Arrested for Singing? This Is What NYPD Officers Are Doing With Their Time

Two videos released within the last week show the NYPD unnecessarily harassing people in the city’s subway stations. The first video, posted by Vice last Friday, shows a man named A.B. Simmons upset after being stopped by the police. Vice reports that the officers claimed Simmons didn’t swipe his MetroCard at the turnstile. But on the video, you can hear him asking the officers to take his card and see that he swiped it. The officers refuse. The man grows increasingly upset, and officers eventually pepper-spray him before putting him in handcuffs.

Vice reported:

According to Kenneth Montgomery, who witnessed and filmed the encounter, Simmons entered the train station around the same time he did and was waiting on the platform for about 20 minutes before being approached by the first officer. Montgomery told me he saw Simmons swipe in with his Metrocard. …

Simmons apparently told the officers he had bought an unlimited metro card several days before and had swiped it through the turnstile that night. 

In another video posted Saturday, officers approach a man named Andrew Kalleen singing and playing guitar in a subway station. After several minutes of confrontation, the officers arrest Kalleen and slam his guitar against the wall. The Huffington Post reports that it is legal to play music in the subway, and an NYPD spokesperson told the media outlet that the video is "under review" but wouldn’t address the reason behind the arrest. Kalleen told the Huffington Post he was charged with loitering. As it reported

Matthew Christian, a street violinist who co-founded BUSK-NY, a group that advocates for street performers, said the police often charge performers with vague offenses like loitering when they can’t find a more convincing justification for arrest.

“This happens so often,” Christian said. “When police officers don’t precisely know the law, they arrest someone over their own refusal to back down, and once the person is brought to the police station and booked, they can’t find anything else to charge them with, so they go mining.”

Both videos illustrate the result of NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s “broken windows” policing theory, which targets low-level crime. The Nation reported that subway arrests are up 300 percent on Bratton’s watch, which Bratton has said he’s proud of. 

On Tuesday, Andrew Kalleen returned to the subway where he was arrested with fellow performers and supporting politicians to rally against the way buskers are treated. According to the Epoch Times, he also filed a complaint. 

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