Atlanta street musician Eryk Radical is used to playing in front of crowds outside of Turner Field, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and MARTA stations. He was even invited on stage to play with Jay-Z during the 4:44 Tour in 2017. However, he says constant harassment from law enforcement is cutting into his income.
Now, he is playing a different tune at a different venue.
The trombonist recently announced that he has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, MARTA Police Department and several individual officers for arrests, use of excessive force, and inadequate training. Radical said that officers are accusing him of panhandling and soliciting every time he is performing.
“I’m reciting five ordinances at a time to officers from panhandling to soliciting, vending, impeding traffic and noise,” Radical said. “And I’m explaining to them why I’m not violating each of those every other day.”
Radical said he’s not asking for money when he performs therefore he isn’t panhandling. He simply has his trombone case out. He takes tips. Radical, who is legally blind, said there have been times when police have used excessive force even after he explained he’s not breaking the law.
“I’m so vulnerable at those moments because I’m so unaware,” Radical said at a press conference in front of his family and attorneys. “I’ve been tackled by police officers for not reacting to passively enough.”
In 2013, Radical was arrested in front of Turner Field for monetary solicitation. Those charges were eventually dropped in court. This prompted the Atlanta City Council to revise the city’s panhandling ordinances. Even after those revisions, the musician said he continues to be harassed by officers.
“He’s not even able to play in public anymore for fear that he might get arrested,” David Henderson, Radical’s attorney, said. “And, even though those cases have been dismissed down the road, they still present problems for him.”
Radical said it has been difficult to find a steady job due to this disability. Therefore, he depends on playing his music on the streets and cannot afford any more arrests. His wife, Shady, is a doctoral student at Georgia State and only earns a stipend. Recently, the couple welcomed their daughter, Wendy, to the family.
When WABE asked for comment on the case, APD declined because of policies on pending litigation.