WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK — For millions of New Yorkers, living in the Big Apple often comes down to deciding which rules and ordinances to ignore, or follow and taking the gamble they won’t be enforced.
This is what happened last weekend when Oriel Ceballos, a popular artist who sells his work in Washington Square Park broke one of the city’s vending rules.
One of the city’s rules on expressive matter vendors states, "No vendor shall vend anything that is placed immediately on a sidewalk or park path, or on a blanket or board placed immediately upon such surface."
“He or she must have a table that's about four feet high," Ceballos said. "This is a rule that is hardly, if ever, enforced. It's like jaywalking."
Oriel says he’s received several summonses over the past few years for similar infractions.
But he insists he’s always tried his best to keep his work neat and out of the way, adding he’s out here simply trying to earn a living to support his family.
“They jumped on me and I wanted to see the presence of a police officer," he said. "I felt unsafe."
And it was family Oriel says he was thinking of as multiple unarmed Parks Department officers swarmed him, sprayed him with pepper spray and struggled to bring him down to the ground.
"I've seen enough videos of black men, when they do give in, they're still harmed. I have two daughters," he said.
But a Parks Department spokesperson tells a different story.
"On the day in question, officers requested multiple times that the defendant correct violations to Parks’ expressive matter regulations. He did not comply. When asked for ID, he refused, was combative and the officers attempted to arrest him: he resisted."
We showed the video of Oriel’s arrest to Canadian tourist, Laurent Hotte.
“This is kind of scary," she said. "It's hard to understand why they need to be so aggressive in a situation like this."
Ceballos' confrontation, stemming from not following city Parks Department vendor rules, has turned into a serious problem for him. He now faces several criminal charges including assault and resisting arrest. He's due back in court on November 13th.