Prison Sentence for Pittsburgh Graffiti Writer

Infoshop News

Pittsburgh- On Tuesday a friend of mine was sentenced to an egregious 2 1/2 to 5 years in the state penitentiary for writing graffiti. That’s not a typo. Danny has already been incarcerated since January awaiting sentencing. At the time of his trial, he faced a possible 221 years in prison.

Sentences of this magnitude are unheard of in graffiti cases. Of course, this is just political maneuvering for Pittsburgh’s local government. Liberal-ass faux-hipster city councilman William Peduto pressured the judicial system to prosecute Danny to the most outlandish extent of the law.

Much of the $713,801 dollars in damage Danny has been charged with is in the East End of Pittsburgh, an area currently undergoing a process of gentrification. Business owners and politicians have voiced grievances about the adverse effect of graffiti on their ability to attract revenue to the area.

“The passion for destruction is also a creative passion”.

To many practitioners, graffiti is a visceral rebellion, a response to the alienation of the commodity economy carrying with it a desperate sense of immediacy. It is a very literal assertion of the value of creativity over the sanctity of property, a visual declaration of the will to live. 

When abundant, its presence has been attributed to the decline of property values, which translates to lower rent for landlords, less property tax revenue for the state, and often a reduction in profit for businesses affected. In short, a general diminishing of revenue for the economy, a falling rate of profit not inaugurated by impersonal contradictions of capitalism, but by the creative actions of individuals.

Of course, in many instances, the image of graffiti has been commodified, exchanged as sustenance for the economy. This should come as no surprise. The recuperation of images threatening to the economy is capitalism’s (relatively) new way of waging war against those who fight to supersede its values. This process is as applicable to graffiti as it is to the sale of anarchist literature, or the money generated from news stories about militant demonstrations. 

This is no reason to despair. The image of a rebellious act being sold for profit does not necessarily negate its radical potential, despite the hysterical assertions of countless French theorists and anarcho-punks. The process of commodification is a constant conflict between combatants and capitalists. Hence, it is an issue of the degree of recuperation and how hard we fight against it. Hippie culture, which might have been threatening 40 years ago, has been so thoroughly appropriated by the economy (while fighting back so pathetically) that it can be argued that it no longer challenges the established social order. Mark Ecko’s “Getting Up”, however won’t stop the majority of capitalists from harboring a more visceral fear of graffiti than of most anarchist demonstrations when it comes to the effect on their profits.

So what can be done about Danny’s predicament? I don’t have all the answers, and I’m hoping for suggestions. Autonomous actions are key at this point. I’m sure that many people would be motivated just by seeing demands for freedom next to his alleged nom de guerre “MFONE” (think “motherfucker one, not m-phone) adorning walls across America. Of course, that’s not enough.

We’re going to try to raise money for an appeal of his sentence, but i’m not sure how viable a possibility a reduced sentence is at this point. 

To be perfectly honest I feel that I could have done a lot more before this trial. Maybe I fucked up. I could have organized a benefit block party for him, or a show, or something of that nature. But it seems like everyone in Pittsburgh has a case now, so people were justifiably busy organizing benefits for anti-fascist defendants, amongst other things.

Anyone with prisoner support experience is more than welcome to offer some suggestions.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t surprise me if anarchists didn’t understand why it’s so necessary to support Danny. These situations are an important opportunity for anarchists to show that we support those rebels who may not be fully conscious of the radical possibilities of their actions, but have a hatred of the values of this economy. 

Substantial prisoner support around these types of situations could show local people that we will palpably support their struggles, even when the entirety of the media, the police force, and neighborhood watch groups have vilified them.

“A revolt against the spectacle — even if limited to a single district… calls everything into question because it is a human protest against a dehumanized life, a protest of real individuals against their separation from a community that would fulfill their true human and social nature and transcend the spectacle.” 

-The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy

A related article can be viewed here.

Posted in USA

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