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Street Artist Charged with 56 Counts for Punking NYPD with Drone Poster

Artist claims goal was to bring use of domestic drones to 'dinner table conversations'

by
Common Dreams staff

Street artist Essan Attia is being charged with 56 criminal counts after planting dozens of mock public service posters around New York, advertising the NYPD's use of drones to monitor civilians.

He was arrested in New York last week after being tracked down by an ill-humored police force.

Attia's arrest followed on a video interview the artist gave with the arts and culture website Animal New York, in which he described some of his motivations—including his libertarian political leanings—and how he pulled off the stunt:

As Reason.com reports:

On September 16, 29-year-old “Essam” and a group of friends blanketed lower Manhattan with posters designed to look like official New York Police Department signage. “Drones: Protection When You Least Expect It,” read the slogan below simple ideograms of families running from unmanned aerial vehicles. Essam and his team disguised themselves as employees of the outdoor advertising firm Van Wagner, which manages the advertising space on bus stations and kiosks throughout the city. All told, they swapped out about 100 ads.

“We see this trend throughout history of military technology always coming to the civilian world,” the Army veteran told Animal New York. He says his goal is for the conversation about domestic police use of drones “to reach a mainstream level where we are talking about this at the dinner table.”

All told, Attia is being hit with 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument (the NYPD's logo), grand larceny possession of stolen property and weapons possession after allegedly having an unloaded .22-caliber revolver—a “120-year-old” antique, he clarified—under his bed when he was arrested early Wednesday.

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