Takeshi Miyakawa’s street art is (understandably) pushing a sensitive terrorism button.
But this story isn’t about the public getting menaced, it’s more about posturing by the criminal justice system.
According to the person who made the complaint on Friday, the issue wasn’t that Miyakawa’s art appeared to be a bomb, but how they were going to get it off the tree. “I called 311 asking how to get that thing off my tree, if it was my responsibility or the city’s…the 311 woman put me through to 911 then the cops came. I left for work,” they wrote via email.
Miyakawa is charged with “two counts of placing a false bomb or a hazardous substance, reckless endangerment, placing a false bomb or a false substance in the 2nd degree, and criminal nuisance in the 2nd degree,” and is being held at a mental health facility for 30 days.
This morning I was taking a second look at this post from the excellent Lens blog. It’s an interview with ICP- and RISD-trained photographer Antonio Bolfo, who became a cop and did some amazing photojournalism of rookies patrolling housing projects in New York City.
I was curious about how the Lens editors might have connected the project, called NYPD Impact, with the Ramarley Graham shooting, which happened two days before the post went up. It turns out there’s no mention of Graham in the post, and I couldn’t find any comments that made that connection.
‘This is like a safe haven for them,’ Bolfo tells the Times. ‘Kind of like, collect their thoughts, talk to their loved ones, be people. Shed their police persona and relax a little bit.’ It is a place forbidden to civilians. The intensity of the relief this seclusion brings the officers is inverse to their connection to the community. The more they are merely foreign occupiers, the more they enjoy the view, a view that the very residents of the buildings on which they so symbolically trod are not allowed to enjoy … The many must be excluded so that the few may have the privilege of aesthetic contemplation. After all, isn’t that the way Art works?
It’s a pretty harsh perspective, but I can’t help but wonder whether the audience for NYPD Impact actually includes those who live in the projects. The Lens piece does mention the symbolic aspect of Bolfo’s project:
[The photographs] are at turns raw and tender, scary and sweet, and they humanize people on both sides of the badge — those who wear one and those who face them, night after night.
The photos are definitely amazing (be sure to check out the full set) and certainly humanize the NYPD. But I wonder if they do so to the same degree for residents of the housing projects. I wonder about the timing of the interview, which is about a project from 2008-2009. It’s hard not to see the post as a response to community outrage, although I realize it’s most likely just an unintended coincidence.
Update: I contacted Michael Wilson, the reporter who interviewed Antonio Bolfo, and the timing of the interview was in fact coincidental:
The piece was scheduled to run when it did about a week prior, and it was completed and filed in the system before the shooting, I believe. It’s even possible the piece was edited the day of the shooting. I can see where your questions seem like obvious ones after the fact, but at the time, it just wouldn’t have occurred to anyone here to link the two.
A police officer was stabbed on New Year’s eve in the process of re-evicting Zuccotti Park.
It is important to remember that the police officers too are the 99%, even if some don’t realize it yet. It is up to each of us to reach out to them and show them the truth. We are just as capable of free thought as the next guy and can understand a logical argument when one is presented to us. Common sense, however, dictates that when these officers are confronted by violent behavior such as stabbings and personally offensive language on the part of protesters, they like anyone, will be turned off by the overall message and are far more willing to do the dirty work of those in power. For these same reasons, I understand it is hard for some protesters to have force used upon them without returning force but it is still vitally important to the survival of the overall movement to remain non-violent.
John Knefel, an uncredentialed journalist, on his experience getting arrested by the NYPD:
Journalists — like activists — shouldn’t be afraid of going to jail. If and when we do get arrested it is not an inconvenience, or something that we shouldn’t be subjected to. It’s a chance to refocus our outrage, a chance to tell the most important stories, a chance to bear witness to the horrors of our criminal justice system. I don’t think the NYPD will ever offer me official credentials, but I won’t be asking them for any. Our right to observe and document police misconduct is not contingent on the approval of the authorities. And if the police think that intimidation is going to stop this movement, they should know better by now.
Sitting there, with the stench from our filthy toilet filling the room, and with the filth in our filthy sink making me less eager than I ought to have been to drink from it, despite being thirsty, I became angry—really, honestly, for the first time. I thought for the first time, with genuine venom, of the hypocrite mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, who shut down the Occupy Wall Street encampment for reasons of “health and safety” but has not deemed it worthwhile to make sure that the toilets in facilities that he has control of meet even the most minimal standards of health and safety, such that, while I watched, about forty men, eating a total of a hundred meals, over the course of a day and a half, refused to perform a single bowel movement. This was its own form of civil disobedience, I suppose, and if I’d had my wits about me maybe I could have organized a meeting of all the inmates at Bloomberg’s residence, on East Seventy-ninth Street, so that we could all take a giant shit on his front stoop.
For 17 months, New York police officer Adrian Schoolcraft recorded himself and his fellow officers on the job, including their supervisors ordering them to do all sorts of things that police aren’t supposed to do.
Kennedy has devoted his career to reducing gang and drug-related inner-city violence. He started going to drug markets all over the United States, met with police officials and attorney generals, and developed a program — first piloted in Boston — that dramatically reduced youth homicide rates by as much as 66 percent. That program, nicknamed the “Boston Miracle,” has been implemented in more than 70 cities nationwide.
There’s a grim undercurrent, following the Occupy Oakland eviction on Monday night, that Scott Olsen may be America’s Mohamed Bouazizi. If you haven’t seen the following video already, I urge you to take a moment and watch it. It really hits me in a visceral way, it fills me with dread and anger and nausea.
Last night’s march in solidarity with Occupy Oakland in New York City produced a similar video showing police clashing with protestors. Both videos use slow motion to help explain what’s happening, while elevating the emotional stakes.
In the second video police are swarming against singular individuals. But I also see a police force that’s outnumbered, that’s barely holding their own. While protestors are not responding violently, per se, this is clearly outside the bounds of effective nonviolent protest. Aggressive yelling is not the same as tackling and pinning somebody, but it’s going to increase the likelihood of escalations in violence.
The only way the Occupy movement can achieve meaningful change is through nonviolence. Similarly, the use of video to mobilize the public in solidarity must not overstate the case that police are wielding an inappropriate response against protestors. We only need to look to Oakland for evidence that current police tactics are dangerous and unwarranted. Or to Staten Island.
Goading on a conflict between police and activists, either as a release valve for built up frustrations or for the sake of damning YouTube case studies, is bad for the OWS movement. Obviously it’s bad for police. But it’s also bad for everyone else who are watching from a safe distance hoping that something transformative can come out of all this.