Graffiti artists tag New York city councilman as enemy No. 1

Pick a fight with graffiti artists and you can expect to see your name plastered around town.

New York's graffiti artists and their supporters have tagged City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. as their archenemy. And they are making their disgust plain by putting his name everywhere, in graffiti, on Internet message boards and in court papers challenging his crackdown.

Vallone has made graffiti his signature issue since he was first elected in 2001. He has pushed through laws that raise fines for graffiti offenders, he calls them "punks" and "miscreants", and penalize landlords who do not clean the paint from their walls.

The former prosecutor also won passage of a law that bars the possession or purchase of spray paint, broad-tipped indelible markers and etching acid by anyone under 21.

"Art, I like. But this is not art, this is vandalism," Vallone said one recent evening as he drove through his district in the Queens section of New York, where spray-painted angular scribbles and multicolored block letters wrap around buildings and underpasses.

Several young artists who say they use the restricted art supplies for legal artwork filed a federal lawsuit over the new measure, saying it violates their free speech rights.

It is a debate with a long history in New York. Those who have fought to erase graffiti over the years, including Mayors Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins and Ed Koch, say it is a symbol of blight and urban chaos that invites worse crimes and is often a tool of gang communication. During the 1980s, the transit agency introduced paint-resistant subway cars, robbing graffiti writers of their preferred canvas.

Graffiti artists, or graffiti vandals, as some call them, say their work is a legitimate form of art intertwined with city history and urban American culture. They decry the attempt to associate graffiti with crime and gangs.

Graffiti is "the official visual dialect of a generation," and demonizing it "takes away their legitimacy," said fashion designer Mark Ecko, who has led the legal challenges to Vallone's laws.

In January, on a giant billboard near the Manhattan Bridge, graffiti artists spray-painted in enormous bubble letters a four-letter insult followed by the councilman's name, reports AP.


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Author`s name: Editorial Team