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The arrested development of Shepard Fairey

Artist Shepard Fairey's images have been widely used throughout the campaign.
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One hundred-fifty two people were arrested during DNC protest events in Denver this past week, for charges ranging from “assault on a police officer” to “throwing stones or missiles.” But buried in the list is the name Frank S. Fairey, which contemporary art fans will recognize as the birth name for one of the most famous street artists in the world: Shepard Fairey.

While most of the individuals were in town to demonstrate against the Democrats, Fairey was in Denver as part of the Manifest Hope gallery show featuring art inspired by Barack Obama. The multi-toned poster Fairey created of Obama’s face -- coupled with words like “HOPE” and “PROGRESS” -- have become ubiquitous icons of the campaign, appearing on billboards, t-shirts, hats and even the current cover of 5280 magazine.

On the evening of August 25, Fairey decided to take a break from installing the gallery show to hang posters around downtown Denver, wheat-pasting them to the sides of buildings. Denver artist Scot Lefavor and a small crew of filmmakers making a documentary on Fairey went along. But when artists tried to apply their trade in an alleyway near 16th and Sherman Street around midnight, all five of them were arrested by police, charged with "interference and posting unauthorized posters." See the full mugshot profile here.

Neither Fairey or Lefavor could be reached by Westword to explain the ordeal, but word is that they were jailed at the infamous “Gitmo on the Platte” warehouse facility the city set up for DNC protest arrests. This was also the night that police sprayed down a crowd 300 anarchist protesters near Civic Center Park and arrested 100 of them.

According to court records, Fairey was arraigned at 6 a.m. at the Denver County Courthouse and pled guilty to interference with six months unsupervised probation in exchange for prosecutors dropping the unauthorized posters charge. He was bonded out for $500 by his wife Amanda Fairey. –Jared Jacang Maher and Joel Warner

UPDATE 5-1-08:

The artists describe the incident in a video interview with imeem.

Fairey, who says he’s been arrested thirteen times before for hanging his art illegally, says they were putting up the posters in an alleyway that may have been “a little too close to the hot zone downtown.”

After spotting several police officers in full riot gear running up a hill, the group tried to exit the other end of the alley but were suddenly blocked by cops with their guns drawn.

“Get on the fucking ground or we’re going to kick you in the fucking head!” Fairey reenacts the shouts of the officers. The artists were thrown to the ground, had their hands zip-tied and were placed under arrest. Also arrested was New York filmmaker Robin Radzinski, James Zarathustra of Austin, Texas, and Nikolas Harrington of Denver.

Fairey says they spent the next sixteen hours in jail.

“We had some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we played some paper football and hung out with anarchists all night,” says Lefavor.

Fairey’s court records show he had to pay a $100 fine plus $71 in court fees. He is critical of the Interference with Police Authority charge as “something that they came up with for the convention,” he says. “Anyone who is seen as being disruptive in any way is guilty of interference.”

Despite his latest arrest, Fairey says he is not yet ready to quit his nighttime postering campaigns. “I enjoy it,” he says. “I think it’s really important too. It would take me having potential jail time to quit postering and that’s not likely to happen.”

Not likely – as long as he’s able put up his “disruptive” political art beyond the watch of Denver riot cops. – Maher

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