Is this “busking,” “extreme panhandling” or “cop-taunting”?

I saw this post on the subreddit r/albany the other day; apparently last week a local singer took time to set up his guitar and played songs in a storefront entranceway at the corner of State and North Pearl Streets.

What happened next was captured on video.  Apparently a police officer told the singer that the performance needed to stop, in that he was performing without a permit.  The singer responded that he was within his rights to perform on the streets.  The discussion escalated when another person asked the policeman why the performance had to stop.

You know what?  Just watch the video.

Yeah, this kinda bothers me.  We don’t need this kind of harassment, nobody does.  It’s not fair, and nobody deserves this kind of treatment.

Which is why the musician and the camera operator should immediately apologize to this police officer.

Hear me out.

It doesn’t matter if the kid was performing for a few pennies or if he fancies himself as the next Billy Bragg.  The minute you set up something – whether it’s a guitar case or a hat or a tin can – and you expect people to toss coins into it while you perform, then you’re involved in a paid performance.  And if you are doing something like that, then you need to acquire a permit from the City of Albany to do so.  Go to City Hall, Room 202, see Nala Woodard, City Clerk, call at (518) 434-5090, or e-mail at  If you need a permit for this, it can be ordered.  If you DON’T need a permit, they can let you know that as well (if you don’t need a permit, then ask for a letter from the clerk stating that no permit is necessary for your actions).

Then things escalate when the videographer starts interviewing the policeman as if she’s the second coming of Christianne Amanpour.  Now it’s an ambush.  This is the equivalent of seeing Kanye West, walking up to him and cursing at him, and making sure your camera is running when Kanye swings at you.  Great, now you’ve got “Yeezus-gets-violent-with-a-fan” footage to plaster all over social media.

And while we’re at it, just calling yourself a “journalist” because you’re recording video footage on your cell phone doesn’t make you a journalist any more than my several attempts to win at the game of Operation suddenly makes me a thoracic surgeon.  And if you say you’re a journalist and the officer expects you to provide identification – I don’t know, say a media badge or some sort of credentials or a driver’s license – and you refuse to do so…

I should also note that the original source of the YouTube clip features several comments that are anti-police, both from the video poster and from commenters.  The video clip has also surfaced on several subreddits, including in /r/badcopnodonut and /r/amifreetogo.  The original poster also makes some serious comments about the situation, including:

“Officer … rolled up on me during my third song to tell me I had to stop. This in Albany, where the Arts are encouraged and nourished, so say some … for no reason he detained us both and wrote me a ticket for, of all things, “disorderly conduct.” He even tried to grab the camera out of my witness’s hand. As you can see here, NOTHING about my conduct was even remotely disorderly. (That didn’t keep one woman, who had not seen the goings-on, from calling out to thank the several officers who eventually showed up for back-up, for their “service.” Every junta has its fans.)
PS since the officer would not say what ordinance he was referring to when he told me to stop playing, but instead advised us to “go to city hall” and they would explain it to me there, and that I needed to “get a permit,” we went to city hall as soon as he let me go. No one at city hall knew anything about any ordinance authorizing an officer to chase away a busker, nor is there any need for a permit of any kind, according to the City Clerk’s office. And yet, somehow, I have a court date for this and am facing jail. Stay tuned.”

Easy, son… it’s not like you’re going up to Dannemora for ten years.  At the worst, you’ll probably pay a fine.

I understand that the tensions between citizens and law enforcement in the Capital District have been escalating for years.  I get that people are angry about all the red-light cameras being installed at intersections.

And I get that people have issues with cops.  I wasn’t speeding.  I did make a safe lane change.  I’m on my way to get that taillight fixed.  Oh come on, what am I, another part of your mandated ticket quota?  If I get you a dozen glazed chocolate donuts, will you leave me alone?

I realize that some people will look at the YouTube clip and assume that the officer was too aggressive, just harassing an innocent musician and threatening a journalist.  Bad cops, bad cops…

I’m sorry, but what I see instead is a musician that tried to argue with the police over something insignificant – dude, you can perform all the songs you want, just get a permit and have a freakin’ three-hour concert already.  And to top it all off, suddenly you have a friend with a video camera, someone who barges in out of nowhere to start grilling the cop with questions – and then, when the officer is trying to do his job, you decide to film his actions and hope for a confrontation – only to then have the video footage appear all over social media to shame the officer.

Great way to improve citizen-law enforcement relations, I guess.

What say you, my dear blog readers?  Who do you think is at fault here – the musician, the officer, the videographer, all of them, none of them?  Your opinion matters.  Just keep it clean and free of barnyard language.