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You Can Legally Busk in NYC's Subways, But a Cop Might Arrest You Anyway

Can you legally busk in New York City's subways? Yes. Do you need a permit? No. Will these facts stop a police officer from arresting you for busking without a permit? Take a guess.

Andrew Kalleen, 30, a local musician performing in a Brooklyn subway station, was recorded last week on a cellphone camera debating with an officer about whether he's allowed to play his guitar there. He tells the cop to look up Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Rules of Conducts and Fines Section 1050.6c. The officer reads it aloud:

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.

And yet, he says he's ejecting Kalleen from the station anyway. Kalleen starts playing music again, and the cop handcuffs him. BoingBoing notes, "See the two undercover officers appear during the arrest."

You can watch the incident here. Since Friday it's generated over 800,000 views on Youtube. Warning: There's intermittent hipster overload.

From The Huffington Post:

the arresting officer charged him with loitering, but only after poring over a law book in the back of the police van.

While state law prohibits people from loitering in the subway "for the purpose of soliciting or engaging in business," that law seems to contradict the MTA rule, which allows performing for money.

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."

This story has a happy ending, though. Yesterday, following a review of the above video by the New York Police Department, "the arrest [was] voided," according to CBS. Other local musicians planned a protest, but it's not clear what impact that might have had.  

In other MTA news, the authority is considering raising fares 15 percent to fill its $15 billion budget gap.

Photo Credit: cc

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    Did he have a union card?

  • ||

    Well, suppose we ain't got no union cards and go in there and start playin' anyway? Whatcha gonna do about that? You gonna stop us, Stein? Ha. You're gonna look pretty funny tryin' to eat corn on the cob with no fuckin' teeth!

  • Riven||

    I had no idea that Andrew Kalleen was doing the Lord's work.

  • ||

    Apparently he isn't, if he were on a mission from God, he wouldn't have been arrested until it was done.

  • Matchstick||

    Maybe his mission was to be falsely accused and persecuted, and for the truth about it to be told to the people. Seems God has used that tactic before.

  • Gannicus||

    Andrew Kalleen is apparently not familiar with the FYTW section of the MTA's rule book.

  • Drake||

    People live there by choice?

  • ||

    Millions and millions. This seems beyond your capacity to grasp. Are you unable to understand other people might make different choices than you?

  • Almanian!||

    Your defense of the wasteland known as NYC has grown tiresome.

    NOW IS THE TIME ON HyR WHEN WE DANCE!

  • Michael||

    SHUT UP! YOU ARE NUHZING BUT A HEAD IN A RUSTY METAL BOX!

  • GILMORE||

    I confess = i get pleasure watching hipsters being abused by police. The delicious indignant whining mmmmmm.

  • WTF||

  • ||

    And yet, he says he's ejecting from the station Kalleen anyway

    I didn't realize Zenon was Yoda. There is no try, Zenon. Only do!

  • Swiss Servator, spare a franc?||

    What you there, see it I did.

  • Tamfang||

    This morning I've seen an amazing number of sentences that left one important word out. It's like an abstract Baader Effect.

  • ||

    I'm sorry :(

  • BakedPenguin||

    You should be. All this time, you could have been using the Force for liberty instead of just writing about it.

  • ||

    "...they can't find anything else to charge them with, so they go mining."

    That is exactly the purpose of having a vast, byzantine maze of law, regulation and rules. You can be targeted and nailed at anytime for any or no reason. This fool's mistake was drawing attention to himself in an authoritarian police state.

    I wonder who he voted for in the last mayor's election?

  • ||

    +3 felonies a day

  • Florida Man||

    who he voted for in the last mayor's election?

    Aren't the odds decent that he didn't vote at all?

  • ||

    They're actually in your favor, as I believe only about 25% of the population voted.

  • Florida Man||

    That is what pisses me off. "I won the election so I have a mandate". Seems to me if less than half the population votes the seat should be left vacant.

  • BuSab Agent||

    NOTAFTW

  • Gozer the Gozerian||

    At first glance, I thought this was "NTTAWWNOTA," which I also like.

  • Zeb||

    I think that there are some countries with a rule that an election is invalid if there isn't a certain voter turn out. I wonder what happens if people just keep on not voting?

  • Rich||

    While state law prohibits people from loitering in the subway "for the purpose of soliciting or engaging in business," that law seems to contradict the MTA rule, which allows performing for money.

    It seems the enforcers just want to cover all situations.

  • Zeb||

    The MTA rule said "donations". Maybe that is different from engaging in business. If people put money into his open guitar case, what's he supposed to do about it? It's not really soliciting if he doesn't explicitly ask for money.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...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.

    Any cop who doesn't have loitering or disturbing the peace or any of the other vague catchalls at the ready for times they want to fuck with someone doesn't deserve to wear the badge.

  • Sal Paradise||

    Interference with Official Acts.

  • RussianPrimeMinister||

    Would those be acts of kindness or acts of thuggery?

  • John||

    http://www.nationalreview.com/.....-john-fund

    Remember, vote fraud is a myth. Holy shit these people don't even try to hide it anymore.

  • ||

    Any chance this gets picked up by the media at large?

