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The Cops

Breathe Easy, the NYPD and MTA Have at Last Apprehended the Feared Subway Saxophone Robot Animals Guy

The epitome of a life-affirming subway performer was allegedly obstructing pedestrian flow at Herald Square.

Moments before Jazzajilo is arrested in Harold Square last week (screenshot)

By now you may have seen a video showing six NYPD officers arresting Jazzajilo, the subway musician with nearly 60,000 Instagram followers who performs at Herald Square with a saxophone and a crew of dancing electronic animals.

The video is part of a grim genre: public, forcible arrests of people that many New Yorkers consider vital and delightful—mango vendors, for instance—but that the city's ruling class have deemed as surefire signs of "disorder" to be stamped out, lest the chaos of selling churros spreads to more intricate subterranean culinary initiatives.

"I'm not obstructing the law!" Jazzajilo tells the officers. "I have ID but I'm not giving it to you for this reason." One officer moves in for the arrest, and the pleas begin. "Help me! Help me! I'm not doing anything wrong!" he screams. "I've got four autistic children!"

The NYPD told Hell Gate that the arrest, which happened around 10:30 p.m. on June 23, came after "multiple complaints from the MTA regarding an unauthorized performer in a subway station in the vicinity  34th Street and 6th Avenue (Herald Square) impeding pedestrian flow and utilizing a sound reproduction device."  

Here's the rest of the NYPD's statement on the incident, which does its best to clinically describe a subway performer who combines raw talent and an army of fuzzy robots to create a small moment of joy for the countless humans who must trudge through the windowless, dehumanizing maze of a subway station that is Herald Square.

Officers responded to the location and observed an individual with a large display of crates, robotic animals and a sound system obstructing the flow of pedestrian traffic through the subway facilities. The individual was given multiple warnings to leave the location in which no enforcement action would be taken.  After these warnings the individual continued to refuse to leave the subway station. The officers then asked the individual for identification in order to issue a summons. The individual again refused all the officers directives and would not produce identification. An NYPD sergeant responded and reiterated the same directives to the individual. After exhausting all options with the individual he was placed into custody and removed to a police facility. The individual was then issued summonses at the Transit District and released shortly thereafter with all his property returned to him.

Jazzajilo was hit with four summonses: disregarding MTA Rules and Regulations (unreasonable noise from sound reproduction device), panhandling in transit, impeding pedestrian flow, and disorderly conduct.

Pat Warren, the MTA's Chief Safety and Security Officer, was unapologetic.

"The MTA has rules of conduct that are for the safety of all riders and employees and are not optional," Warren said in a statement. "We appreciate the Mayor’s and police commissioner’s commitment to keeping New Yorkers safe by ensuring those rules are observed across the transit system."

In an Instagram post subsequent to his arrest, Jazzajilo noted that had been performing at that exact space for roughly five years, and that the police "see me there everytime and they also cheer me on." (Jazzajilo didn't respond to our requests for comment.)

How popular is Jazzajilo? Popular enough that, as one fan pointed out, Seamless used a Jazzajilo stand-in for their subway ad campaign. Tagline: "The Perks of Being a New Yorker."


We reached out to Seamless, which is owned by Grubhub, to see if they had any comment on who inspired this particular character in the ad, and if Jazzajilo was consulted or paid. We'll update this post if they respond.

Jazzajilo has posted a GoFundMe that has so far raised nearly $70,000 as of the publication of this blog post.

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