Militant Journalism

Underground rally defends subway performers from NYPD abuse

Over 50 people gathered on a busy NYC subway passageway connecting the G and L Lines the afternoon of Oct. 21 to show support to the men and women who perform on NYC subway trains and platforms. The rally was called in response to the rapid increase in NYPD false arrests and tickets of subway performers.

BuskNY, a subway performer advocacy group and New Yorkers Against Bratton held a rally to protest the recent arrest of Andrew Kalleen. Andrew is a 30-year-old guitarist whose arrest was caught on camera and subsequently went viral. In the video, the NYPD officer can be clearly heard reading out loud the specific statue allowing Andrew to perform before forcefully arresting the young guitarist anyway.

At today’s protest Liberation News interviewed Andrew who told us he has been performing on NYC subways since December 2008. In that time, he has been ticketed, ejected, harassed and arrested multiple times despite the legality of performing for tips in subway stations.

“I used to just leave when they asked but then I became aware of my rights,” explained Andrew. “So I started to argue my case but I would pull away at first… in April of this year I received tickets for soliciting and failure to produce ID upon lawful request which I simply argued that the request was unlawful. I got two summons for that, I fought them and they were dropped… this latest time when it was caught on camera was the time I was most firm in not giving in to the police’s illegal demands”

On scene at the protest were street vendors, jugglers, dancers, beatboxers, singers, two NYC city councilmen and the local NYC Musicians Union who all spoke passionately about the need to confront the NYPD in their harassment of street artists. Speeches from the diverse group of activists and organizations were mixed in with performances from the variety of artists who were accompanied by the large group of supporters and commuters passing by during rush hour.

When Liberation asked Matthew Christian, a violinist and NYC street artist who was also one of the main organizers for today’s protest from BuskNY, if he saw a difference in policing from when Bloomberg was in office to today he replied:

“Yes [there is a difference] and it’s actually been a negative one. I’ve seen more police harassment since De Blasio entered office. De Blasio has decided… together with Bill Bratton to escalate incidents from either non-crimes like performance in the subways or minor violations like having a beer on your stoop into things like disorderly conduct or other misdemeanor charges. We just think that a safer New York is a New York with fewer unneeded arrests rather than more.”

This targeting of small non-crime or petty civil violations, known as the “Broken Windows theory,” is the hallmark of returning Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and has met strong opposition from local community groups who view the policy as an ineffective, unjust and racist tactic which merely rebrands “stop and frisk.”

At the time of the writing of this article, CBS 2 News was reporting that the NYPD had voided Andrew’s arrest after reviewing the video and finding that Andrew was not in violation of MTA rules. The officer involved will allegedly be retrained but will not face any disciplinary measures.

The “Broken Windows” ideology of policing, which has been shown to be both racist and potentially deadly continues to hold the full support of NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio. With no end in sight to these terror tactics the working people of NYC have no other option but to wage political struggle against the police and their apologists in City Hall.

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