Friday, 13 May 2011

WTF! The NYPD Hates Chinese Opera?

Photo Courtesy The Gothamist
One of my favorite photographic destinations in NYC's Chinatown is Columbus Park, where large number of Chinese residents and non-residents congregate during the weekends to play xiangqi, a board game similar to Western chess, mah-jong, and cards while listening to cacophonous Chinese opera performed by two groups of amateurs (most of whom are senior citizens).

But now I'm seriously pissed off. Here's why:

The Gothamist recently had an article with a video featuring the NYPD arresting an elderly man at the park on May 8 when they tried to stop a group of senior citizens from playing Chinese music...presumably he was a member of the bands that accompany the singers.

It may have been caused by a noise complaint by a resident, but it's more likely that it was that these bands of amateurs did not have the requisite permits that all street NYC performers need to have before playing in the streets.

Having said that, there's no doubt the NYPD crossed the line in how its officers dealt with this. On The Gothamist site, there's a short video that shows how the Chinese and others were brutally dispersed...the use of mace and batons was threatened, and the man arrested was thrown to the ground, then handcuffed.

These amateur Chinese opera singers (more like classical Chinese karaoke in my view) were certainly cacophonous, and perhaps even discordant to Western ears, but they brought in a lot of tourists and residents alike, and didn't harm anyone...quite the opposite.

So it's either that the NYPD has no ear for Chinese opera, or they really have nothing else to do. Since Osama Ben Laden was killed last week or so, I suppose they can now focus their efforts on arresting harmless senior citizens who speak no or little English.

The NYPD ought to nab the marijuana peddlars in Washington Square Park instead...or the vendors of counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags on Canal Street...and leave me the Chinese opera singers to photograph.

I wrote a number of posts on the Columbus Park Chinese opera, but this one describes the setting, while this following audio slideshow I produced is of one of the bands.