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NYC subway cellist quits performances after assault, calls for better protection

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Iain Forrest, a subway cellist in New York City, announced he will be ceasing his performances in stations following a recent assault, wherein he was struck in the head with a metal bottle.

What happened: In the now-viral video of the incident, uploaded to X on Feb. 14, Forrest, 29, can be seen sitting on a stool while passionately playing his cello when a woman randomly approaches him from behind in the 34th Street-Herald Square station at around 5:45 p.m. The assailant, dressed in a mustard jacket and red scarf, picks up Forrest’s own metal water bottle off the ground and strikes him in the head before casually walking away from the scene. The recording ends as Forrest clutches the back of his head in pain.

“This marks the second attack I’ve endured in less than a year while performing for New Yorkers in subway stations,” Forrest wrote. “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I’m suspending subway performances indefinitely.”

According to the busker, the suspect fled the station, removed her outer clothing and escaped into a nearby Macy’s, where the New York Police Department (NYPD) were unable to locate her.

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About Forrest: Forrest is reportedly a medical PhD student at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. He is one of the volunteers for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Music Under New York program, which organizes musicians to conduct performances at various transportation centers throughout the city. The recent attack on the 29-year-old has led to his decision to quit performing in New York City subway stations.

“It hurt like hell,” Forrest said in his latest social media post. “Right now, I’m just focused on getting better. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I can go back to subway performances. Two attacks in less than a year is too much. I have been punched, choked and now bashed in the head. I love performing for you all, but I’m at my breaking point and can’t take more injury.”

Calling for protection: Instead, Forrest is now forming a coalition of people who are calling for stronger security and protection for musicians performing in subway stations. According to Forrest, the MTA and NYPD do not track stats of crimes against subway musicians.

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“This has to change to know where, when and why these attacks happen. Then police resources can be smartly allocated to prevent attacks,” he said in his post, inviting viewers, including his fellow musicians and advocacy groups, to join the Subway Performers Advocacy Group (SPAG) in demanding better security from the city.

Ongoing search for suspect: A search for the suspect is currently ongoing. The NYPD has released footage of the woman and has called on the public’s help to locate the assailant, offering up to $3,500 for any information leading to her arrest. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Crime Stoppers Hotline by calling (800) 577-TIPS or texting 274637 and entering TIP577.

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