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The water tower in Detroit where Antonio Cosme and William Lucka allegedly painted “Free the Water” (screenshot via travis_from_cincinnati on Instagram)

As a founding member of the Raiz Up Collective in Southwest Detroit, Antonio Cosme, 28, has been an outspoken critic of the city’s redevelopment regime: speaking at public meetings, interrupting the mayor’s state of the city address, and using his own body to prevent officials from shutting off a pregnant woman’s water supply in the middle of Ramadan. Recently, however, Cosme has also become a subject of the emergency management system he’s been criticizing. He and fellow Raiz Up artist and activist William Lucka, 22, are facing up to $75,000 in fines and four years in prison for allegedly painting “Free the Water” in large block letters up the side of a water tower in Highland Park. Accompanying the text is a black graphic of a fist covering the height of the tower.

In November 2014, police confronted Cosme and Lucka at the bottom of the tower, but nearly a year and a half had passed before police contacted them again about the incident. Then, a Detroit graffiti task force — a newly formed special unit charged with tracking and prosecuting taggers and graffiti artists — took over the case, claiming the cost of cleaning the tower would range from $45,000 to $75,000, Cosme says. Police raided Lucka’s home, taking many of his art-related materials, and eventually brought a slew of new charges against him, using one of the task force’s key tools: an expanding graffiti database. Cosme describes it as a “badass” archive of local street art despite its nefarious purpose. Using the database, the taskforce linked Lucka to multiple appearances of the tag “Astro,” which appeared on the water tower with “Free the Water.”

William Lucka and Antonio Cosme (photo courtesy Antonio Cosme) (click to enlarge)

Because Cosme and Lucka’s arrest coincided with the formation of the task force, Cosme sees the charges as a publicity stunt to show off the special unit and promote the city’s agenda. In June 2015, the taskforce also made a big show of issuing a warrant for the internationally known street artist, Shepard Fairey. After completing a commissioned 18-story retread of his brand “Obey,” Fairey wheat-pasted several other versions of his brand illegally in public spaces, including a water tower. He turned himself in and faced charges that were dropped in June of this year.

The publicity around the arrest is ironic considering that Fairey is a commercial street artist whose work tends to appear in areas undergoing gentrification. Indeed, his commissioned mural in Detroit climbed the side of a building owned by Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans who has become one of the city’s leading developers. Cosme and Lucka’s case, meanwhile, represents heightening conflict between residents and an emergency management system that doesn’t seem to care about them. The case highlights clear disparities in the city’s agenda, considering that, on the one hand, it has targeted at least 40 percent of the city for water shut-offs due to overdue bills as low as $150 and, on the other hand, it has criminalized graffiti in order to attract and retain out-of-town investors and developers, and to encourage smaller-scale entrepreneurship.

An exhibition of William Lucka’s and Antonio Cosme’s work doubles as a fundraiser for their defense fund. (image courtesy William Lucka)

While Detroit media tends to narrate graffiti in terms of vandalism and blight, Cosme and Lucka are hardly criminals. Cosme helped to found Raiz Up as an Indigenous/Chicano art and activist collective in 2012 after returning to southwest Detroit from Eastern Michigan University, where he studied economics and political science. He was frustrated watching his city “get sold off piece by piece, watching every asshole with an idea and a bunch of money get their shit done,” he told me over the phone. Significantly, the Detroit establishment seemed to endorse the collective’s values: In 2014, the Knight Foundation awarded The Raiz Up $25,000 to host hip-hop parties that also organize communities and promote civic action. The Raiz Up works with a number of other local organizations — Black Youth Project, New Era Detroit, #blacklivesmatter, the People’s Water Board — geared at “hardwiring,” to borrow a phrase from corporate culture, community interests and provide input for the city’s agenda. Attempts by some groups to do so have been met with resistance from city leaders: A recent voter-initiated ballot measure that ensures public investments serve community interests, for instance, was instantly undermined by a councilman’s similar proposal that excludes developer accountability, a key feature of the community version.

