Anyone who has ventured through New York City’s Times Square has likely been stopped by a rapper trying to get his album or mixtape in your hands, either for free or a few dollars. Cops have been cracking down on these sidewalk hustlers and arresting the rappers for disorderly conduct and aggressive begging but the cases are almost always dismissed.

Now, according to the New York Daily News, rappers are fighting back against the NYPD. Eight rappers who claim the NYPD has violated their rights with a campaign on arrests have filed joint lawsuits in Manhattan Federal Court against the city and 17 cops.

“They don’t want us making money out here,” says Andre Jackson, 29, a rapper from the Soundview section of the Bronx. “I’ve been arrested over 30 times. We’re having fun out here,” Jackson continued. “We’re doing something we’re allowed to do. I guess they had their dreams that they didn’t fulfill. Now we have our dreams and they want to shut us down.”

Cops are saying that the rappers aggressively shove CDs at pedestrians, block the sidewalk and follow potential customers down the street. But the rappers argue their music sales are protected by the First Amendment and claim the NYPD is trumping their right to free speech and treating them differently from other vendors.

“Allegations are merely such until proven otherwise,” a Law Department spokesperson said.-Peter Walsh

[NY Daily News]