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21 Oct, 2014 18:05

NYPD assaults, arrests busker after confirming he did nothing illegal (VIDEO)

NYPD assaults, arrests busker after confirming he did nothing illegal (VIDEO)

A musician was assaulted and arrested after he wouldn’t stop playing guitar in a New York subway station on Friday morning. The video of the incident went viral, drawing attention to his cause: The police’s unfair treatment of buskers.

Andrew Kalleen, half of the indie/folk/rock duo Lawrence and Leigh, was playing his guitar around 1:30 a.m. on a platform at the Metropolitan Ave. G train station in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. A New York Police Department officer approached him, asking the 30-year-old for his permit.

The guitarist replied that he didn’t need a permit to perform. And thus began a confrontation that ended with the NYPD officer assaulting and arresting Kalleen ‒ after reading aloud the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) rule saying the cop was wrong.. A bystander recorded the exchange.

"One of NYPD's finest arrests a man for playing in the subway after he recites the law word for word that allows him to perform for donations," the uploader wrote on YouTube. "He continues to sing as he is being handcuffed. A "fuck the police" chant subsequently follows."

Kalleen and the officer are already mid-argument when the video begins. “You just need to know the law, man,” the guitarist tells the cop, who is facing away from the camera. Kalleen asks the gathering onlookers if someone is recording.

The cop then insists that MTA requires a permit; Kalleen argues it does not. He asks the member of New York’s Finest to look up Section 1050.6c of the MTA’s Rules of Conduct. The officer then reads the entire rule aloud, emphasizing the applicable portion:

Except as expressly permitted in this subdivision, no person shall engage in any nontransit uses upon any facility or conveyance. Nontransit uses are noncommercial activities that are not directly related to the use of a facility or conveyance for transportation. The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with these rules: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations.

The onlookers applaud. Then the officer insists that Kalleen needs to leave, or he will be ejected ‒ not arrested. "Being ejected doesn't mean you're arrested, it means you're getting thrown out of the station," the cop said, before calling for backup.

The guitarist then begins playing Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were’ here, as bystanders walk over to put money his case. The cop comes back over, roughly grabs the guitar as Kalleen plays, pulls the instrument over his head and packs it away. The musician continues singing the song a capella.

"I'm usually muscled out of the situations," Kalleen told the New York Daily News. "I decided this time I'm not going to stand for it."

The 30-year-old then picks up his guitar to begin playing again. When the cop sees that, he grabs Kalleen’s hand, and the argument begins anew. Onlookers join the argument, asking what the guitarist is being arrested for.

“First of all, it’s none of your business,” the officer proclaims.

“It is our business,” a chorus of bystanders chimes in, adding that they were enjoying the performance and that it is their city.

Screenshot from YouTube user xac branch

As Kalleen begins singing Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’, the officer comes over shoves the musician’s hand off his guitar, pulls it off him and hits him in the head with the instrument. He then drops the guitar on top of the case. The cop then arrests the singer, with the help of another NYPD member and what appears to be an undercover officer, as onlookers boo and jeer.

“That song I start singing at the end, Ohio by Neil Young, is about the Kent State shootings. Maybe you know. That was 45 years ago now. There was a lot of momentum back then. I know this is nothing compared to that, but it is still an absolutely absurd occurrence,” Kalleen told the Free Thought Project. “I want to inspire momentum.”

Lawrence and Leigh members Kristin Stokes and Andrew Kalleen (from Facebook/Heritage Photography)

They ended up charging him under Penal law 240.35 06, loitering for the purposes of entertainment unless otherwise authorized; Kalleen argues that 1050.6c gives him authorization.

“While we were riding in the car back to the precinct, the officer was frantically looking through his phone for something to charge me with,” he explained to the Free Thought Project.

An NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist that Kalleen was playing guitar, singing and accepting donations "without permit of permission" from the MTA, and accused him of being a "transit recidivist" ‒ someone having an open ticket or warrant, perhaps related to turnstile jumping or a similar offense ‒ allowing him to be arrested and charged with loitering. The spokesman did not say anything about the busker impeding transit activities.

“As far as a statement I’d say not to put all the blame on the cop. This is a symptom of a much larger problem. It is everyone’s responsibility to move our society’s values to a mindset where this sort of thing is unthinkable,” Kalleen told the Free Thought Project. “We need to recognize that we have allowed ourselves to continue to live in a police state.”