Community Post

An Open Letter on Recent Graffiti

Dear People with Spray Cans,

Last night a church, small business and the Community College in the Judkins Park neighborhood were painted with calls to “Occupy the Port” and anarchist symbols. For the past several months, our neighborhood has seen a steady increase in spray-can screeds similar to these. 

Tone deaf is how one of my neighbors described your handiwork. You are painting on the few small businesses here, costing these non-corporate folks time and money. You’re taking from all of us when our taxes are used to repair your work on the Community College. Jesus may be free at the tiny gospel church you painted, but the paint isn’t. Your actions show complete disregard for your neighbors, who are required by law to repair your damage.

Instead of increasing my interest in Occupy Seattle, I am left to wonder if it is full of losers who don’t have the brains to sort out the simple context of where to “post” their messages. I wonder how— in this neighborhood filled with so many interesting people working for social justice—  you are completely lacking in common sense on how to actually build allies.

I am a huge fan of street art. I have been writing about it for years. I truly believe that sometimes street art is the most effective way to communicate important ideas; certainly there have been some amazing stencils and paste coming out of the Occupy Movement— however, what sets apart great street art from blight is some sense of the right message in the right place.

For the past six months or so, we’ve been putting up with lame messages in the wrong place.  I am asking you stop.

71 thoughts on “An Open Letter on Recent Graffiti

  1. Recently promanade 23 was tagged as well. People see this when they come into our community. It sets a stage that is very misleading as to the character of our community. This negative impression is deliberate by the perps who did it. The folks who STOLE private property are not connected to or endorsed by Occupy Seattle. The sooner they are removed from 23rd, the sooner this infantile behavior will cease to be seen sprayed on walls.

  2. The Occupy movement is so small, and its message so diffuse, its name is easily coopted by anarchists or others with their own agendas. And the press, mostly reporters wet behind the ears, only having heard about real demonstrations of the past from their aging mentors, eagerly reports all this nonsense at face value.
    Graffiti does not build community. Hey, have you heard of photocopies posted on poles?

  3. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU…as a graffiti artist and proud neighbor. I love our CD SO much the pride of the people is apparent…as a street and graffiti artist this makes me sick…it makes me sad and it makes me mad. I work with young children who are learning to read and it hurts my heart that they have to look at this dribble in their neighborhood when they’re fighting so hard themselves to understand their neighborhood…I respect the right to occupy but I take it real personal when your rights infringe on mine…and I have the right to not feel intimidated by my neighborhood. I would rather look at gang graffiti even though it’s hostile…it just seems way less angry and aggressive. Thanks OP for articulating this I’ll be sure to not tag your garbage can next time I’m out.

  4. Thank you for posting about this. I noticed another “Occupy” tag on the west side of the auto supply store at 23rd and Jackson. I was appalled. It’s hard for me to believe that people who are really working for the Occupy movement would tag our neighborhood. It just doesn’t make sense.
    I suspect it’s a bunch of rednecks who are on the payroll of some rightwing scum.

  5. I was a big fan of the movement. For the past two years I have been offering a free meal to anyone who closes their Chase bank account. But, I agree this portion of the movement is costing people in the neighborhood time and money. I for one am tired of painting over all the occupy and 99% tags in my restrooms. This is where it gets a bit R-Rated. To the Occupiers: STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY BUSINESS AND OCCUPY YOURSELVES WITH A JOB OR AT LEAST HELP PEOPLE IN NEED WITH YOUR TIME. WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW IS JUST PISSING YOUR NEIGHBORS OFF. STOP IT!!

  6. I’m afraid we’re all guilty of lumping these idiots in with the rest of the occupy movement, not just the press. As stated above, the people who stole the property on 23rd are NOT with occupy, and those who are tagging aren’t either. Also, what exactly are their plans at the port? have they ever been to the port? Because they can’t get in… much less do any damage to the daily business. and again, is this the battle that needs fought? idiots.

    and how can these peeps afford to drink in a bar if they’re so hard up?

  7. Your comment just made me want to come in a have a drink, and toast to good neighbors.
    Thank you.

  8. I feel like the 1% won’t bend because of sit-in’s or peaceful protests and to really effect change you need to make choices individually that will have an actual affect on the bigger picture for example: use cash when you shop. Why? because if you use a credit card or even a debit card, the (small) business you are supporting with your purchase (insert the trickle down theory here) pays fees to corporations and banks for processing. Switch to a local credit union! Be a good citizen!

