Last week, graffiti artist Alan Ket painted a mural in Inwood's Isham Park with the word "MURDERERS" in large lettering and with names like "NYPD," "Shell Oil," "Halliburton," "Bank of America," "TV," EPA" and others printed on coffins and tombstones. On Monday, Ket explained on the Inwood Community Facebook page, after commenters said they liked the image, "hi, I painted it on Thursday. Glad to hear that it is liked. I received a call today from the establishment that they were visited (again) by an officer from the 34th precinct that requested the mural be removed. They would like me to remove it soon. So much for freedom of expression." Since Ket didn't (he was going to contact a lawyer), cops went there to remove it themselves!
DNAinfo reports, "A pair of plainclothes officers arrived at New Edition Cleaners at 4929 Broadway at 11 a.m. Tuesday, armed with buckets of black paint, rollerbrushes and drop cloths, and began painting over [the mural]... The two identified themselves as police to a reporter."
The police asked New Edition's owner, Marina Curet, to remove the mural—even though she had given Ket permission to paint it—because, police claimed, neighbors complained about the violent message. Curet said, "I can't confront them, because I don't want problems. There is no freedom of expression."
Yesterday, while discussing the painted-over mural on Facebook, Ket pointed out to another person, "Graffiti is a legal term used to identify the defacing of property and this was not that at all? And was the message negative? It certainly was forceful but negative? How about opinionated. I painted the wall to communicate my feelings in light of the continued violence and injustice created against all living things by the people and corporations that I mentioned in the mural. There are hundreds [i]f not thousands of others that could be included. Its fine that you don't like it. We are all entitled to our individual opinions.... And thank you all who have posted in support of freedom of expression. Sometimes it just takes a small act like this to know where we stand as a community in the eyes of the authorities."
And Ket told DNAinfo that the imagery was inspired by the musical Fela! ("One of the scenes of the play includes a parade of coffins dubbed with the names of organizations that commit atrocities in Africa") while the message was prompted by the fatal police shooting of unarmed Bronx teen Ramarley Graham.