When Art Speaks Truth about the Police State, It Is Criminalized and Destroyed

 [Whether banning or burning books, or destroying truth-telling murals, repressive systems reveal their fear of informed people.  —  Frontlines ed.]

Ferguson-inspired ‘Sagging pants is not probable cause’ mural in Trenton removed after police request



A mural depicting Ferguson teen Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by police earlier this year, was removed from a gate on the corner of North Broad and Hanover Streets on Monday Oct. 20, 2014 after concerns from police. (Jenna Pizzi / Times of Trenton)
By Jenna Pizzi | Times of Trentoon October 20, 2014

TRENTON – A mural was painted over Monday afternoon after Trenton police expressed concern that the painting, depicting Michael Brown, a Ferguson, Mo., teen who was fatally shot by police in August, sent the wrong message about community and police relations.
The painting depicted Brown’s face with the caption “Sagging pants … is not probable cause.” Will “Kasso” Condry, the artist behind the mural, said he wanted to start a conversation about racial profiling.
The Trenton Downtown Association elected to remove the image after hearing concern from police officers that the mural sends a negative message about the relationship between police and the community.

The mural was painted by artists from the Sage Coalition about two weeks ago on a gate covering the entrance to a vacant storefront on the corner of North Broad and Hanover streets to cover an illegal advertisement for a nearby liquor store.
Condry said he did not come up with the idea to paint Brown’s image, rather, it was a group effort of many artists from Sage reflecting on Brown’s killing, the reactions and protests in Ferguson and their own experience with racial profiling by police.
“We did it knowing that it was going to start some dialogue,” said Condry.
“I thought maybe it would cause dialogue,” said Byron Marshall, who works with Condry and Sage. “It is not us against you.”
Marshall, who goes by the name Black Collar Biz, said the idea behind the painting is to say that racial profiling still happens and to raise awareness of the issue.
“Mike Brown is a symbol of a lot of things going on not just in Ferguson or in Trenton,” Marshall said.
Condry said he and Sage got permission from the Trenton Downtown Association to paint on the gate, but that TDA did not know what he was going to paint.
Christian Martin, TDA executive director, said after there was a double shooting in the area, police approached the TDA and asked that the image be removed. Martin said police said the painting did not promote peace in the community, especially when they are working to build a good relationship between residents and the police department.
Lt. Mark Kieffer, Trenton Police Department spokesman, said the police did not order the graffiti to be removed but he believes there was a discussion between officers and the TDA about the work.
Martin said the TDA decided to blast the image with the graffiti blaster Monday.
“I think it is the right message, just at the wrong location,” Martin said.

Cops Paint Over Inwood Mural That Depicts NYPD as ‘Murderers’
By Carla Zanoni on July 25, 2012
By Farran Powell and Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo New York Staff

INWOOD — The NYPD dispatched cops with paintbrushes to cover up a controversial mural on the side of an Inwood business Tuesday, after approaching the owner with concerns about its message, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

'Murderers' mural at 4929 Broadway in Inwood was removed by police officers on Tuesday.COURTESY ALAN KET‘Murderers’ mural at 4929 Broadway in Inwood was removed by police officers.

A pair of plainclothes officers arrived at New Edition Cleaners at 4929 Broadway at 11 a.m. Tuesday, armed with buckets of black paint, rollerbrushes and drop cloths, and began painting over local graffiti artist Alan Ket’s five-day-old mural titled “Murderers.” The two identified themselves as police to a reporter.The mural, which included the word “murderers” painted above several tombstones and coffins with epitaph names that included the NYPD, the Environmental Protection Agency and global corporations including Halliburton and Monsanto, was painted on the wall of the business with the permission of its owners.Officers visited the store on Monday, telling owners that the painting needed to come down and calling the message a “bad idea.”

“I can’t confront them, because I don’t want problems,” New Edition Cleaners owner Marina Curet, who has owned the business for five years, said in Spanish. “There is no freedom of expression.

“It’s a bomb, and now here I am in the middle of a bomb.”

According to law enforcement sources, the decision to remove the mural came after neighbors complained about its “violent” message — with bullet holes in the word murderers and tombstones.

Police said they were applying a “broken windows” approach to addressing quality-of-life concerns voiced by local residents.

Curet said she has been allowing artists to paint the side of the bulding for the past four years. She said she has never had a problem with police in the past.

“They were accusing those kids of conspiring against the government and that it was bad for the neighborhood,” said Curet’s daughter Flora Curet, 30. “They’re just expressing themselves.”

The mural is the work of local graffiti artist Alan Ket, a 41-year old Inwood resident. Ket has been painting murals on the side of New Edition Cleaners ever since he noticed the graffiti-laden brickface and decided to take responsibility for the wall.

“I decided to adopt the wall since I was already a customer there, and promised that I would do something good,” Ket said.

He said his topics have touched on political issues before. He said this mural was inspired by the Broadway musical “Fela!” about the life of Nigerian afrobeat founder Fela Kuti. One of the scenes of the play includes a parade of coffins dubbed with the names of organizations that commit atrocities in Africa.

He decided to do something closer to home, focusing on police shootings in New York City.

“I was inspired by the unarmed Ramarley Graham shooting in Bronx and the trend in police shootings,” said Ket, who painted the mural with two guest artists.

Marina Curet told the police officers when they arrived that she had given the artist permission to paint the wall and that he had offered to remove it himself.

But officers painted over the mural within four hours, even leaving midway through for a lunch break.

Residents came out swinging in favor of the right to free speech.

“Isn’t great art supposed to be controversial?” said Ian Lang, 48, a Hudson Heights resident, as a he snapped a picture of the mural before the police painted over it.

Inwood resident Richard Herrera defended the artists’ right to paint his message.

“We shouldn’t be as concerned with the subject matter as we should be with the fact of the matter that the police abused their authority and basically bullied people to censor art,” he wrote on Facebook.

Artist Gina Cruzco also wrote on Facebook, “I was stunned and impressed when I first saw the mural. Shame on those who can’t tolerate the truth.”

Others didn’t weigh in on the mural itself, but questioned the local 34th Precinct’s decision to devote two of the eight officers on duty at any given time in the area to painting over art.

“You’re telling me we don’t have better places to patrol?” said Inwood resident Maria Delgado. “This doesn’t seem like a fair use of resources.”



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