Rappers Sue NYPD for Unwarranted Arrests in Times Square

By Lora Neng
April 23, 2014

Are rappers facing undue discrimination when it comes to street vending? That’s what a group of hustlers at Times Square claim in a new lawsuit against the NYPD.

“I’ve been arrested over 30 times,” said one of the eight plaintiffs who filed a suit against the city and 17 cops in Manhattan Federal Court. Charged with disorderly conduct and aggressive begging, they claim rather that their First Amendment rights are being violated.

“They never have a witness statement. They never put you in a photo array,” said Andre Jackson to New York Daily News. “I respect the law. But I don’t respect you trying to make your own law. You’re not a cop anymore. You’re a vigilante.”

Though some pedestrians have had CDs pushed onto them or were followed down the street, that is not the mode of the majority of the hip hop hawkers, who are known to rif a few lines tailored to their passersby.

Jackson observed, “They never arrest the spray-paint guys. They never arrest the guys who draw pictures of people. That’s considered art? My music should be considered art, too.”

“They’re black urban males — people are trained to be afraid of them,” said one onlooker. “But they’re not going to do anything to you. They’re just trying to get heard. I think it’s great. This is what New York is all about.”

The vendors will be represented by former city attorney Katie Smith.

Photo credit: James Keivom/New York Daily News

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