    Take a moment to think of all the ways your individual choices on a day to day basis will support the small business (we are part of the 99%) and effect the 1%

    Defacing peoples property is extremely expensive for people who don’t have a lot to spend on repairs. Like it was written – the money has to come from SOMEWHERE…that somewhere is OUR pocket a pocket that is already on empty.

    On a broader note: the listless “occupying” is COSTING the 99% tax-paying citizen – that is me and you! not corporations! Cities are slashing budgets all over (education, basic services, transportation, health care) because the tax revenue being collected is LESS than they need for those services to continue the way they have been (are OUR needs less? no but the money isn’t there). With all this “occupying” where do you think the money is coming from to pay for OVERTIME cops? OVERTIME parks department personnel (who are picking up after occupiers)? OVERTIME EMS? OVERTIME transportation workers? OVERTIME sanitation? Already dry coffers? No – the 99% TAXPAYERS (and even if you’re not a taxpayer, you will be paying more…
    read more
    maybe increased bus fare? increased sales tax? increased liquor tax? Who knows?) I can only imagine it is going to mean an increase in taxes that are, quite literally, already physically taxing the working-class citizen trying to make ends meet and keep food on the table!

    So – yes – stop tagging. Stop stealing. Stop breaking into places. Stop hurting people who are trying to make a living and are doing what they can to do so. We are all in this together but you need to make intelligent choices about how to make a difference. Defacing property isn’t it.

  9. I don’t have the paint, but I’ve got brushes, rollers, and motivation. Who has paint? How about Saturday morning?

    I’ve had it up to here with these self-important idiots

  10. I just read the tag – SHUTDOWN THE PORT – 12/12. The Port? Don’t people remember when ports were shut down post 9/11? What happened? We couldn’t get FOOD here which made grocery store shelves sparse which meant that certain items became a commodity which meant that prices increased! It’s just silly..shut down the port. I am sure the longshoremen can’t WAIT for that occupation!

  11. Graffiti is so clearly the wrong tool for this time-sensitive message. You’re putting a (semi-) permanent message on a wall, when the event it advertises will be over in less than 2 weeks. That’s stupid. And thoughtless. And alienating.

  12. Occupy members are the biggest toys on the block. Tagging up a church? About occupying “The Port”?

    And sorry, you don’t get to cherry pick who is and isn’t a “part of the movement” based on some unsavory action that you don’t like – this is why a lack of direction/leadership is going to kill it.

  13. Doesn’t the city have camersa at 23rd and Jackson? Why haven’t they looked at the video to see who tagged Promenade 23? Where is law enforcement ? If Wallingford was tagged they would have them picked up fast along with enforceing breaking and entering. Yes, I spoke with the police involved and they have reasons but we all know going “by the book” is not an option they use in other neighborhoods that would not tolerate this. It is evident we do not tolerate this too, so where is the enforcement???

  14. Suspect instead that it’s the Autonomia folks, who have now moved in to the “occupy” house, having promised to re-open their community center in another locale. They FINALLY took credit for it being an Anarchist collective house yesterday on their website,

    At any moment now Lucas Carter from Autonomia will arrive to take over this comment stream by calling everyone in the neighborhood gentrifying scum, rich douchebags, blah blah blah. Then he’ll tell us all how only he has ever suffered, worked hard, or bettered his life, and how he’s now bettering ours. Meanwhile, the rest of us will go back to our 2 jobs yet a paycheck from disaster, ancient cars, and houses in need of repair, comfortable in the knowledge that only Lucas and his friends know what’s right for our neighborhood.

  15. “and how can these peeps afford to drink in a bar if they’re so hard up?”

    Because they are not hard up. They are trustafarian hipsters, who at the end of the day can go back to mom and dad’s basement if the SHTF. It’s all about the show and recreating their little faux 1960s commune for them.

  16. In the words of the Jello Biafra “Go trash a bank if you got real balls”
    The location you chose for your graffiti only shows your ignorance and cowardice.
    You will never create change or revolution like this, you only cause division and hurt your own cause.

  17. Thanks Sarad. I like your approach.

    One neighbor already got the tags on 23rd and Dearborn (Thanks K.D Boze! You are a great neighbor and an awesome comic book artist.)