Cosme and Lucka have been in and out of court since March, initially working with a pro-bono defense council, but moving to a different lawyer when it became clear that the city was going to push hard for the maximum sentence. They have a pre-trial conference on September 23 and their final trial on October 24. Initial offers from the prosecutor have been inflexible, Cosme says, which has been frustrating considering that Lucka qualifies for a program that keeps young offenders out of prison. And, having witnessed a white graffiti artist with similar charges walk without sentencing, Cosme believes the entire process subscribes to a logic of anti-blackness. “That day in court, literally, every single black person who went into court … went to jail,” Cosme said. “I saw two or three white people just get off … [with] lawyers from the suburbs.”

Supporters have formed a Free the Water Defense Campaign for Antonio Cosme and William Lucka’s defense fund. The same group is hosting a fundraiser featuring Lucka’s artwork on August 13 and a crowdfunding campaign, Funded Justice, that continues through August 31.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Shepard Fairey was still facing charges for his street art. Charges were dropped in June 2016. This has been fixed. 

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Matthew Irwin

Matthew Irwin is a freelance arts writer and PhD student (American Studies) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A finalist for the 2015 Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, he has written for...

44 replies on “Two Detroit Artists Face Up to Four Years in Prison for Political Graffiti”

  1. Having worked in Highland Park for 30years I recall this and lots of other things painted on that tower.

  2. Fairey being prosecuted is NOT “ironic”
    There is a huge difference between commissioned murals where the owner of the property wants and agrees to the building being spray painted and one of these men taking it upon themselves to deface a building to promote themselves or their agenda that does not belong to them and the owners do not want tagged up…. which then the cost of removing falls on the owner or the tax payers

    1. Fairey’s work is gentrification-friendly faux graffiti that makes “creatives” feel safe and comfortable, while the taskforce is part of a larger effort to make Detroit seem gentrification-friendly for “creatives.” In other words, they’re working against their own purpose; thus, the charges are ironic. But … I do believe that the taskforce also took advantage of his status to demonstrate their resolve, which, of course, is informed by the kind of hard line stance that you seem to support.

      1. There is no “hard line” there is only a clear distinct line between legal and criminal

        If work is put up with the permission and knowledge of the owners of the property or the city then by all means they should go ahead and create at their heart/s content. But in commandeering someone’s private property for your own purposes at a detrimental and financial cost to them then i see no honor in that and it is definitely wrong and should be punished.

        I doubt you’d be as glib if an artist tagged your car or the home of your parents and the bill for the clean up fell on you. Most of those creatives are temporary tourists to Detroit and not the long term property owners. The minute their first kid they popped out hits school age they move back to gross pointe or Bloomfield Hills leaving the costs of these un commissioned pieces they liked to instagram selfies in front of to be the problem of the permanent residents.

        1. 1. The distinct line between legal and criminal is in fact very very grey. That is what lawyers are for. Not to simply prove whether something is true or false, but to test the boundaries of this “distinct line”. That’s why they earn so much money.

          2. Is painting Free the Water on a water tower comparable to someone tagging your car? I think that’s chalk and cheese, and i think its disingenuous to suggest otherwise. “Free the Water” is a public political statement, a tag works in a very different sphere of the political. A tag is insular, a message such as this is outwardly embracing a wider community. The water tower is also not private in the sense of owned by a singular individual. It is a public amenity. It is visible to all the public. It has no singular owner. I’m not suggesting that means we can paint whatever we want on it, but it is very, very different to the oft-used “tag on your car” or “painting on the wall of your house”.

          The message thus might be annoying but it is not 4 years in jail. Nor is it $45-75000 of cleanup. That is beyond preposterous. And it also seems very obviously targeted and very obviously political. Who does this actually help?

          1. It’s not up to YOU to decide what is “criminal” and what is not. The law is there. Nor is it up to you to be taking uneducated guesses at what it will cost some unwitting landlord to clean up their property after some arrogant a##hole decides to criminally deface it. This “artist” should have informed himself of the risk (possible jail time, fines, etc.) before he went and criminally victimized someone else. There are ways to send a message without victimizing other people and breaking the law. And, who does this “help”? Potential future victims (maybe he will actually get creative and find another way of spreading his message without victimizing other people) and other potential offenders (they will see you actually get in trouble for breaking laws).

