"On what grounds?" the spectators repeatedly asked.
And though the officer appeared totally unwilling to give a straight answer, the truth was: none. No grounds. In fact, the officer read the rules and regulations out loud, on video, the very same rules and regulations that explicitly allow for artistic performances in the MTA transit system. Still, the officer could not acknowledge that he was wrong, choosing instead to waste time and money on the musician's arrest.
Boy, I wish I was there! But since I wasn't, thank God for that video. Because within just a few days it went viral (as of this writing, the video already has over one million views!) and has brought a lot of attention to some of the inherent problems of "broken windows" policing, including harassment of subway performers and abuse of police authority.
I first saw the video on Monday, when organizers of the NYC busker's advocacy group Busk NY sent out a call for performers in their network to rally around Andrew Kalleen as he filed a complaint with NYPD. The demonstration was held on Tuesday, at the same subway stop where he was arrested. 15-20 performers and supporters, including myself, stood behind a large Busk NY banner and Kalleen as he sang again the songs that got him arrested.
Except this time, there were a lot more cameras!
And not just wishing I was there.