    I have spoken with some folks at Bethany Temple. That building was only recently painted, so they are checking into what they have for white paint. I’ll follow up with them and have some white exterior if they don’t have enough or if they could use some help getting this stuff off their wall.

  18. It appears that the anarchist faction of Occupy is duplicating the tagging drug gang culture of 20 years ago. It took years of hard work to recover from that. I hope they don’t give us back the “gift” of our past.

    Occupy Wall Street has a powerful message in the disparity between bailing out banks practicing the fraud of products intended to fail, and the people who were harmed by these failed products.

    My concern is that the occupy tactic is becoming the message rather than the target.

    Tagging looks to me like the worst of it. How can we get back on message?

  19. If I see someone tagging my house with anything occupy I am going to tag them back with pepper spray in the face.

  20. The Occupy movement is just that–a movement. Certainly nobody used the democratic process to have all of the occupiers present vote on the idea of putting graffiti everywhere. Is graffiti condoned by the occupiers? Yeah, probably–but you’d be surprised. A lot of the occupiers are pretty smart people with like law degrees and shit. They probably understand that putting graffiti on a church is not the best way to grow their movement.

    This was a few people acting in the name of a movement. So please, calm down, call the graffiti busters, ask the community for donations and remember that what you’re dealing with when it comes to Occupy is not just a few miscreants. It’s a movement of people that wants to create meaningful and systemic change. Like any movement, it’s a little rough around the edges.

    Now, if someone from the community wanted to show up to a general assembly and ask the occupiers to help clean up the graffiti, I’m sure there would be more than a few who would oblige.

  21. I’m sorry that happened. I want to let you know that Occupy Seattle has not endorsed the occupation on 23rd & Alder.

  22. Maybe not, but they have used the OS Facebook page to publicize the 23rd & Alder occupation and to solicit donations of materials for the anarchists’ clubhouse. So perhaps not a direct endorsement, but certainly support and solidarity, which is only a split hair away.

  23. The people in the house did not do this. Stop pretending that is true. Everyone in the house is interested in the house. Aliana, don’t fall into their hole. These people want to MAKE it about the house. BOTTOM LINE: people in the house did not do the spraypaint.

  24. maybe… i’ll have my baby all day, and study for a final bio exam on monday plus lab wrap ups… but if your there.. i definitely won’t be..

  25. I am down with the real 99%. The hard workers, students, small business owners getting hosed. Not these punks occupying a house that is not theirs and tagging up our neighborhood. Tagging a small business or church is chicken sh(#. Why would you tag a church or small business? Neither of those operations have much money to begin with and their time and money is very valuable to them.
    I hope I don’t catch one of you lazy trust fund babies tagging up my neighborhood because you would get a taste of the real 99%. Do us a favor, take your spray cans and a shower and leave the neighborhood.

    Also, if we are going to organize a clean up of these anarchists mess I can be available this weekend to help the little guys out.

  26. I am out here now with two other Occupy Seattle participants removing the vandalism from the church at 26th & judkins. We do not endorse vandalism.

  27. Maybe the occupy protesters could find out who is doing this, arrest them and turn them into the police? I would definitely have more respect for them than only hearing about tagging, criminal activities and squatting in houses that aren’t theirs.

  28. Would be nice if the real occupy people would figure out a way to stop these “imposters”.

  29. How about they go protest where the 1% live and not freaking in the damn CD where the 99% live? I just dont get it.

  30. Thank you Aliana, seeing some of the occupy participants doing good gives me hope for the cause.

  31. They also tagged some of the wood benches in Judkins Park – lower field. Nice. Churches, small businesses, and parks in the CD. Way to stick it to the 1%.

  32. umm.. its also my neighborhood. and my friends neighborhood. and a lot of people that aren’t you and your close minded neighbors. I guess the only difference is… most of us can’t afford to buy a house.. we’re renters.. does that make us not apart of “your” community?

  33. this is not news. its stupid. but its not news.. everytime somebody writes on a bus stop does komo 4 come out? they should, that would be pretty funny. i guess this is different because its… “occupy seattle”!

  34. stick it to the 1% & bus over to the east side…just sayin…if you want to “stick it to the man”, go where “the man” is…

  35. right, because promanade 23 is soooo beautiful all on its own – a monument to old world architecture!

