Have you ever been on the subway in New York City when a group of kids suddenly starts break dancing in the middle of the train car? If you have, then you've experienced the underground phenomenon known as "Litefeet" dancing. For most New Yorkers, Litefeet dancing has become a staple of city life. However, last year the NYPD started a crackdown on these dancers that could quickly make this sensation a thing of the past.
Between January and July of 2014, more than 240 Litefeet dancers were arrested. The arrests are part of a larger policing strategy called "broken windows" that is meant to stop smaller crimes in order to deter larger, more serious crimes from happening. It's a policy that's been led by NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, which began in the 90's when subway crimes were at an all time high. It's also part of the same policing strategy that led to the now discontinued "stop and frisk" policy.
Technically, Litefeet dancing is illegal, so arresting the dancers isn't wrong, but is it necessary? Many people believe that these dance groups have directly helped a lot of urban youth stay away from gang activity. They worry that without Litefeet, young people will began joining gangs more often, and violence in the community will rise once again.
An advocacy group called Waffle, is currently fighting for ways to make Litefeet stick around. They've been promoting legal venues for the dancing to take place, while also fighting the police crackdown on subway arrests. It's a tough battle considering many New Yorkers are now jaded or even annoyed by these dance performances and aren't willing to stand up for their longevity.
This story represents a very contemporary narrative of the on-going battle between different subcultures and the police in the United States. On one hand, the police are just doing their jobs, but on the other, they're trying to take away a very rich and impressive part of New York City culture.
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For more info:
Nowness: Litefeet - The Last Dance
Lonely Planet: Group Seeks to Overturn New York's Ban on Subway Dancers
Huffington Post: The NYPD Is Really Cracking Down On Subway Dancers