Fresh off the arrests of five “taggers”, the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) is promising an aggressive crackdown on graffiti artists that may result in prison time. Of course, the police cannot do this on their own and the corporate media are obligingly doing their perceived duty to “help the community” by acting as official conduits for police misinformation. Central to this effort has been the portrayal of the city as “under siege” by graffiti artists. The GRPD and the city of Grand Rapids are making use of this supposed “rash” of graffiti to suggest draconian measures such as electronic tethers and outlawing the sale of spray paint to minors to create a public climate of fear in which there is no discussion about the ramifications for civil liberties of using tethers and other methods to stop graffiti, methods which will undoubtedly target primarily youth.
Not surprisingly, the corporate media’s coverage of the “graffiti crackdown” has been full of sensationalism, effectively portraying graffiti as a type of crime that residents need to fear. The local print and broadcast media has run a number of stories that create a sense of hysteria, with graffiti “tagging” being portrayed as out of control. The articles have been full of completely ridiculous assertions, with Guy Bazzani claiming that graffiti is “robbing the soul of this community,” parents supposedly wondering “oh no, where are my kids living?,” and even news readers trying their hand at spray paint while talking about how the police are “aggressively searching for the spray paint perpetrators.” WOOD TV 8, who claims to have “broken the story,” ran a piece last night in which they claim to have urgent information, reporting the supposed “new information” that graffiti artists engage in “competition” and that graffiti involves both art and “protest against capitalism.”
An article in today’s Grand Rapids Press describes graffiti artists as “punkers” who plan hang out in coffee shops planning their “targets.” Police are aggressively searching for the artists known as “MEEK” and “RANK,” whom the GRPD believe to “have commanded a following of at least 20 other taggers.” Of course, such comments are ridiculous and as shown in the arrests of members of NBC (Notorious Bomb Crew); the leads the police are using come from lower tier artists who are willing to pass along rumors to the police in exchange for lighter sentences. Even a cursory look at graffiti in Grand Rapids indicates that the graffiti scene is much larger than a few artists and that a few arrests will not stop a decentralized art form that has been steadily growing in popularity over the past five years.
For More Information: Grand Rapids Graffiti and Street Art