  • ml863||

    No...only us The Internet Media unless we call them....hmmmm may we should....whats the number?

  • ||

    Carefully read what the pinkos said . One says that filling out an unused voter card is 'putting that vote to good use'.

    To her the paper ballot is a vote, not the wish of any one given individual. One person having their say is not what voting is about, the votes are physical things and whichever candidate's box gets the most of them wins.

    She doesn't know what votes are. In her mind she is doing nothing wrong. This kind of profound ignorance reminds me of the LA city councilwoman who tried to ban rave music and then said, earnestly and with a straight face "We found out that the constitution doesn't allow you to ban certain kinds of music."

    The proggies despise our constitution yet they have no understanding of what is in it or the principles that underly it.

  • ||

    They know the constitution limits their power and that's all they need to know to hate it.

  • Zeb||

    Why the fuck are they mailing ballots to every household? That pretty much guarantees some voter fraud, doesn't it?

    If you can't be bothered to make it to the polling place one every year or two (assuming you are able to do so, absentee ballots have a place), maybe you shouldn't bother voting.

  • ||

    "Why the fuck are they mailing ballots to every household?"

    They want to make voter fraud easier to engage in because they want to engage in voter fraud. Simple.

  • Every Cop is a Criminal||

    The fuck is busking?

  • sarcasmic||

  • Every Cop is a Criminal||

    So Zevon Evans is "chiefly British"?

  • John||

    Good question. Am I the only one who thought it was some kind of deviant sex act?

  • Zeb||

    I guess it's mostly a British term. I thought it was fairly common here too, but maybe not.

  • retiredfire||

    Guess the "journalists" at REASON missed Journalism 101: Don't use terms that you don't explain.

  • flye||

    Is this some kind of busk?

  • The Laconic||

    Nice.

  • Wlinden||

    Or they invoke imaginary "requirements" for "ID".

    "No ID is needed to enter the subway."
    "You need ID if you are interacting with the police."
    "I wasn't planning to 'interact with the police'."

  • Tamfang||

    Better yet, "Then we'd better stop interacting."

  • ml863||

    Glad to hear that his arrest was voided but cops need to STOP PROVOKING people

  • iupchris10||

    The cop was right. Read the rest of S 1050.6 (c) that Reason didn't feel like listing. Pay particular attention to the "rules" you have to follow to qualify for the artistic exemption:

    "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; solicitation for religious or political causes; solicitation for charities that: (1) have been licensed for any public solicitation within the preceding 12 months by the Commissioner of Social Services of the City of New York under section 21-111 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York or any successor provision; (2) are duly registered as charitable organizations with the Attorney General of New York under section 172 of the New York Executive Law or any successor provision; or, (3) are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code or any successor provision. Solicitors for such charities shall provide, upon request, evidence that such charity meets one of the preceding qualifications."

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Which charity was this guy soliciting for?

  • Matrix||

    Indeed. Those rules only apply to charities. It doesn't apply to someone just performing on their own.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Oh, look, from the CBS article:

    "The officer involved will be retrained and does not face disciplinary measures."

  • Paul.||

    Well, because higher standards.

  • Paul.||

    Although one does wonder what, exactly, he'll be retrained on.

    Andrew Kalleen schooled him on the law and it didn't seem to take.

    What're they going to do, make the officer write the law 100 times on the blackboard?

  • Patrick Smash||

    He'll be retrained on techniques for preventing cell phone video recording.

  • Careless||

    Yeah, this isn't a "happy ending." It's a somewhat less bad ending as long as these officers aren't punished.

  • Paul.||

    artistic performances,

    I'm guessing the police officer didn't consider it an artistic performance.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Here's what I say - if the prosecutor or police brass "void" an arrest, the arresting officer has 30 days to make an ethics complaint for "letting a guilty criminal go free," and if he fails to make such a complaint, that's the same as agreeing to the dismissal. And except in cases like the death or disappearance of a key witness, this will be equivalent to admitting that the arrest was unjustified.

  • ||

    For the record, is covering Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" now a hipster thing?

  • Zeb||

    It's an every-busker-in-the-world thing.

  • Tamfang||

    That can't be right. When I worked in San Francisco there was a BART busker who sang nothing but Cielito Lindo all day.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Cops don't know the relevant laws they are charged with enforcing?
    Color me shocked, shocked I tell you!

  • Tamfang||

    Am I hearing things, or did the cop read out the word “permitted” and then change it to “prohibited”?

  • Matchstick||

    If you are hearing things, I heard the same thing.

  • MasterDarque||

    I consider this a happy ending as the guy wasn't tasered and or killed.

  • Tamfang||

    A happier ending would have the bully under citizen's arrest.

  • Tamfang||

    …for grabbing the guitar, which looks like assault to me, if not armed robbery.

  • FrankHerbert||

    solution: don't live in the progressive bunghole that is NYC

  • retiredfire||

    How about: go get a job?

  • Tamfang||

    I can imagine that plenty of the passengers hated the singing but said nothing because they were about to be elsewhere. I'd have plenty of sympathy for the cop if he said, “As one citizen to another, buddy, I have to stand here all day and frankly I get tired of your noise. Can't you go bother some other station for a while?”

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