Thursday, September 12, 2013

When art meets police

Yesterday in Lafayette, Louisiana, downtown dwellers woke up to see the 9/11 Memorial at Parc Sans Souci defaced:

From KATC TV-3
I'm divided on street art. For the most part, I'm for it, in terms of free speech and its hand in improving urban blight. But I also hate vandalism.

Can this really be considered vandalism, though? Tasteless, yes. Conspiratorial blather, absolutely. But these were cutouts that were easily removed. I'm not sure that was worth an arrest. That could set a worrisome precedent. I don't know what the law says about that.

This issue ties into a discussion I'm currently involved in on Facebook about certain people getting arrested over ideological statements. My stance (echoed by others) is that the arrests are justified when a violation of public safety or peace occurs. Terry Jones didn't get arrested because of his views; it was because he was hauling piles of kerosene-drenched paper on public highways. Likewise, I imagine Salvador Perez was detained for defacing public property rather than for harboring crackpot beliefs. We can debate all we want about whether what he did counts as vandalism — but in any case, his arrest report won't say, "brought in on one count of expression."

Now that would be something to protest.

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