          2. Just to be very clear I (in caps) am not deciding what is criminal or not. I am merely saying the law is grey. That’s the point of lawyers. See point above.
            Re uneducated guesses. Actually they’re educated guesses. I have spoken to many “environmental” officers in the UK and beyond about this. What’s interesting in terms of UK trains for example, is that prices for cleaning have gone up almost 100 fold since privatisation. This has led to more prison time for “vandals” as the judges hand out sentences based on the “cost” of the damage, which, as i said, has gone up 100 fold! Amazing!
            And do you really believe that writing “free the water” is “criminally victimizing” lols! Who is it victimizing! How is public speech victimizing? Why aren’t we valuing this? Why is this crime?
            Or if it is crime, why isn’t the punishment that they themselves must clean it off… surely more appropriate…. Surely more appropriate than jail time!! (Which is incidentally a further cost to the tax payer ha)!
            Its a strange situation.

          3. You seem unable to grasp the simple fact that if you break the law, there are consequences. It’s not up to you to try to minimize, justify, or rationalize. This guy is a repeat offender also. If and when the day comes you or yours are victimized, you will be the first one screaming to the heavens how the person should be strung up by the toes, so save your hypocrisy. There are ways to exercise free speech that are within the law and don’t victimize other people. If this “artist” is truly creative, he could dazzle us with his ingenuity of finding one of those legal creative avenues, instead of boring us with the same old crust of breaking the law, and then crybabies trying to defend his actions. Get real.

          4. Whoa whoa whoa. I’m not trying to say there aren’t consequences to breaking the law! Of course there are consequences. But to suggest that they don’t need justification or rationalisation? That sounds like totalitarianism! Of course the law needs to be justified and rationalised. Otherwise, where the hell are we!
            PS, this is not about the personal. The law is not personal. The law is without emotion. To argue “when it happens to you, you’ll think differently” is a strawman argument. Its an irrelevance.

          5. And following your comment – is the illicit painting on this water tower truly comparable to the damage caused by that water tower’s contents and the misfeasance of those responsible for not informing the public of the risk of lead poisoning of so many people?

            The water tower’s exterior can be painted over easily enough and in all honesty, would have been repainted anyway as part of its normal maintenance. The damage to those who trusted their city managers to ensure the safety of the water supply is permanent and will cost infinitely more than a coat of paint.

          6. No, the distinction between legal and criminal is not grey. That is the most idiotic statement on here.

            The legality of defacing property by one who does not explicitly hold the deed to it is quite clear. The tower is private in that the legal rights to use and restrict access to it are reserved for the city/state charged in running and maintaining it and not any member of the public who walks off the street.
            That the costs of cleaning up of graffitti in the public space is spread across the entire city’s taxpayers does not make the costs any less in the aggregate. It still requires the use of resources that are taken from individuals to pay for the acts of an unwanted actor who carried it out.

            Furthermore, the two men charged in the crime cannot simply be sentences to go up there and clean it up. In today’s litigious society the state would be responsible for the men’s wellbeing if they were required to go back up there and since there is an element of risk in that it would not be a viable solution. Its the same reason we don’t make prisoners dig ditches or hammer rocks any longer. The ACLU would be all over the city if convicted criminals were sentenced to any thing that put them in physical danger. So instead the clean up must be done by the city and its employees whom are paid public labor union negotiated wages rather than contracting it out to the lowest bidder.

    2. No small part of Graffiti as an Art Form is its illegal nature, and the fact that once done its future/permanence is always tenuous at best – that, and the often socio-political content of the Graf’ Art.
      That it is illegal, i.e. defacement of public or private property is yet another condition of its making. But this status as ‘outlaw’ art informs rather than negates the intrinsic quality of it as Art. Graffiti Artists know all too well that they put their work out there in the world and once done, like a grown child, its future is largely out of the hands of its maker(s).
      However, there is graffiti and then there is Graffiti, and, if one is going to risk going to jail for their Art, then one might well hope that the cause is worth it.
      The illicit nature of the act is certainly far the lesser of evils than the misfeasance of those authorities responsible for the circumstances for which these Artists are responding.
      That too, as has so often been the case, is a condition of the making of this ‘Art’.

