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"Illegal Advertising" or Protest

December 1, 2015

 

A large donation of $65 million was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to remodel their plaza in September, 2014. Most would assume that a donation like this would be appreciated, as it supported the arts, but when the donor supports other things you do not stand for, that is not the case. David H. Koch’s $65 million donation was not appreciated by everyone; especially when the Met put his name on the newly built fountain in the plaza. Many environmentalists were in rage to see the name of a right-winged supporter of climate change denying groups. When the plaza was opened and there was a tribute dinner at the Met for Koch’s contribution, many showed up at the Met to protest. There were many forms of protest from performance protests to even casting spells on Koch. One of the most memorable came from a group called the Illuminator Crew. Kyle Depew, Grayson Earie, and Yates McKee (of the Illuminator Crew) drove around in a van projecting the slogans, “The Met: Brought to you by the Tea Party” and “Koch = Climate Chaos.” The group had shared that the slogans were used to tackle two different issues: rich people’s power over art and climate change denial. It was also perfectly timed with the Global Climate Convergence that following weekend. The group was able to project these slogans for three laps around the Met before they were stopped by the police. Given that all the group was doing was projecting an illuminated sign onto the Met, one would assume that the police would simply demand them to stop, but the group was instead taken into custody. The police had arrested them on grounds of “illegal advertising.” Promptly, one could question why this was considered illegal advertising. They are not advertising anything to sell; nothing about this is commercialized. What they did was a protest to raise awareness. Moreover, what they did was harmless in defacing the Met; all they did was illuminate with a projector. The projector could simply be turned off, and their projection would be gone. In no way, should what they had done be harmful enough to be arrested. Drivers cause more harm with speeding but are usually left with only tickets, yet the Illuminator Crew was detained for the minor act they did. One of the protestors, Earle, summed up what were the true grounds of the arrest in an interview with artnet News: “They really should have charged us with ‘bothering a rich person's dinner party because that's what it's really for.” Earle’s statement has a lot of truth as we think about protests. The side with more money will almost always come out on top because they have the monetary power to threaten with. One would think the arrest was enough, but the police impounded their projector until November 5, keeping them from using it at the Global Climate Convergence. Not only were they punished for protesting at the Met, but the police kept them from protesting at a different event. Between the arrest and compounding their projector, I think that the police responded way too drastically for such a minor offense of “illegal advertising.” However, the Illuminator Crew were optimistic about their arrest and used it as further attention. Earle shared, “I really hope that we can use this arrest as a platform to remind people who David Koch is, and remind the Met and its followers that it is below them to be associated with this man.” So at least the Illuminator Crew was able to get across their message and, if anything, gain even more attention due to their absurd arrest. It is fearful that protests are being so limited nowadays. I don’t think we, as protestors, should have to worry about getting in trouble with the police for peaceful protests. Other protestors on that day were also forced to move away from the Met by police. Also, I think it is wrong that the police were able to impound their projector for days after their arrest. The Illuminator Crew’s lost their platform to protest at another event. There is a fine line in this situation on which of the police’s actions were justifiable or not. It is sad that one powerful rich person, Koch, has so much power, indirectly silencing protestors. I question how the scenario would have gone if rich people were the ones to protest—that is, if they would have to protest. If they did not agree with something, they would most likely just pay to have it their way and silence the general public’s protest in response. Again, the small group of individuals in the top tier have more power than the larger public does.

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