  36. i also highly doubt tagging is going to disappear when the house on 23rd ceases to be squatted.. i don’t think you realize.. who actually rents around here. but continue with your wishful thinking if you like!

    basically, you think that anarchists and hippies invented graf art? really? the truth.. that no one actually knew.. (bigger than the 911 coverup) is that hipsters invented tagging back when they were actually punks.

  37. Thank you, Aliana & co. I passed by the church, and it looks great. Your community spirit is very much appreciated!

  38. As opposed to … tagging someone else’s neighborhood? How can anyone support street art and expression on urban canvases, but only in *someone else’s* neighborhood? Conversations have to happen everywhere. And nobody’s turning anyone over to the cops. Especially not over some paint on a wall. I’m sorry you (felt you) had to paint over this. But it’s not worth state violence and incarceration for anybody.

  39. The reason i ended up on this page is because i clicked on the link to this article. Since Feb. when the march for John T Williams, Indigenous wood carver shot by Seattle cop, was hijacked by the brown block, i have attempted to communicate to the masked marauders who threw their flyers all over the street competing with trash from McDonald’s. I picked some up and found the link, so i sent my piece about the takeover after i connected with several Indian youth who were unhappy at the scream fest that unfolded against the cops. What i have seen is that my efforts to communicate have been blocked or erased on the Puget Sound Anarchist site that shows freedom of speech is of no interest to these people who do not let anyone really know who they are. When they do allow someone they disagree with to post, they call them nasty names. Unkindness seems to be a hallmark of their activities. I can only speak to the troubling behaviors i have personally have encountered. Since they wear masks in public and post anonymously, there is just no way of knowing who they are. At the Decolonize/Occupy camp, info was displayed on a table that expressed the philosophy of hit and run, taking credit for the WTO actions of 50,000 of us, maintaining a cult like dogma that allows for not public discourse that i have seen. Those at the table don’t say anything. I suppose being a grandma disqualifies me for direct contact. I don’t know. I do know that the meanness displayed has not done anyone in struggle any good. It just strikes me that the love expressed by anarchists who have suffered tremendously and valiantly for workers and human rights in the past has nothing to do with the nastiness i keep coming across with these overeducated, hit and runners. I am sorry that the colonizing behaviors are what shows most in all that has been going all lately in Seattle. Few people of color i know are drawn to this ingrown cult like reality. Such talent and access to resources that most of us simply do not have leaves me rather stunned by the waste of good energy. Why harm communities where most are obviously struggling to make it? Why impose ways that show no compassion or solution to those living there? There just must be a better way to get your ideas out than forcing them upon people who have no clear way of understanding your intent. Kindness and sacrifice for the good of all goes much further than immediate gratification that assists no one in dire need. The squat has such potential, but i fear the good actions that are truly benefiting some in dire need may be undermined by an arrogant display of short sighted group self promotion. I recommend some form of public dialog so your ideas can get some direct human input instead of shirking accountability to those who lives you impact most with actions that fail to inspire.

  40. Thats great and all Lucas, but still doesn’t explain why you protest in a poor neighborhood and not the rich 1% hoods? Thanks for making the area worse for those (at least the majority) that have nothing to do with what you are fighting against.

  41. Damn right Lucas it isnt as much as a home owners. You can move if you want, most of home owners cannot. Give me your address so I can come tag the inside of your apartment, maybe then you will see what its like. Trying to think of what I would tag inside there….

  42. go figure. renters= worth less as community members. who cares if you live in the same place your whole life.

  43. Gang grafitti is less angry and agressive than “shutdown the port”?
    You are “intimidated” by protest related graffiti, but are comfortable
    with signs of gang activity? Really?

  44. This was not done in my name! I deplore any form of violence, which includes this kind of property damage.

  45. Wow, Swaneagle. Amazing, fantastic post. I wish you would post this as an open letter in an individual “story” or post of its own on this blog and others. Please, please do. The OS movement does not realize it has been co-opted, used, just like WTO when thousands upon thousands became an awesome spectacle of democracy, only to be tarnished and forever stained, the message lost, when the supposed anarchists arrived. Please make your eloquent post a story of its own on this and other pages.

  46. I consider myself an occupier but I think tagging our communities lacks a little foresight. Where and when can I help clean this up?