      1. It is disingenuous to portray graffiti as a whole as some sort of political response to the ills of society and greivences against government. In many if not most cases the tagging is a means of self promotion or marking of territorial grounds… which again is mostly done on the private property of others whom are victimized and left with the burden of the costs.

        How you or the “artists” personally perceive the nature or future of the acts is strictly confined to your minds and not the real world effects or consequences to others. Your entire argument ignores all after effects on the residents of the areas effected and wantonly (and wrongly) ties them to whatever hypothetical (dot)gov entity you give blame to for causing these “artists” to resort to criminal behavior. That in this instance the act of tagging the tower is a lesser evil than negligence city officials carried out in the water quality problems there is irrelevant to the issue that Detroit residents is plagued with costs and consequences of undoing the graffiti of people such as the two charged individuals.

  3. Fairey was charged with graffiti for putting up his Obey prints on buildings without permission. Not commissioned. Those charges were later dropped. That is the difference. Political speech or self promotion. Which is a greater threat to gentrification?

  4. One of the commenters below said that comparing this to someone “tagging” someone else’s car or home is like chalk and cheese. Seriously? The parallel seems perfectly apt: a building is defaced, and the “artist” will not be anywhere around when it comes time to pay for the clean up after the fact. There is no sense of responsibility here, just what purports to be “free speech”… except that here, no actual speaking is involved, just — again — the creation of something that it is expected someone else will pay to have cleaned up.

    While there may be some racial bias — we *are* talking about Detroit, after all — two wrongs do make a right. His comments about “two or three white folk just got off” doesnt say what their charges were. It could have been first-degree littering, for all we know. Further, despite his apparent record of illegal actions like this (as evidenced by his “badass” database), he wants to avail a program for young offenders, to which I reply, sir, you are 28, not 18. While a councilman might submit a proposal that has a section that runs counter to public interest, that doesnt automatically mean that proposal has been accepted. That, like so many other things in this article, glosses over the fact that what he did was wrong and that he is tap dancing his way around that by any means possible to avoid his own culpability.

    Yes, take a stand and act to it. But realize that there will be repercussions. Rights do not exist in a vacuum; they come with attendant responsibilities.

    1. The chalk and cheese metaphor relates to public (chalk) and private (cheese).
      A home is surely private. A water tower visible to all? Is that truly private? Even if privately owned? I’m not so sure.
      The reason why tagging a house is so “bad” is that its so personal. Its attacking a person (the home/house as a metaphor of the person). Attacking a water tower is not on the level of the person its on the level of the public.

      1. “You” are not so sure if the tower is privately owned because it is visible to all? That is the most stupid statement I have read yet. Your car, your home, your very person is “visible” to all, so based on your rationale none of that can be privately owned either?? LMAOOOOO

        1. Not really reading / wanting to understand what I’m saying Fieldsie.
          Argument is about trying to come to an understanding through discussion. Shame we’re not gonna get to that point but I genuinely would love to. Do you really really think there is no difference between a private house and this tower? No difference at all?
          Love the inverted commas round “You” too! Lols!

      2. The very fact that it’s done to a public building means it impacts everyone. Tell me: how would you feel if someone tagged the White House? Or the Lincoln Memorial? Or the MLK statue? Are those any different from a public water tower?

        1. I totally agree about its impact. That’s what makes public art so potentially powerful – legal or illegal.
          And yes your are examples are different from the water tower.
          Everything is context.
          Don’t you think so?
          But also its not about how I feel. If it makes me feel bad that could actually be good!
          I’m not saying this is good or bad. I’m simply saying 4 years in jail! $75K fine? Something smells very very fishy (and very very political)…

          1. “Everything is context”? That’s your distinction? Sorry, not a very good one. I could scribble “all lives matter!” across the MLK status and claim it’s a matter of context. Or are we dismissing it because it’s just a water tower and not a monument? In that case, where does one make the distinction? Utility of purpose? Beauty of design? The sense I get from these self-righteous “street artists” is that anything in public view is fair game — and always someone else’s mess to clean up after the fact. Certainly not theirs, you see. Their purpose is vastly more *important*, so why do they have to share any sort of responsibility after the fact? Do I have it right?

