Arrested By NYPD For Subway Train Performance Andrew Saunders Says 'I just Want To Dance'
W.A.F.F.L.E. members John Williams, Deshawn Martin, Andrew “Goofy” Saunders, and Randy “Kid the Wiz” Vargas.
Founder Andrew “Goofy” Saunders, 20, of We Are Family for Life Entertainment (W.A.F.F.L.E) whose company specializes in a type of dancing called “lite-feet” keeps straphangers and tourists on the subways in awe with nimble spider-man moves.
At the same time some New York City subway travelers find Saunders and others like him to be a nuisance.
The New York City Police Department has arrested more than 240 dancers like Saunders who use the crowded trains as their stage, for reckless endangerment, in the first half of 2014 compared to 40 people in the first half of 2013 according to published reports.
Last year Saunders was one of those people arrested for what the Police consider is reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. The episode has motivated him into planning a fund-raising campaign so his group can get a tour bus for traveling performances.
Saunders who hails from the Bronx described the experience this way:
“Being arrested is terrible. You’re not harming anyone. I’m not judging anyone but they put you in the same cell [with] this person that can be in here for murder, for robbery or whatever the case is. And they can just attack you. Other people [are] asking me, ‘What you in here for?’ I’m like I just want to dance. That’s it.”
Saunders said after his arrest he was booked at the Union Square Precinct and released within two hours. Saunders paid a fine of $120. He sas he was told his record is now clear. He says he wants it to stay that way.
“I don’t want to be arrested again because my crew has a lot of thing going on and I take care of a lot of the business. I don’t want to mess up anything,” Saunders, who promotes and dances with W.A.F.F.L.E. full time, said.
Chalkboard Tees, Inca Shoe brand and clothing company NY STATE OF MIND all count themselves as sponsors of W.A.F.F.L.E., according to Saunders. The dancers are also working with an app called "SeeMe."
Since Saunders’ arrest, he and other W.A.F.F.L.E dance members have stayed off the trains for the most part.
NYPD Police Commissioner William J. Bratton recently said that dancing on the subway “creates a sense of fear, or that we're not paying attention to disorder." He has also acknowledged that these arrests fall under his “broken windows” policy which operates under the belief that if unchecked, offenders who commit misdemeanors will begin to commit more serious crimes.
Saunders said that the police are painting all performers with a broad stroke.
“That’s judging," he said. "Just because they see one crime happening, that doesn’t mean that other people are gonna do crimes. That’s crazy. [Dancing] does not lead to other crimes. It’s just dancing. It’s not gonna give people [passengers] the idea, ‘Oh they can do whatever.’ It’s just that we don’t have no where to go.”
Furthermore, civil rights attorney Glen Miller of Sivin & Miller, LLP feels the impact on “broken window” arrests on crime is exaggerated.
“It depends on how you define crimes. There are serious crimes, there are mid level crimes and there are what I consider to be petty crimes. Will they stop petty crimes? Probably. Will they make people feel safer? Probably not,” said Miller.
Saunders spoke about the frustration he and W.A.F.F.L.E members feel. Whenever they've tried to dance in public spaces like the park cops approach them asking for a permit. He feels that’s it’s a waste of time to apply for a one day permit since it is a 30-day waiting period.
Instead, Saunders wants city officials and law enforcement to designate certain spots throughout the city where groups like his can perform without any backlash.
Saunders, a high school graduate, who started the group in 2011 is planning a Kickstarter campaign to buy a tour bus. He expects that he needs at least $80,000 for this project. This is one effort to stay off the trains and have a platform that his group can control.
Until that goal is accomplished, W.A.F.F.L.E. will continue to show up for welcoming crowds such as those for Seeger Fest at the Central Park Summer Stage where they performed on July 21.
W.A.F.F.L.E members Deshawn Martin, 20; John Williams, 20 and 18-year-old Randy “Kid the Wiz” Vargas were also in attendance.
Williams, who has been stopped by the cops before but never arrested, believes venues like SummerStage or Red Bull Academy where they also performed this year is the beginning for them.“We want to tour and perform for the world,” said Williams, a Harlem resident.
Martin added “We’re just about entertainment and getting to the next level. The tourists come here and love us.”
Saunders agrees. “We have [fans] from Argentina, Japan, Italy, Paris, UK. People fly out here to record us on the train. I feel the Commissioner should be happy … New York is the number one tourist attraction and we’re a part of that. We’re getting known little by little. But here, it’s hard to express that.”
“We just want to be heard. I want to give back," he added. "I know the troubles that the youth are going through. I want to give more outlets to children, not just through dance. Every art form. I’m looking to leave a big mark on this world, not just with dancing but by being an influential person.”
Saunders says performers don't want confrontation with cops. “I love the police. I would like to speak to the Commissioner if possible. I’d like to explain everything to him. Hopefully he would like to work with us. We don’t need any negativity,” he said.
Saunders just may get his wish. W.A.F.F.L.E. agreed to be the entertainment for the NYPD Family Day scheduled to take place on August 9.