Police arrested a 26-year-old man on Tuesday night for allegedly selling candy on a Harlem subway platform.
According to an NYPD spokesperson, Byron Shark was observed "displaying candy for sale in violation of New York City Transit Rules of Conduct" while on the platform of the 125th Street station. He was arrested after police said they asked Shark for his ID, which he allegedly refused to provide.
Video shared on Twitter shows the aftermath of the confrontation, as four officers pile on top of the candy seller and attempt to handcuff him, while a crowd of onlookers protests the arrest. The bystanders accuse the officers of racism and claim Shark was not read his rights. "He didn't do nothing," one person repeats.
Shark, who lives a few blocks from the station, was charged with obstructing governmental administration and violation of local law, police said. MTA regulations prohibit all vending without special permission from the agency.
The arrest has become the latest viral video to inflame tensions around Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to add 500 new MTA police officers to the subway system. A series of aggressive arrests prompted protests earlier in the month, and backlash has continued to grow this week following the arrest of two subway churro vendors in Brooklyn.
"The selling of candy by a young teenager or churro by a woman, or the jumping of a turnstile...are not reasons to punish, fine, or otherwise endanger New Yorkers," Amin Husain, an organizer with Decolonize This Place, told Gothamist on Thursday. "This is criminalization of poverty and theft from the people."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has supported the addition of new cops, defended police actions in the churro incidents, suggesting that the vendors were "creating congestion." On Thursday, the mayor's press secretary said that City Hall now supports the creation of designated "zones" for subway vendors. Inquiries to the Mayor's Office about that plan, and whether they support the arrest of candy sellers, were not returned.
During an MTA board meeting on Thursday, the MTA revealed that the cost of the new officers would be $249 million over the next four years. The agency faces a $426 million deficit by 2023, assuming the success of an MTA reorganization plan released earlier this year.
We'll have more on that meeting later today.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, told Gothamist that the idea for designated zones would require creating a new regulatory framework for how food is sold in the system. The plan would require buy-in from the MTA, which has not indicated any interest in the proposal thus far.
"The MTA would have to take first step," the spokesperson said. "We want to start the conversation."