The offending message. Photos from Bell Visuals
For the first time, Capitol Police have arrested an activist for the crime of projecting a political message on a Congressional Building, one of many defiant dispatches over the years by Robin Bell of Bell Visuals. Since Trump's election, Bell has flung fighting words and images at a range of high-profile D.C. buildings, often working in partnership with non-profits advocating for the same causes: "BRETT KAVANAUGH IS A SEXUAL PREDATOR" with UltraViolet, "I STAND WITH PUERTO RICO" with Amnesty International, "END FAMILY DETENTION" with MoveOn, "TRANSGENDER PEOPLE WON'T BE ERASED" with trans rights groups, and at Trump's D.C. Hotel with Global Witness, "U.S. FOREIGN POLICY BOUGHT AND SOLD HERE," complete with helpful arrow at the entrance. The hotel is Bell's most frequent target: He's graced it with "FELONS WORK HERE," "PAY TRUMP BRIBES HERE," "EXPERTS AGREE: TRUMP IS A PIG," and "THIS PLACE IS A SHITHOLE." He's also projected an image of Jamal Khashoggi atop the First Amendment at D.C.'s Newseum, and at the Helsinki summit, "BRING THE PERPETRATORS TO JUSTICE."
Given Bell's inflammatory past - "We are insanely public about what we do" - it's bizarre and a tad alarming that what brought the law down on his unruly head was the mild message he put up Wednesday on the Rayburn House Office building to tweak legislators debating the Equality Act to protect LGTBQ rights. It said, "DISCRIMINATION IS WRONG" - a concept, he says, that "after everything we've done, you'd think (nobody) would have an issue with," especially since it's the third time he's hit the Rayburn building. Wrong. Police swooped in on his cohort Robby Diesu without so much as a warning, handcuffing him and confiscating all their equipment. The charge: Demonstrating in a "prohibited demonstration area," which Bell says "was a little bit surprising” because "we were pretty sure we were pretty versed in the law” - don't block traffic, create a safety hazard etc. He adds one officer told him the law changed, which in this time and place could mean damn near anything. Cue the tourist at Bell's current museum show contemplating a projection that reads, "TRUMP IS THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY." "I don’t know why it shouldn’t be here," said Oliver Zumrik. "I mean, this is a democratic country, right? People have the right to express their opinions."