Ferguson-Themed Mural Removed After Police Complaints

Why did the cops find this city-sponsored artwork so offensive?

Aaron Molden's contribution to small spaces: Lafayette before it was painted over. Photo: Wei-Huan Chen/Journal & Courier.
Aaron Molden's contribution to <em>small spaces: Lafayette</em> before it was painted over. Photo: Wei-Huan Chen, courtesy <em>Lafayette Journal & Courier</em>.

Aaron Molden’s contribution to small spaces: Lafayette before it was painted over.
Photo: Wei-Huan Chen, courtesy Lafayette Journal & Courier.

A public mural in Lafayette, Indiana, inspired by the ongoing crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, was removed this week due to local police complaints that it was “offensive” and “in bad taste” reports to the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

The street art, a portrait of a cop in riot gear, was the work of artist Aaron Molden, and was installed on the side of pizza restaurant Sylvia’s Brick Oven, facing the local police station. Although the painting had official approval as part of a citywide project of graffiti-style public art titled small spaces: Lafayette, the Historic Preservation Committee had previously expressed its concern that a series of spray-painted pieces was a bad fit given the city’s historic aesthetic.

According to the building’s business owner, Dick Nagel, several members of the police force who inquired as to whether the mural was illegal graffiti were outraged to learn that it was officially sanctioned.

Police chief Patrick Flannelly assured the Journal & Courier that the police’s inquiries about the painting were made in an unofficial capacity. “If someone voiced their opinion, they didn’t check with us first,” he said. “But from what I saw, I can understand why an officer might be upset.”

When small spaces: Lafayette project manager Margy Deverall learned of the officers’ concerns, she made the decision to remove the artwork, just one day after its installation. The controversial painting was hurriedly painted over with a patchy coat of red paint, to match the rest of the building.

Zach Medler, curator of small spaces, told the Journal & Courier he was disappointed with the decision to take down the piece, which was meant to raise awareness of issues surrounding the all-t00-common “bully cop” mentality.”My issue with it is free speech,” he said. “The situation in Ferguson was why they were offended to begin with…When police complain about it, now we run into First Amendment issues.”

A replacement project is already in the works, although Medler is remaining tight-lipped with details. “You’ll have to wait and see what it is. It’ll be good.”

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