            The four years in jail and 75K fine? If you read the article, this isnt his first time at the dance. Police found his “badass” database of other projects he’s inflicted, so one may presume that the fine and jail time represent cumulative actions, not an isolated one.

          2. This is good, making me think!
            But i still think context is beyond crucial, its everything. Water Tower vs White House cannot be responded to in the same way. They are clearly different, however their difference is on the level of the specific not the general.
            Re: self-righteousness. I totally agree that many street artists believe so much that what they are doing is “right” that even if it is contextually unsuccessful, that is an irrelevance to them. I agree that that can be annoying. I totally agree (although also being annoyed can be good).
            But they having previously danced or not, we’re sending these people to jail? That’s still a good idea? And we don’t mind that the police or (seemingly) targeting these criminals over other more important (and perhaps more difficult) targets?

          3. So what is this context? “Oh, it’s an ugly building anyway, so who cares”? How is that any different from me saying that the “artwork” aint all that much either? But does “contest” change that? Who gets to decide this line between the water tower and the monument? Will it be the same party that says, “This art is creatively okay. This isnt.”? I can imagine how well that would go over in some circles. 🙂

            As for the purpose of them going to jail (or not — they’ve not been sentenced, remember), they did the crime. They got caught. Whether or not it’s an “important” crime is irrelevant. They actually made themselves high enough on the police’s radar that it was inevitable that they’d be caught, so perhaps that’s part of the “installation” as well? Do something illegal, then direct it after the fact so that they’re helpless victims of an oppressive and brutal system?

            Do the police have higher priorities? I”m sure they do. But again: who gets to decide which crimes shall go unpunished and which wont? As I said, these guys acted like they *wanted* to be caught. Shall the police ignore such a desperate cry for attention?

          4. Context is everything. Not simply ugly/beautiful, that’s too subjective for me. Its the history of the place, its the people around it. Its the use of the space, its the wider public meaning. That’s why good public art is called “site specific”. If its not specific to the site, what’s the point of it being in the complexity of public space rather than the vaccum of the white cube. And I’m not arbiter of good or bad. I’m simply saying that context is king!

            Re: the intent behind the act. Sounds super cynical to think they did it to become hapless victims etc. You really think so?

            Re: higher priorities. Who gets to decide which crimes go unpunished and which don’t? Great question. And i think something which is key here. Who is deciding this? Who is working on Detroit’s public art policing agenda? Someone is. And why? With this alongside the Fairey situation, it seems quite clear this isn’t just random. Doesn’t it?

          5. Indeed I do think they set this up to make themselves appear as helpless victims. They left clues for the police to follow, almost brandishing them as a matter of fact. They *wanted* to be caught so they could use that in the court of social media public opinion: all one has to do is look at some of the comments right here to see how well that works in their favour. Their cause is now irrelevant: it’s now about them and their accomplishment. What good does that do for the issue that started it in the first place? Any? If the room is filled with convo about them and their brave act, then who’s talking about what made it so suppposedly necessary in the first place? I dont see a whole lot of that topic in these comments, frankly. Everyone here seems more concerned about the “art” than the cause.

            OK, so as to the context of the piece: what is it here? And once they’ve accomplished whatever their mission might be to further that context, what next? Will they be there for any kind of follow-up? (assuming they’re not in jail, of course) Will they assist in the clean up of this afterwards without being forced to by a court? Will they turn *that* into a social media event for themselves?

