The New York Police Department's decision to paint over a mural that cast the agency as "murderers" has some residents in the Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood and the New York Civil Liberties Union accusing authorities of violating an artist's right to free speech.
"This wall is being censored by the NYPD," graffiti artist Alan Ket told DNAinfo.com.
Ket recently painted a mural showing the word "murderers" over depictions of coffins with labels that included "NYPD," "EPA" and "Halliburton."
View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.Ket, who said that a recent rash of police shootings inspired him to paint the mural, had gotten permission from New Edition Cleaners owner Marina Curet to put the artwork on the side of her business. Curet said that she has allowed artists to paint there for four years.
But he certainly didn't have the blessing of the local 34th Precinct, a fact made crystal clear by actions taken by the agency in response to his artwork.
Two plainclothes officers showed up at the store with buckets of paint on Tuesday and covered the inflammatory mural. DNAinfo quoted police sources as saying that the 34th Precinct decided to take action after getting complaints from residents.
But while some may not approve of the mural's message, many see its removal as a violation of free speech.
"We shouldn't be as concerned with the subject matter as we should be with the fact of the matter that the police abused their authority and basically bullied people to censor art," Inwood resident Richard Herrera wrote on Facebook, according to DNAInfo.com.
The New York Civil Liberties Union also weighed in on the matter, saying that the officers' actions smacked of censorship.
"Freedom of political speech is a fundamental American right," said the group's executive director, Donna Lieberman. "The police don't have the right to censor material they don't agree with. That flies in the face of the First Amendment."
Ket said that the building's landlord has prohibited him from writing "censorship" on the paint that now covers the mural, DNAinfo.com reported.
"It's a little bit crazy," he said.
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