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A tagger in action at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn (courtesy of Instagram user @srt_bully_ and used with permission)

A man was arrested on Sunday, December 29, for hijacking a crane and graffitiing the words “Bird God” in large type on the Grand Army Plaza arch in Brooklyn, New York.

According to the New York Police Department, Denis Shelagin, a 36-year-old man from Washington state, stole a cherry picker at 12:30pm on Sunday and raised himself upwards to tag the plaza’s historic Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch. But the graffiti writer was unable to lower the crane by himself and needed to be helped down before he was arrested, NYPD officials told the New York Post.

The cops hurried to cover the graffiti with a large blue tarp. Shelagin was later charged with making graffiti, criminal mischief, and grand larceny.

The Police remain uncertain about the meaning of Shelagin’s tag. Officers noted that the incident occurred a few hours before a Menorah-lighting ceremony planned at the site, but no direct connection was found between the graffiti and the Jewish Hanukkah holiday or any other events. It’s unclear what “Bird God” was meant to signify, whether it is related to the Happy Wars multi-player game, or something else.

UPDATE, December 31, 2019, 1:45 EST: 

Denis Shelagin, the man accused of spraying the cryptic graffiti “Bird God” on Grand Army Plaza’s arch in Brooklyn, said in court that he was instructed to do so in a 1960 letter from his great-great-grandfather. Shelagin also claimed that he was trying to raise awareness about pigeon killings, the New York Post reported.

In a court appearance on Monday, Shelagin said that he was worried that he would suffer harm if he didn’t fulfill his great-great-grandfather’s command.

Shelagin is facing charges of graffiti making, criminal mischief, and grand larceny. He was released without bail at his arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Monday. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 20.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Follow him on Instagram @hakimbishara and send him your tips, comments, and questions at hakim@hyperallergic.com.