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NYC subway performers: We're being over-policed


NEW YORK (AP) - Subway acrobats, dancers and musicians on Tuesday decried what they said was heavy-handed policing, gathering outside City Hall to join critics of a police clampdown on minor offenses.

One activist suggested a temporary halt to subway performer arrests, which have spiked this year as officers zeroed in on minor crimes to set a tone of not tolerating lawlessness. But several performers said they just hope to arrange a way to perform without fearing arrest.

"We dance. We sing. We're not criminals. ... We shouldn't really get locked up for showing our talent," said Zenon "Tito" Laguerre, a 34-year-old construction worker and subway acrobat who said he was arrested last week.

The police department had no immediate response to the performers' complaints. Mayor Bill de Blasio said last month that subway stunts may not seem like big offenses, "but breaking the law is breaking the law."

Transit rules generally allow performing for tips in parts of subway stations, but not in trains or with amplifiers, unless artists have permits.

More than 240 subway performers have been arrested so far this year, about four times as many as during the same period last year, according to police statistics.

Some subway riders see the performers as part of the city's anything-goes artistic environment. But others roll their eyes at hearing "it's showtime!" on hectic commutes. Police also say subway dancing can be dangerous, though no injuries have been reported.

The rise in arrests dovetails with Police Commissioner William Bratton's embrace of the "broken windows" theory of policing, which holds that putting up with small-time law-breaking can foster more dangerous crime. The approach has come under scrutiny since an officer used a chokehold last month in confronting a man suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes; he died after gasping "I can't breathe!"

Bratton noted Tuesday on WNYC-FM's "The Brian Lehrer Show" that most major crime has dropped in the city this year - although shootings have risen - and that smaller, quality-of-life offenses are offenses nonetheless.

"If people would obey the law, then they would not draw the attention of the police," he said.

Some subway performers who comply with the rules still get arrested or told to leave, said Matthew Christian, a violinist who spearheads an advocacy group called BuskNY. Other subway performers acknowledge they've broken the rules but say police should focus on crime, not on what the buskers see as entertainment and entrepreneurship.

"This is New York City culture," says Andrew "Goofy" Saunders, a 20-year-old acrobat who has stopped performing on trains amid the crackdown. "It shouldn't be pushed away. It should be embraced."


Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.

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scottee August 12 2014 at 7:15 PM

I don't like acrobats inside the subway train. join the circus!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
grudgrime August 12 2014 at 7:35 PM

So basically they are breaking the law, and forcing people to watch them and they are the ones complaining?

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
Floymin grudgrime August 13 2014 at 1:43 AM

"Forcing"? So you actually ENJOY being miserable while commuting back and forth to work?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
investigatorkch August 12 2014 at 7:10 PM

of course you are....when you are doing illegal stuff..........

Flag Reply +6 rate up
suemg2011 August 12 2014 at 7:34 PM

Why are they performing on the subway ? when someone slips and falls the city will be getting sued...

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Bill August 12 2014 at 8:54 PM

This music and dancing on the trains and stations is BULLSHIT. It is out of control. Really ballsy complaining about being picked on.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
Floymin Bill August 13 2014 at 1:45 AM

A New York wage slave who actually enjoys being miserable all day?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
leonvic1695 August 12 2014 at 9:05 PM

Those path/subway train performers are not entertaining at all. They are annoying to almost everyone on the train. Many people are worried to get hit, while they are dancing or jumping all over the train.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
BURNTWEENYRIFF August 12 2014 at 9:08 PM

Thery'e just as bad as the ones that bang on 5 gallon paint buckets and annoy everyone.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
cinamon200 August 12 2014 at 9:37 PM

It is annoying and more importantly someone can easily get hurt. There's a time and place for everything and a NYC train isnt one of them. Some of these kids may have talent however they need another stage.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
racelicargt90 August 12 2014 at 11:04 PM

It's hot, a/c doesn't work on the trains, people are rude, and the subway smells bad. The last thing I want to hear is bad singing or loud music or noise to make my commute any worse than what is the normal grind. Do these things on the street where it belongs.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
James August 13 2014 at 1:33 AM

They're not "artists," they're loud, in-your-face panhandlers.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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