‘We Have Every Right to Play Here': Subway Musicians Protest for Right to Perform

What to Know

  • Subway musicians took to the 72nd Street subway station to protest their right to perform in subway stations Thursday
  • The MTA says it will work with NYPD officers and station personnel to respect musical performances in the subway
  • The transit agency says it will provide a readily accessible link to the rules regarding subway performances on its website's homepage

Music fills the arching walls of the new 72nd Street Subway stop as more than a dozen buskers played their protest songs at an organized rally to prove a point to police.

"We have every right to play here," said street performer Matthew Christian.

Matthew was so sure of his rights, he tested a pair of officers who recently asked him to leave the 86th Street platform. 

"You cannot play music here," one of the officers can be heard saying to Christian, who then put down his violin to pick up his cellphone and record the exchange. The officer then notifies him that he could place the performer under arrest, but did not do so.

Following the exchange, Christian read a set of rules from an MTA pamphlet, questioning the officers, who he alleges didn't read the rule book carefully.

"They didn't know the rules," he said. "They were in the wrong."

The encounter wasn't the first time that police have tried to silence performers along the new Second Avenue Subway. 

The MTA says any musician is welcome to perform in the subway system as long as they follow the rules.

"The MTA is proud to support and promote the arts and musical performances," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. "Any musician is welcome to perform in the New York City subway system as long as they follow the Transit Rules of Conduct."

The transit agency added it will remind police to respect musical performances in the subway, and ask that musicians simply follow basic rules — don't block escalators and don't use amplifiers. For greater clarity, the MTA will create a link on the website's homepage to provide ready access to the rules.

"We're here for people to enjoy music during their commute," Christian said.

And these musicians intend to keep playing.

NYPD's Transit Bureau Chief Joseph Fox says Department officers work to protect the rights of commuters and performers alike.

"Our officers work to protect the rights of everyone who lawfully uses the transit system — artistic performers and commuters alike," he told News 4. 

He added that this often means striking a balance between respecting performers while ensuring safety.

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