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Subway Performers Say Officers Cracking Down on Them Aren't Following NYPD's Rules

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To straphangers, they can be a nuisance. To police, they're potentially dangerous. People who perform on subway trains say they're just trying to express themselves, though—and they want police to ease up on a recent ticket blitz. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

You can roll. You can flip. You can do handstands all you want—in front of City Hall.

On moving subway trains, though, it can get you arrested.

Police are cracking down on those "It's Showtime" dancers that—love ' em or hate 'em—straphangers know so well.

"They take up the whole train in traffic and all. They're always jumping around and bumping into people and everything else. They should do that on the outside, where they have more room," one rider says.

Under Commissioner Bill Bratton, police have been focusing on quality-of-life offenses, issuing a flurry of tickets to subway performers.

The performers say it's unfair.

"This is what we do. We dance, we sing—we're not criminals. We're just surviving in New York City," one performer says.

Police have also made close to 600 arrests on panhandling charges in the first half of 2014—up from 156 in that same time frame last year.

The dancers say the police need to back off.

"For the past three months, I've been arrested five times. And I've only been arrested 10 times in 10 years for dancing on the train. So half of my time dancing on the train, getting locked up, has been recently," another performer says.

If the pressure from police keeps up, advocates for the subway entertainers say they'll fight back with lawsuits.

The goal, they say, is to make enforcement more expensive for the city.

"Our job is to make sure that people who are wrongfully arrested—especially people who are repeatedly wrongfully arrested—are able to fight back by filing a lawsuit. We're essentially the people who are trying to run up that bill for New York," says Matthew Christian of Busker New York.

No comment from the NYPD on that.

Ben Kabak, of the transit blog Second Avenue Sagas, says what performers call self-expression can become a safety issue for riders.

"I see them regularly on the Q train as it's crossing the Manhattan Bridge and there's an element of stopping, starting, jerkiness to it. And the feet get pretty close to the faces," Kabak says.

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