  47. Tom, why every time I bring up Lucas’s assault record (when he’s insisting if we weren’t all jerks we’d come meet him face to face) you delete the post? It’s public record and it’s relevant when he keeps insisting his neighbors should meet him face to face.

  48. Thank you Kedra. I think the tipping point in public opinion was made last month by the creative actions of the OWS movement, which many of us support as a movement targeting the core issue — a government that turns itself inside out for the 1%.

    So, now it is about what WE are going to do about that. Please do not lose sight of, not only the personal commitments to buy local and patronize your credit union, but the hard political work it will take to undo the totally skewed role of large corporations that our government enables and encourages. By my estimate over the last 30 years, we have gotten corporate person hood, giveaways with no accountability, concentration that would put Theo Roosevelt and anti-trust busters in a tail spin, deregulation of media (OUR airwaves and cable infrastructure), deregulation of banks, etc., etc.

    Plenty of groups have been the canary in the coal mine, sounding the warnings. OWS grabbed our attention and actually most Americans tend to agree with the demands. But, it’s now time to translate that into a government that will perform in our interests.

    Various grouplets using the OWS name will come out of the woodwork. It looks like they are being discredited. But, as suggested above, the right wing (or the cops) could not have done a better job of getting OWS discredited, than those who act in this manner. Even folks who are part of the history of direct action by homeless who occupied abandoned institutions and houses in many east coast cities were NOT about trashing the neighborhoods they ‘occupied’.

  49. because its not a record you moron. look at the conviction codes. your smart, or at least you think you are.. figure it out. yes it makes you a coward to hide behind anonymous aliases and throw insults around you wouldn’t do face to face.

  50. @Twilight – Love it. Almost had to come down for a few beers to honor your boldness. But I put on my sissy pant’s and went to Lola’s for Martini’s instead. They weren’t very good. But the neighborhood was not as ugly. If I’m going out – I go out of the CD. I get tired of looking at the losers 12/7.

  51. Any record Lucas may or may not have is not relevant to this story. I suggest none of you meet until you can stop fighting in every comment stream on the site.

    Lay off the personal attacks, everyone, so these comments can be a more welcoming environment for others who want to participate.

  52. Tom, I respect your opinion. At the same time, when the 1 female neighbor who naievely took up the invitation to come talk with Lucas and autonomia was paint grenaded, and Lucas has been arrested for paint grenading, frankly, I think that’s news and a warning to other neibhors. When Lucas has also been arrested for numerous assaults in 2 states, again, I think when he comes on here and says “I’m peaceful, I have a daughter, come meet with me,” people should be warned that he has a history of multiple assault arrests, and paint grendading.

  53. It’s not my house, but I’m filthy angry nonetheless.

    A new home is built in the CD, a couple of people JUST moved in (motives unclear… oh but I’m sure they were conspiring to displace poor people, all while laughing maniacally), and somebody spray paints a huge “Gentrification Kills” on their fence last night? Maybe some dude finally got the big job he worked hard for, moved his family from South Dakota or something, failed to study the bible of CD residency (Thou shalt respect the old school rep of the CD! Thou shalt have been living here x years ago else thou are not keeping it real!), and was really jazzed about having a house in a cool city like Seattle. Wait, no, you’re probably right anarchist/occupier/asshole: they came here to unleash the evil of their presence on our (well, not mine, obviously) ‘hood, and had the gall to build a house that looks nice in the process. The nerve!!

    No, you backward-logic dopes. YOU are killing the neighborhood. When the old is not periodically replaced by the new, EVERYTHING DIES. Discouraging new development and new faces from taking root in the neighborhood is not a service to your community. You are actively, willfully (and I sincerely hope ignorantly) ensuring that this place become a failure. It’s like you think failure is a badge of honor, like when a Republican candidate BOASTS that he’s not as educated as the Democrat. Well, failure is not a badge of honor. The rest of us do not want to wallow in mediocrity because we resent the success of others. We do not appreciate (literally; as in we don’t think you’re doing us a favor) it when you fuel outsiders’ negative stereotypes of the CD by providing them with all these universally recognized hallmarks of urban blight.

    You aren’t curing the CD of external pathogens invading the CD. You’re starving the CD of vital nutrients necessary for survival. The problems of the CD originate from within. It’s you.

    You are a cancer. And your metastasis needs to be stopped.