John Ajilo, known on social media as the "Dancing is Happiness" street performer, was arrested last week in a midtown Manhattan subway station after multiple complaints from the MTA, authorities said.
NYPD officers responded on June 23 around 10:30 p.m. to the Herald Square subway station after receiving complaints of an unauthorized performer "impeding pedestrian flow and utilizing a sound reproduction device."
The police department alleges the entertainer was given multiple warnings to leave the premises without enforcement action. After refusing to exit the station and show identification, the NYPD said Ajilo was placed into custody and removed.
“The MTA has rules of conduct that are for the safety of all riders and employees and are not optional. We appreciate the Mayor’s and police commissioner’s commitment to keeping New Yorkers safe by ensuring those rules are observed across the transit system," said Pat Warren, MTA Chief Safety and Security Officer, in a statement acquired by NBC New York.
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Ajilo has accumulated over 50,000 followers on Instagram and 80,000 on TikTok, both platforms on which he posted a statement along with two videos of the arrest.
"I was shut down handcuffed and taken to the Police station for performing in the same spot 34th Herald Square, I had been performing on and off for about five years. The police always see me there every time and they also cheers me on," the post read.
Based on the Subway Performance Rules, the MTA allows "artistic performances" within the system only if the shows do not impede transit activities and are done following certain guidelines — one of which includes interfering with the "movement of passengers."
NBC New York reached out to the street performer for comment and is awaiting a response.
Beloved online fans and New Yorkers are outraged by the incident and saddened for the subway performer, who has posted numerous light-hearted dances with commuters and robotic cartoon animals.
Ajilo was issued a summons at the Transit District and later released with his instrument and animatronics, which the subway performer says were damaged.
A GoFundMe page called, JazzAjilo Arrested For Playing In NYC Subway, was created on Sunday. Originally, Ajilo was asking for $50,000 to cover "court and attorney fees as well as lost income."
Within 24 hours, the fundraiser surpassed that first goal and the group upped the amount to $100,000. To date, over $63,000 has been raised in his support.