police on Friday told Fitzhenry that he couldn't perform so close to the theatre, so he moved across the intersection of Church and Queen streets but found that was not good for business.

On Monday, he returned to the Dock Street where he staged his protest.

He noted that classical performances at the theatre and his street music are a good mix. Fitzhenry said that he is respectful of the shows at the Dock Street and does not play loud enough outside to interfere with the patrons' enjoyment indoors. Sometimes, he is playing the exact same music that people are going to the Dock Street to hear.

"People have enjoyed it immensely," he said.

Fitzhenry said that it was the first time in four years of playing outside the Dock Street that he had been told to move along.

His preferred location for street busking falls within city rules for peddlers that prohibits them within 50-feet of the perimeter of churches, schools, libraries, hospitals, funeral homes, automatic teller machines and entertainment venues, among other locations. The potential fine for violators is $1,100, he said.

Police spokesman Charles Francis confirmed that Fitzhenry was asked to move from in front of the theater. "The officer showed him a copy of the ordinance on his cellphone and explained it to him," Francis said.

"He told the gentleman he would have to move 50 feet from the doors of the theatre or be cited. The gentleman moved and was not cited," Francis said.

Fitzhenry said that he has a meeting with Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the situation.