Contemporary Corruption: Art show, LAPD style

December 2000, by

I had hoped that if someone had asked me to write up an article about our recent Contemporary Corruption II show, it would be a very positive one, but such is not the case. It seems that the LAPD cannot handle over 1,000 people congregating peacefully and actually having a good time. But to understand that, let me take you back. Way back to about 2 years ago and how the whole concept of the show came to be....

The concept of CCII was to give writers in our city the opportunity to showcase work in a gallery setting. In December of 1999, we had our first show and it was a great success. The turnout was incredible and I think it really helped define LA's graff scene as an independent movement. When this year came along, we decided that it would be better if we could add even more artists. We did so and the body of work that was put up was incredible! We had a good amount of press and support before the show and sure enough, opening night at 8pm, the doors were flooded and the place was packed! However, at about 11:15 pm, everything changed.

According to the LAPD, a neighbor called 911 to report a disturbance at the gallery. There were a large crowd of people checking out the alley way wall directly behind the gallery, and when the cops showed up, they drove right up to crowd and shined those bright ass lights and sat in their cars and watched us. For 15 minutes. Note that at no point did they ask the crowd to move back into the gallery or make any attempt at communication. Cops in LA are notorious for creating imbalanced and hostile situations. Suddenly, a different third cop car pulls up quickly out of nowhere and nearly runs someone over. This makes things even more heated and someone throws a bottle and breaks the silence, that tension that was so thick, you could cut it. Cops are now shouting orders to everyone in the alley. One of the artists from the show was able to shout a conversation back and forth and was promised that if everyone went back into the gallery, there would no longer be a problem. Everyone peacefully went back into the gallery but it wasn't over. Just like they break rules, cops, of course, break promises.

A whole squad of cops are now swarming the front of the gallery, swiftly grabbing people in the front and not allowing them to enter back into the gallery for any reason. I am seeing a potentially dangerous situation arising and introduce myself as the organizer of the show and coax the cops into giving us 15 minutes before the fire marshall arrives to fine us for over capacity. We get nearly everyone out and sure enough, the fire marshall shows up trying to find the owner of the gallery who swiftly left the premises as soon as he realized the cops were there. Luckily, the fire marshall decided not to fine me and the cops by this time are trying clean some of the wreck their cars caught in the mayhem. We are closing up and suddenly, there is a VERY loud pounding on the front door followed by "Open up... LAPD... Open up!" We knew they would get in one way or another so we open the glass door. But these cops don't look familiar. These are undercovers, sporting those Ecko threads they heard was so stylish for hiphoppers to wear these days. The leader of this little group steps right up to me and says "You must be Aura." Shit. How the hell does he know that?! Well, he proceeds to tell me that they (the vice cops) have been in there for a couple of weeks, kickin it, getting names and all types of information. There is a long debate now about whether or not I should be arrested for "having an illegal club." They were trying to accuse me that I was charging at the door (show was free!) and that I was selling alcohol to minors (we were not selling alcohol at all!). I'm staring at the situation wondering if it's real. All the work everyone put in for this? To be interrogated and embarrassed and shut down? These vice cops did not have any evidence to back up their ridiculous accusations and FINALLY left.

But of course, it's still not over. A few minutes later, we hear a short chase and a serious beat down. Seems there was someone selling weed and a cop impersonating a customer pops him, but the kid starts to run. He soon gets tackled to the ground, you can hear the punches and screams. About 6 cops and a 150 pound kid. And here we are in the gallery, scared shitless. Us against them and they're the ones with the guns and our taxes backing them. About one hour later, we hear the siren of an ambulance picking the kid up. I've tried to get information about who this kid was but I've had no luck. They keep us invisible sometimes.

That night, while going over the whole event in our minds, someone mentioned something to the sound of "What was so threatening about all of us coming together? Is it that they would rather we be out there causing problems, tagging, drinking, getting fucked up?" And after thinking about this, I realized how true that statement is... I recently heard that government agencies prefer to classify graffiti writers as "anarchists". This need they have for making us scapegoats for the real ills that society is trying to avoid is so obvious and nearly unbelievable. Then I started wondering who else they've been "watching" and what kind of colonized game this has all turned into. On his (terribly underrated) record "A Book of Human Language", Aceyalone describes this situation in "The Hunt":

When ever I'm awake I look 'Out' Never know when I'll get took 'Out' The hunter likes to sneak behind 'You' Waiting just to under mind 'You' There really is know other op 'tion' Caught up in the knew contrap 'tion' To get away is the objec 'tion' He smells the scent of your attrac 'tion'

I know a lot of writers are in this state of mind, because it has been constructed for us. As long as we remain something to be hunted down, we work back into the whole game, we give them something to do.

So here I am, nearly a month later and the day after Bush wins the presidency. Not that Gore would have been that much better but either way, I am scared for our future. Here on earth within our Birthright, yet feeling alienated. Here in the United States where we think that we are free, but what is freedom, and who defines it for us? Here in LA, capital of corruption, walking these streets where tags are caught because after all, doesn't it belong to us? Isn't it our public space? I hope so. And with this hope, I'll sign out with a big Shout Out to everyone the strives to think Independently! Peace.

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