Days Before the Verdict, Artist Reclaimed Ferguson’s Boarded-Up Shops

Damon Davis’ intervention sent a message of hope ahead of the latest wave of unrest.

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Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
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Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis
Photo: Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis
Photo: Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis
Photo: Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis
Photo: Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis
Photo: Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis
Photo: Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis Photo Sebastiano Tomada via Mic
Damon Davis
Photo: Sebastiano Tomada via Mic

The verdict many feared came yesterday. The grand jury will not bring charges over the killing of unarmed 18-year-old African American Michael Brown, shot by a white policeman on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

The jury’s decision triggered unrest in the neighborhood, which escalated into full-blown mayhem.

“What I’ve seen tonight is probably worse than the worse night we had in August,” Police chief Jon Belmar tweeted from St. Louis County’s PD’s account.

Several shops were looted, including those whose owners had chosen not to board up to show solidarity with the local community.

The police’s response was equally strong: they fired smoke and tear gas, and the National Guard was ordered in at the request of mayor James Knowles.

Stormed shops became closely associated with the Ferguson events after the first wave of protests, which immediately followed Brown’s killing.

Foreseeing similar excesses, many owners boarded up their shops ahead of the verdict.

These were reclaimed by artist Damon Davis, who used the boards to showcase posters picturing a pair of raised hands, reports Mic. The reference is clear: Davis multiplies the hands up gesture Brown allegedly did before he was shot.

“I wanted to do something with the boarded-up buildings,” the St Louis native told Mic. “Something visually appealing, just to give the people hope, and let them know we stand with them.”

According to Mic, which described the intervention as “the most powerful street art in America,” the 29-year-old artist worked closely with the local storeowners, and each piece was executed with their full approval.

“Artists play a vital role, telling these stories and keeping history alive,” Davis told Mic’s Zak Cheney-Rice. “[The posters] are important for people who may be on the fence to see. Maybe they’ll change their minds [and start supporting us]. And for those who aren’t on our side … now they know we’re still here. And we’re not going to back down.”

The tragic events in Ferguson have inspired many powerful artworks since last summer: from Keith Wallace’s poignant performance in front of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia (see “Robert Indiana Fans Ignore Artist’s Ferguson Protest”), Candy Chang’s Before I Die interactive chalkboard (see “Viral Before I Die Art Project Helps Bring Healing to Ferguson”), and, more recently, the Keith Haring-inspired “Die-In”protests (see “Keith Haring–Style Drawings Inspire Ferguson “Die-In” Shooting Performance”).


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