Three New Hampshire teens were arrested Saturday on charges of assaulting and yelling racial slurs at a well-known performer called Keytar Bear near Faneuil Hall, according to Boston police.
An officer found Keytar Bear surrounded by a group of young men after responding to a radio call reporting an assault in progress Saturday at 4:40 p.m. near Congress and State streets, police said in a statement.
Police said what appeared to be a fight broke up when an officer approached in a cruiser with lights and sirens flashing. Witnesses told police that the suspects attacked the performer as he played his keytar.
They ripped off his bear mask, hitting the musician in the face and body several times while calling him slurs, according to the statement.
When witnesses tried to help the performer, the teens yelled epithets at them before running from police. Police said people in the vicinity directed the officer as he followed the suspects along Water Street toward Devonshire Street.
The mysterious busker is a local staple.
At KeytarBear.com , it says he “brings joy and happiness to Bostonians on the streets with his cheerful songs and amazing talent.” His identity is unknown, but for years he’s played his portable electronic keyboard, known as a keytar, while donning a disheveled bear costume for tips. He’s been called a Boston icon, playing music outside city landmarks, MBTA stops, and festivals.
The teens — ages 15, 16, and 17 — were caught after they climbed scaffolding of a nearby building and tried to hide by lying on a platform. The officer ordered them to come down, and they complied.
All three were charged with assault and battery, affray, and disorderly conduct, according to police. One was also charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol after officers said they found a small bottle of vodka in his pocket. The suspects aren’t being identified because they are juveniles.
The incident is under investigation by the Boston Police Civil Rights Unit.
When contacted via a Facebook page called “We Love Keytar Bear,” someone claiming to be speaking on behalf of the performer said, “Unfortunately, we were told that we could not discuss with media.”
The person said Keytar Bear was not out playing Sunday. “I am not sure if or when he will go back out,”the person said.
Sunday, the same Facebook page had a link to a crowdfunding campaign raising money to buy Keytar Bear a new stage monitor “for all of the entertainment Keytar Bear provides this city.”
“You bring joy to so many. I’m sorry that bad things happen to you unfairly,” one donor wrote. “Keep on keeping on, Keytar Bear.”
Boston Magazine reported Keytar Bear has been assaulted at least three times before.
In late 2014, a man and a woman were arrested for allegedly beating and robbing the performer as he played near Faneuil Hall, according to a Boston Magazine article. They were charged with assault and battery and unarmed robbery after holding down Keytar Bear and punching him in the head.
Earlier that year in two separate incidents, someone reportedly broke his instrument and later someone punched him and broke his nose, according to a Boston Magazine article.
In honor of the musical man in the bear mask, the City of Cambridge declared May 8, 2014, as Keytar Bear Day . A benefit and fund-raiser was held in his name.
Fans of the bear expressed their anger online in response to the recent assault. “An attack on Keytar Bear is an attack on all of us,” one tweeted. “Seriously upset by this.”Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.