            As for the police: the police, even one as inept as Detroit’s, solve hundreds, if not thousands, of crimes every month. We dont hear about them because they’re not “sexy” like this. But it goes on all around us. There’s no grand conspiracy at play here. Fairey turned himself in, remember. These gentlemen had to be found and arrested. And therein lies the difference between those two incidents. Further, his crime was wheat paste, which is pretty easy to remove. They no doubt used a few coats of black industrial paint, which will be a horror story to clean up. The irony, of course, is that the city will have to use chemical-based solvents to do that, and all of that will go into the water supply, just adding to the overall crappiness of Michigan’s water. I wonder if they considered that before embarking on this mission. Probably not.

          6. Pardon my inserting an observation here, but in another article (See University Plans to Remove Two WPA Murals for Colonial Depictions) you not so implicitly suggest that indeed one’s “Perspective” is a major factor in making judgments.

            So, are you now saying that a person’s personal/cultural/social perspective does not matter?

          7. Your feeble attempt to link two well painted (and commissioned) pieces with work done by a pair who seem to feel they have no responsibility after the fact is just that: feeble. Try again. Or shall we drop by your house uninvited and paint it solid black and call it art?

          8. No worse than your feeble attempt to rely upon the relativism assertion when it suits your arguments and to conveniently dismiss it when it does not. Hubris comes to mind.
            The two clandestine artists in question have in fact a history of social activism and I would again assert that their crime pales in comparison to that which they protest through their painting on the container of water poisoned through the misfeasance of those entrusted with its safety.
            There are times when the crime of defacement serves the causes of justice. The tradition of Graffiti is replete with examples – the addressing of “The Troubles” in Ireland comes readily to mind, where Graffiti and clandestine murals of protest were a significant voice of social justice, and where legally sanctioned means of protest largely absent or at best severely censored.
            The precedence has long been established.

        2. A frequently tagged water tower in a city on life support is not the White House or anyone’s house. The questions for me are: Does the graffiti improve the neighborhood? Is the structure being maintained and cared for? Is the aesthetic communication more significant than the structure.

  5. Monetarily & spiritually, it’s a highly valuable gift to the city – and the city should be thanking and honoring these artists. It’s a wonderful work up on the water tower. And it costs quite a lot to have artists paint murals like this one – in such a spot – and one which enhances the quality of life for residents – and the meaning of people’s lives in an urban setting.

    Frankly, a disgrace that they are pursuing them like this. Normally we struggle to find funding for public arts projects.

    Now these cretins want to punish them and pay money to remove it, instead, and so everything can be dull, ugly and uninteresting again. Then, on top of that, along with throwing away the value of the piece, pay a great deal more of the taxpayer’s money to pursue prosecution and jail time of two talented artists they could, instead, be paying to put more murals up around the city.

    Perhaps the artists should defect to a democratic nation?

    Shame!

  6. The Art Establishment is all about militant and rigid conformity, and following silent rules without deviation, so they should understand that the rest of society also has their own “rules” about defacing other people’s property. Believe it or not, not everyone CARES about “why” this person vandalized this water tower, just the fact that he did. Don’t want to go to jail? Value your personal freedom and other people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — then find other ways of expressing yourself that don’t jeopardize either. It is possible if you truly have talent and a message, and are not just a poser hiding behind your “art”.

    1. The problem with your assertions here is that those socially acceptable means of expression are controlled by the very entities toward which this art statement was directed. Therefore, as with much officially sanctioned structures, there is a tendency toward controlling the subject, form and content of any Art, Graffiti or otherwise, and to direct that art toward safer, i.e. conservative, forms and messages.
      Otherwise, this has little if anything to do with the “Art Establishment”.

      1. Socially acceptable means are “controlled”? Censored? If so, thank a Progressive, as they wont “tolerate” speech they find offensive. And, that is the Establishment –“Art” or otherwise. These guys who graffitied private property should have no problems finding “socially acceptable” outlets to spread their message, as it is a PC message. Only those with messages deemed politically incorrect have all kinds of true issues with censorship, yet many of them still find ways — within the law and without victimizing other people by destroying their property — to get their message out there. Get creative– after all, isn’t that the gift of a true artist?

        1. No, socially acceptable is as often the purview of those having little understanding of either social concerns or Art. And for this no party has a monopoly.
          As for that creative thingy…all are creative; it is the condition for our survival.
          The gift of the artist is that they are much aware of and focused upon that intrinsic human characteristic.

