The 100-pound Edward Snowden bust that was illegally placed in Fort Greene Park by a group of guerrilla artists on April 6th has been sitting in the NYPD’s 88th Precinct since it was confiscated, just hours after installation. Now, a group of activists are calling on the city to return the statue to the people of New York.
The bust of the whistleblower was erected atop the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument to call attention to the NSA’s surveillance activities and to recast Snowden, who lives in exile in Russia, as an American hero. Civil rights lawyer Ronald Kuby and NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft, along with several free speech advocates, held a press conference at the bust’s installation site on Tuesday morning to announce their intentions to retrieve the statue.
“Whatever the right of the Parks Department to remove an unauthorized park sculpture,” Kuby said, “that does not translate into the right of the police to indefinitely detain a work of art.”
“The statue itself is not contraband,” he said.
Ronald Kuby (left) and Geoffrey Croft (right). Photo: Bucky Turco
The three anonymous artists who created the bust will attempt to “legally exhibit the sculpture,” according to a press release, by applying to the Parks Department’s Art in the Parks initiative. The program collaborates with artists and organizations to temporarily exhibit arts in New York City’s parks. “While the artists did not follow the guidelines for the Arts in the Park program, the statue itself more than qualifies into entry for the Arts in the Park program,” Kuby explained, noting that the statue was weather-proofed, well-crafted and sparked dialogue.
As the police and the City consider Kuby’s proposal, the activists have arranged to temporarily house the statue with the Postmaster’s Gallery and enter it into a May 10 exhibit about surveillance issues. “We, in consultation with the artists, have agreed: We will provide a plaque on the statue indicating that it is on loan from the NYPD Property Clerk’s Office, in the same fashion that all statues on loan are given proper credit to their current possessors, and we hope that this will be a compromise that will allow the statue to be displayed publicly to continue the conversation about freedom in a democratic society,” he said.
In a statement to ANIMAL, Kuby wrote about the significance of the bust in today’s society:
“The Snowden sculpture, at its unique location next to the monument dedicated to the Revolutionary War heroes who perished on a British prison ship, reminds us that ‘patriotism’ and ‘treason’ are fluid concepts, political constructions of the era that depend which side one is on. The war martyrs too, were considered traitors.”
(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)
Note: This post was updated throughout the press conference.