Originally Published TUESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2012
Article by Modesto Anarcho (www.ModestoAnarcho.org)
Imagine relaxing in your apartment after work with your family to hear a knock at the door. Upon answering it, you learn that it’s the local police department and they have a warrant to search you home. You sign the paper as they barge through the door and go straight to your room. They leave, only after taking your drawings, silk-screens, books, and take pictures of your stickers and signatures of friends who have passed through. Later in court, you learn that the police were given false information that you were a well known graffiti artist by a snitch that was arrested for vandalism. They use pictures of stickers of famous graffiti artists and tags of your friends to convict you of being someone you are not. You now are facing months and possibly more in jail…
This story isn’t a hypothetical situation, it actually happened to a young Delhi man named Paul Lopez. Recently,Modesto Anarcho began corresponding with Paul, aka “PJ,” who this winter was found guilty of a felony and a misdemeanor count of vandalism, as well as violating his probation, for the crime most commonly referred to as graffiti. The crimes that Lopez is accused of committing took place sometime in late 2009 to early 2010. Lopez is accused of spray painting “MUSKET,” the handle for a prominent graffiti writer, across the wall of a Delhi Mexican restaurant. But while PJ is accused of these crimes by the police in the previously mentioned window of time, the Delhi Express reported that the restaurant was in-fact painted in July of 2009, almost half a year before PJ was accused of the graffiti. During his trial, Lopez was also accused by the DA’s office of being yet another graffiti writer, RESON.
This is not the first time that PJ has been arrested for graffiti. Several years ago he was found by police out at night with art supplies and pled guilty to vandalism charges. Despite this incident, PJ remains a creative and talented artist. However, it was his background and previous arrest that was used in part by the courts to help portray PJ as the vandal in question.
Whenever we hear about cases of graffiti artists being locked up by the state and the victims of police harassment and raids on their homes, our hearts go out to them. We understand the war on graffiti and the largely poor and working class people who engage in it to be part of an effort by the state to attack rebellious behavior and enforce property relations. As we wrote in Modesto Anarcho #14: “[G]raffiti…is a culture and an art form that comes from us. From the urban poor. The working class. The criminal element…despite every attempt to commercialize it, it stays illegal and autonomous from corporations and the rich. Graffiti does not ask for space. It takes space.