Kalan Sherrard, a creatively costumed 26-year-old subway performer with a "nothing matters" sign, was arrested earlier this month during a peaceful puppet show, the latest, most colorful bust in the apparent crackdown on peddlers and panhandlers under new NYPD Comissioner Bill Bratton. (Arrests by transit cops are up 170 percent year over year.) Sherrard, though, isn't standing for it and has the video to prove he was just going about his bizarre business, at 1 a.m. in the Times Square subway station. He also knows the rules.
Sherrad writes that he was arrested "completely unlawfully, in a city where the Metro Transit Authority's Rules of Conduct clearly stipulate (section 1050.6) that 'The following activities are permitted: Artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations.'"
At the time they wouldn't tell me why they were arresting me and later charged me with impeding pedestrian traffic and disorderly conduct, both of which are obviously illegitimate and fallacious charges as you can see in the twelve minute video my friend so happily happened to be filming that night.
I have been performing around New York for five plus years, and care deeply about the city's cultural fabric, and especially cherish street performance as a base-level populist form. I work with an busker solidarity/advocacy organization buskny.com, and we have been noticing a sharp rise in harassment of street performers in the past few months since the city council's recent actions and the appointment of Commissioner Bratton - and I do see this arrest as part of a wider crush against street culture.
As for his work, "It's a non-narrative puppet show about philosophy that often touches on anarchist literary theory and nihilist poetics," he told the Daily News. "The irony of trying to explain it is, I try to make it difficult to explain."
"Usually it's the entitled yuppie types or the frat bros who give me lip," he added.
Asked by Gothamist about his headpiece, Sherrad said, "You mean metaphorically or physically? Well, materially it's spray foam … like insulation. Metaphorically, it's the wetness, that tellurion wetness; it's the violence in euphoria."
He's currently considering a lawsuit against the NYPD.