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NYC subway violinist arrested for … (gasp) playing violin in NYC subway

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NEW YORK (PIX11) — Any straphanger riding the New York City subway can attest that entertainment underground can sometimes be engaging, or at times – a flat-out nuisance.

For subway performer Matthew Christian, his classically-trained fingers recently proved to be a disruption, prompting the NYPD to place him in handcuffs, charging him with not following the rules.

“I know the rules, so when he told me to stop I was like ‘no I’d like to keep performing because i have the rules,” he told PIX11 News, recounting the events that unraveled on July 25 in the 68th Street/Hunter College subway station.

“He then waited for an hour. There were many, many police officers who showed up and then they came to the decision to arrest me for playing my violin.”

Christian, who has been arrested in the past for performing on the subway platform, went as far as filming his interaction with officers later posting video of the arrest on YouTube.

matthew christian

Subway performer Matthew Christian returns to the 68th St/Hunter College subway station for the first time since being arrested last Thursday. (WPIX-TV)

In one exchange, an unidentified officer accuses Christian of being “disorderly” and notifies him that as a police officer, he can “take action.”

“We’ve seen a lot arrests, a lot of summonses with subway performers, this is not a new thing,” he said. “I will say these officers were polite with me, but they simply just didn’t know the rules.”

Matthew has experienced three arrests as a subway performer and says he has become well-versed with rules and regulations when it comes to performing underground.

His first arrest resulted in a settlement from the city for wrongful arrest and excessive use of force. The second and third are currently in litigation, he told PIX11.

According to the New York city Transit Rule of Conduct, subway artists can go about their performances underground but all bets are off if they cause a “disturbance in the flow of traffic” – and it’s exactly what they ended up charging Christian with.

It’s a charge many argue is ambiguous and broad especially considering if someone is permitted to perform music in the subway – how can he or she possibly be any less obtrusive than that?

What’s even more stunning, Christian did not even know what he was charged with until PIX11 News put out a call to the NYPD. Up until Monday night, all he had was a desk appearance ticket with a serial number on it, notifying him that he must appear in court.

To learn more about Matthew Christian’s ongoing crusade for subway performers, visit his site.

3 comments

  • Matthew Christian

    I'm the violinist himself. Just wanted to add in that the video, posted on YouTube, the officers mention no problem with blocking traffic, and claim instead that performance on the platform is banned (untrue) and that there's a permit (also untrue). The blocking charge was apparently come up with at the stationhouse as retroactive justification — and I think the video adequately dispels any concerns about that. More information about performer harassment and subway arts advocacy at http://www.buskny.com!

  • leon

    it all started with bloomberg…a pattern of harassment and antagonism of non dangerous people subjected to punishments and fines that they never imagined they would be subject to.

Comments are closed.