  7. Why burden corrections with such nonthreatening offenders? Why not simply have the artists do the cleanup of the tower?

  8. I like the argument that the “landlords” didn’t want the artwork and so, now have go clean it up. Unfamiliar as i am with Detroit, i won’t comment on how the clean is going for all these aggrieved landlords in Detroit. I would suspect it is the same for Detroit as for many other cities. There is no cleanup. The issue is not the enormity of the effort as is so often stated as the reason. A primary reason is ABSENCE. The owner of record has no interest other than possession, in the properties in question being other than derelict. In fairness to the municipality, absence is a major issue and in some cases, even unstable dangerously derelict buildings cannot be easily adjudicated.
    None of this has to do with art except that art used as a vehicle of speech is always suspect by the state. Artists are a threat because they spend their time in the realm of possibilities which upsets the current view. Absent in all of thsi is a discussion of whether or not it’s art — and that is perhaps a good thing.
    It would seem that Detroit might have some fairly draconian legal approaches to the administration of public utilities, and how it cares for its citizens and some well planned and placed marks on surfaces are apparently point this out.

    1. Thank you, your assertion speaks of the reality of many blighted cities and or neighborhoods. I would add that in regards to what this has to do with “art”. It is often a sexy seeming idea to exploit art and artists as a means of dressing up or otherwise camouflaging this blight. It seems that having art and artists around is desirable. It has happened that the gentry enjoys this, then moves in and then out go the artists. One saw this in NYC as once affordable living and working spaces were bought up, developed and sold to the rich and famous, because they wanted to live in neighborhoods with a sexy artsy chic. Ironically those artists are given the boot.
      In the case of Detroit, why so much judicial attention to these two artists? Well, it is first and foremost far easier to prosecute them than deal with the core issues at the root of the City’s problems.
      In essence, the City is dealing with s symptom, but the illness itself goes untreated. But in prosecuting these two activist artists, they can at least give an impression that they are indeed doing something, and thus make some political hay of the situation.

  9. Well, there you have it (as if we need any more examples) of the twisted priorities of the system, it’s disregard for justice, and its paranoia that what, by simple inference from its outrageously exaggerated defensiveness, it knows are lies that are threatened with exposure.

  10. As soon as it’s political it’s political speech and needs top be handled differently. I would have no problem with Fairey’s Obey work being called “brand promotion”, since he persistently spreads it with minimal political content. And he has publicly stated in the past that his work is not political. Cosme and Lucka’s work is blatantly political and pertinent to the ongoing neoliberal privatization rape of the US and the world. Civil disobedience needs to be legislated a pass out of the criminal punishment regimen. Don’t want revolutionary demands being made to be just, sustainable and fair?… stop being a proto-fascist government and a pathetic Matrix dwelling OBEDient public. This is what Free Speech is all about… righting wrongs… it must be a cornerstone of any self governing system that people can start a dialog, no matter how much people or the system are inconvenienced. Don’t want direct democracy? Don’t want self-governing? Move to China where THEIR autocratic 1% tyrants can tell you what to do 24/7/365. In the US, the 1% can go sit in the back of the bus and shut the fkup while we the 99% fix the disaster they have made.

  11. Getting arrested for a “noble” cause is good publicity for an artist… this ain’t the first time.

    1. It was once said that any press is good press. One need only look at what stories dominate the reportage of [most/] of the media to see the truth of that assertion.

  12. How about we start putting real criminals in jail and stop wasting tax payers money. That would be great. 4 years in jail for graffiti is ridiculous especially when the college rapist from California got off with a slap on the hand for rapping the girl behind the dumpster all because mommy and daddy have money and he was this so called swimmer. I think these two should not be in jail. I also believe it’s making the news because it’s political graffiti. If the politics and politicians weren’t so damn crooked then they wouldn’t have to be worried about being slammed all the time. It’s paint. Get over yourself. If it’s such a big deal then have them clean it up at their expense. Let’s focus more on real criminals and stop worrying about the politicians getting so damn butt hurt for their own stupidity.

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