A clash between police and musicians in the early morning hours last week has raised concerns about whether performers on Lower Broadway are being allowed the freedom they need to get in and out of honky-tonk gigs, while calling into question the actions of the accused as well as the arresting officers.
Three individuals were arrested late last Thursday night on Lower Broad shortly after 2 a.m. One of those arrested — Matthew Paige of the Blackfoot Gypsies, who'd just finished sitting in with the house band at Layla's Bluegrass Inn — was charged with vandalism and resisting arrest after bumping a police cruiser with his amplifier. According to multiple eyewitness accounts and a video shot by photographer Jeffrey Marcom, Gaelen Mitchell — a fellow musician who was present during Paige's arrest — was shoved to the ground by an officer. Marcom and Mitchell were also subsequently arrested.
The incident began after Paige's set, when his girlfriend and fellow musician Kim Logan double-parked in front of the venue with her hazard lights on so Paige could move out his equipment. Witnesses claim Logan was parked near a designated musicians' loading zone — areas that have been marked since 2011 — but that the space itself was occupied by a taxi. After five minutes, according to Paige, Metro Officer Jeffrey C. Cason pulled up to ticket Logan.
In an arrest affidavit, Cason claims that while he was writing a citation, Paige became argumentative and confrontational and struck the hood of the patrol car twice with the amp, leaving marks. Paige disputes this account.
"I'm carrying my stuff out, and I accidentally bump the front of his police car with my amplifier," Paige tells the Scene. "[The officer] said that I did it on purpose, and that it was vandalism. And then when he asked for my I.D., I asked why. And that's when shit started getting crazy."
At that point Paige was arrested, and several individuals began recording the incident with phones and cameras. Mitchell approached to ask what was happening. After Mitchell received what arresting Metro Officer Jonny R. Cantrell calls in his affidavit "a lawful command to stay back," according to Paige "a cop turned around and, with two hands, shoved him right in the chest and knocked him back." The footage recorded by Marcom shows that Mitchell was indeed shoved by one of the arresting officers, but with one hand only.
Shortly after, Mitchell was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Marcom — who is also shown being shoved by an officer in the footage — was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession. According to the police report, a marijuana pipe, marijuana, Adderall and lisdexamfetamine were found on his person. An affidavit says that Cason "had to physically push [Marcom] back for our safety."
Beyond this incident, many Lower Broad regulars assert that cabs are frequently parked in the designated musicians' loading zones, and that little is done to prevent the problem.
"The taxis have demonstrated pretty consistently that they have no respect whatsoever, or even an understanding of the musicians' loading zones," says Dave Pomeroy, president of the Nashville Musicians Union. "So most of the problems that I'm aware of that have been going on over the last six months have been due to the musicians being forced to double-park by other people blocking the loading zones. And the police are trying to enforce the law by writing tickets when someone is double-parked, but the core problem is the sporadic enforcement of the loading zones."
Pomeroy notes that he's been working with Jason Reinbold, commander of the downtown precinct, to get to the bottom of the incident, and to figure out a solution to the ongoing parking issue.
"It's a dynamic with a number of elements," says Pomeroy. "It's not as simple as, 'The police aren't doing their job.' ... I think [Commander Reinbold] has great intentions, and he tries to do things the way that they should be done, but sometimes I think there's something getting lost in translation by the time it gets down to the street level.
"We've got to come up with a solution that's going to work for everybody," Pomeroy adds. "Because we have to promote respect for the musicians of Lower Broadway, because the taxicabs wouldn't have a reason to be there without the music. Sometimes it just feels a little backwards."
The actions of the arresting officers in the July 26 incident remain under review, and as of the Scene's press time, Paige's and Mitchell's July 31 court date had not yet taken place.
As the Director of Save Our Fairgrounds, I want the readers here to know that…
Slow news day?
I do not think the humor is just humor. Underneath of the forced snark is…
@Jim Collins: What, you sat next to your doppelganger?
So now we should execute people of the potential of their committing capital crimes in…