NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Fellow musicians are rallying around a subway performer whose arrest in a busy Brooklyn station was captured on video as straphangers jeered the officer.
Andrew Kalleen, 30, was performing Friday at the Lorimer Street-Metropolitan Avenue G-train stop in Williamsburg when an officer told him he must leave the station because he needs a permit to play there. The neighborhood is home to trendy boutiques and cafes patronized by ultrahip residents and tourists who flock there to experience Brooklyn life.
“I’m not going to argue with you,” the officer says calmly.
Kalleen, also speaking evenly, refuses to leave and says he has a right to be there performing, then directs the cop to the section in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s rules of conduct that says artistic performances and solicitation of donations are allowed.
The flustered officer reads the section aloud, as the watching straphangers clap, but then decides to eject Kalleen from the station.
The MTA does not issue permits, and the rules the officer read aloud are accurate. MTA rules, however, differ from state law, which says entertainers can be arrested for loitering in a transportation facility unless they were specifically authorized to be there.
The MTA rule reads: “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.”
“Get your stuff. You’re leaving,” the officer tells Kalleen. The musician again refuses and begins to play Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” after asking whether anyone knows “Free Bird.”
The cop calls for backup while removing the guitar from Kalleen’s shoulders, who continues to sing a cappella.
“I’m being oppressed,” says the musician, who is wearing hot pink socks, no shoes, a jacket, tie and a fedora.
Meanwhile, straphangers taunt the officer and then begin to insult him and ask whether there are more serious crimes he should be policing.
Kalleen was arrested on a charge of loitering as he sang Neil Young’s protest anthem “Ohio.”
The officer involved will be retrained and does not face disciplinary measures.
The video was posted online and had been viewed more than 550,000 times as of Tuesday evening.
Kalleen, who has been performing in the subway since 2008, said he received two tickets the previous time he played there.
“This time, I decided that I was just going to stand up for my rights and say no,” he told CBS 2’s Alice Gainer.
“These incidents continue to happen on a daily basis, and we are taught to obey the authorities, so people do. And they leave their spots, and it’s not legal.”
As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, Matthew Christian of BuskNY organized a protest Tuesday night at the station where Kalleen was arrested.
“That’s something I’ve actually been through myself,” Christian said of the arrest.
Christian believes officers are being encouraged to “provoke these incidents.”
“For some reason, that’s perceived as progress within the Police Department, where as for much of New York, it’s perceived as a crackdown on things that MTA riders really love,” Christian said.
Supporters say they are hoping to raise awareness about the MTA rule that is in place.
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