HISTORY LESSON: in 1983 a talented young black aspiring street artist named Michael Stewart was arrested and murdered by the NYC police department.
he was doodling with a marker on public transit (the MTA subways) towards his home in Brooklyn. He was unaware that MTA transit police were watching.
At 2:30 he was arrested and handcuffed.
later on, the pursuit of an indictment of the 10 MTA police officers would reveal that Stewart was beaten twice in two DIFFERENT locations. He was first beaten while cuffed outside the train station, and then was beaten again outside the police station. Witnesses said they saw officers beating Stewart with billy clubs, choking him with a nightstick, and slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk. He screamed for help – the officers continued to kick and beat him until he fell silent, and then they hog-tied him, and tossed his 135 pound, 5′11 body into the back of the van. He was a Pratt institute student and young artist. He was also described as “docile”, a “retiring” young man.
At 3:20 AM, Stewart was brought to Bellevue hospital in police custody. He was hog-tied, bruised, and without a pulse. Evidence in the reports suggested he stopped breathing before making it to the Hospital. Hospital staff actually were able to revive his pulse and breathing, but he fell into a coma for 13 days before dying in the hospital. This was first labeled as cardiac arrest. The medical examiner hired by the family to be present during the autopsy stated it was strangulation.
Coroner’s evidence was “lost”.On October 19, about 20 black community leaders, including City Councilwoman Mary Pinkett (D. Brooklyn), protested outside the Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau’s office at the Criminal Courts Building. Morgenthau refused to see the group stating that it would be inappropriate to comment before the case went to the grand jury in November 1983. The November 2 medical examiner’s final report from Dr. Gross differed from his preliminary report. Gross declined to state explicitly what caused the death, but reported that Stewart died of “physical injury to the spinal cord in the upper neck” and concluded that there were “a number of possibilities as to how an injury of this type can occur”.
10 MTA NYPD were involved in this case. TEN. Of the ten, 6 were put on trial and acquitted of any wrong doing, and only one was found guilty of perjury during the trial. The officer who faced reprimanding for perjury also requested stress-related disability pension. They had an all-white jury.
The civil trial on behalf of the family had a fundraiser started by Suzanne Mallouk. The famous street artist Keith Haring donated the bulk of the money to this fund. Haring also stated that this series of events shocked fellow street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to his core, stating:“One thing that affected Jean-Michel greatly was the Michael Stewart story …. He was completely freaked out. It was like it could have been him. It showed him how vulnerable he was” (Keith Haring)
Basqiuat’s response was:
The $40 million suit was settled out of court for $1.7 million.
Artists took note, and included Stewart in tributes and memorials.
The song “Graffiti Limbo” penned by songwriter Michelle Shocked on her Short Sharp Shocked release. An extra verse she sings live is not on the album: “You see in order to determine that Michael Stewart was strangled to death / The coroner had to use Michael Stewart’s eyeballs, his eyes, as evidence, / So now when I tell you it was Michael Stewart’s eyes that the coroner lost / Do you know what I mean when I say that justice is blind.”
The death of “Radio Raheem” in Spike Lee’s film, Do the Right Thing.
“Hold On” from Lou Reed’s album New York contains the following line: “The dopers sent a message to the cops last weekend they shot him in the car where he sat. And Eleanor Bumpurs and Michael Stewart must have appreciated that.”
The 1987 film “Police State” Nick Zedd makes reference to Michael Stewart in a scene depicting a conversation between a cop and a young man, leading to an unlawful arrest. The film was a black comedy about police brutality, inspired in part by the Michael Stewart case and Operation Pressure Point, an operation designed to “clean up” and gentrify the Lower East Side of NYC.
Finally, Haring and Basquiat both produced works:
Keith Haring, “Michael Stewart – USA for Africa.”
And then,Seeing his own life reflected in the death of a fellow artist, Basquiat went on to create Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), not only to commemorate the young man’s death, but also to challenge the state-sanctioned brutality that men of color could face for pursuing their art in public spaces.
Now, the NYPD has not changed. Banksy hasn’t been arrested. Banksy has not been beaten, hog-tied, strangled, or shot. Hell, Banksy hasn’t even been charged with any kind of court order against rampant vandalism in the US.
You think Banksy is anything but white? Basquiat was TERRIFIED, because he could have easily been beaten to death by the police as an artist.
Basquiat had a reason to be.Ultimately, with the help of razor wire fences around train yards, police “vandal squads” (infamous for the beatings they sometimes delivered to graffiti artists they caught), and even attack dogs, New York authorities were able to all but destroy the graffiti movement in the city.
Now in this same article, Michael Stewart’s mother does not necessarily link her son with street art and rap music, but emphasized:…She wanted people to remember him in a much broader history of black suffering and white brutality, invoking names like Emmett Till, Eleanor Bumpurs and Trayvon Martin. [….] She wanted people to remember that her son fell prey to an America that victimizes young men like her son “all the time.” Her voice quavered only once, and it wasn’t when she recounted the terrible night of Michael’s death; it was when she reflected upon the abuses that still persist, even after 30 years.“Nothing much has changed,” she said once, and then again, faintly. “Nothing much has changed.”
You can suggest Banksy is not a british white man, but I think the very proof of Banksy’s whiteness is obvious in the fact that after a solid month of vandalizing new york city, he didn’t turn up dead, or even in jail.
ETA: jhenne-bean said: + Delbert Rodriguez Gutierrez, who cops straight up ran over.
And the year prior, street artist Israel “Reefa” Hernández-Llach was killed by police taser. (According to his friends, “the police officers joked about the victim while he was on the ground”. Plus the cops then said that he died bc he was on drugs whennnnn that’s not what the coroner said.)
.02 ¢ via Claid Lady