Last week, a judge acquitted a New York City street artist of charges over a questionable violation, his artwork hanging over the sidewalk. 56-year-old portraitist and cartoonist Yuhua Liu alleged he was thrown to the ground when he was under arrest, and still feels lingering pain in his wrists.“I can’t lift heavy things,” Liu said. “If my hand has problems, I can’t work.” Liu said a second officer stepped on his leg. His crime was “illegally touching the sidewalk.”
The judge ruled “not guilty” before Liu’s lawyer could finish his defense, Gothamist reports.
According to the Urban Justice Center, which advocates for street vendor rights, most vendors are recent immigrants and people of color who are regularly subject to arrests, harassment, and property seizure in New York City. Police have also come under fire for its aggressiveness toward artists. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided in September that art sold in the public had “full First Amendment protection” but New York could “impose reasonable content-neutral restrictions on the time, place, or manner of protected speech.”
Under NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), police have faced common criticism for harsh policing tactics and racial profiling. Stop-and-frisks disproportionately targeted young black men, specifically, more black men than there are in the city. At other times, NYPD has arrested 7- and stop-and-frisked 13-year-olds for little reason.