I danced on Newbury on Saturday in the early afternoon. After about 20 minutes a police car drove up. I glanced over at him as I always do when I see a police officer to see how he would respond to me. He waved his hand in a circular motion in the air. I wasn't sure what that meant, so I gave him a twirl and continued. Apparently, he didn't mean "I want you to twirl", he meant "wrap it up". He exited his vehicle and entered my arena.
"You're going to have to move."
"You're blocking the sidewalk. You can't dance here. You want to dance? Go dance in the park."
"I am already set up here, and I'm pretty sure I'm allowed to be here."
"You want me to write you a citation?"
"A citation for what? What would you be citing me for?"
"You're soliciting money. Do you have a permit for that? And you have amplified sound."
I was already armed for this encounter, but first I wanted to give him a chance.
"I'm raising money for charity."
"It doesn't matter."
So I struck.
"Ok, do you know your laws? Tell me what the rules are. You don't know. First of all, street performers don't need permits in Boston. Furthermore, the laws permit sound up to 70 decibels. Do you want me to show you? I have them."
"Yeah, show me."
And so, I pulled out my phone and brought up my own website in front of him and cited him the law. He was ill-prepared for this battle he had entered. I feel like he hadn't read the sign and had engaged me prematurely, but was too stubborn to stand down. So, we continued our delicate tango.
"Well, you're blocking the public sidewalk which is a civil citation. See that line?" He pointed at a crack between the broad concrete slabs about 3 feet from where I was standing. "That's private property, everything up until there is public, and you can't stand here."
"So, I can move right there?"
"Sure, you can try until [the Nike store] gets annoyed with your noise and calls me to boot you."
My eyebrow shot to the sky. Now, he was just being obnoxious. One of the employees at the Nike store had popped outside minutes ago to tell me I was doing great work. I became irate and knew how this was to end. It was time to finish him.
"You know you serve me, right? You serve all of us. What's your badge number?" I snapped a photo of Officer 1209's badge.
"Well, let me snap a photo of your stuff blocking the sidewalk!"
"Go for it. And you can hashtag it too. And I'll move my stuff 3 feet over. Don't forget who you serve. You serve all of us."
"And I'm going to go into the Nike store and let them know that they can call me to get rid of you."
He entered the store as I moved my stuff over a few feet. While this was all going on, a young Asian guy had overheard and joined my fight to stand against this tyrannical ignorance. I was not alone. Officer 1209 exited the store, and we continued to duel.
"Ok, I let them know. I'll be back in a few minutes to tell you to move."
"You serve us. Do you know what the Boston police mission statement is?"
Tenzin, my ally, jeered "I pay my taxes! You serve us!" as he held my sign high and proudly.
Officer 1209 turned to walk away.
"Do you know your mission statement? Tell me what it is! Come on!"
"See you later, doctor," he yelled from the safety of his car as if I wasn't a doctor. Suddenly, he was like the pseudo-polite, uniformed version of the homeless man asking me for money to buy cigarettes then telling me "You're not a fucking doctor".
I laughed mockingly and yelled back "See you later, police officer."
He left and did not return.
As I reestablished my composure, I thanked Tenzin for his support and looked around for where I could actually set up without going anywhere. As I looked around, I saw the girl in the Nike store waving to me and indicating to the ground telling me to set up in front of the store. And so I did. And more people stopped than ever before. The battle invigorated me in a strange way. I could see the public support on my side in real time. I was not alone. I was never alone as #DoctorBeDancing.