A group of rogue artists mounted a large statue of National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden in Fort Greene Park early on Monday morning, but Parks workers had covered the bust with a blue tarp by 12:30 pm and removed the statue by 1:30 pm on Monday.
The move to remove the statue to Snowden did not sit well with passers by in the park.
“This is censorship!” yelled a woman, who only identified herself as J.B., in the direction of police and Parks workers. “The statue was great.”
The unidentified artists slipped into Fort Greene Park under cover of darkness early on Monday and attached the bust to a pedestal that makes up part of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, fixing at the bottom a plaque that read “Snowden.”
The bust weighs 100 pounds and is sculpted from a material called hydrocal, according to the website Animal New York, which documented the installation. The artists created it to honor Snowden’s release of reams of security files in 2013 before fleeing to Russia, and chose the Prison Ship Memorial to compare Snowden’s cause with that of the founding fathers.
“We have updated this monument to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies,” said the trio of artists in a statement to Animal New York. “Our goal is to bring a renewed vitality to the space and prompt even more visitors to ponder the sacrifices made for their freedoms. We hope this inspires them to reflect upon the responsibility we all bear to ensure our liberties exist long into the future.”
A small crowd of dog walkers, curious neighbors, and reporters had converged on the statue shortly after noon when one woman, who had stumbled upon the bust while exercising earlier in the day, lauded the artists for paying tribute to the infamous leaker.
“I thought this was a fantastic stunt and act of resistance,” said Justine Williams, an artist who lives in Fort Greene and stumbled upon the uncovered bust while exercising on Monday morning.
Parks workers at the scene on Monday afternoon ignored questions from reporters, with one man shrugging, kicking at the dirt, and walking away when asked why they had covered the bust.
The issue is under investigation, according to a police spokeswoman. A Parks Department spokeswoman deferred requests for comment to police. But the head of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, while pointing out the stunt violated the procedure for installing monuments, said she could see where the guerilla artists were coming from.
“I can completely understand why people who feel strongly about privacy rights and freedom of speech would choose the memorial as a place to put up this statue,” said Conservancy founder Ruth Goldstein. “It was inappropriately done in a place that seems completely appropriate for what they’re trying to do.”
This is not the first time that self-declared artists have use a Brooklyn spotlight as a springboard for their expression.
A group of artists illegally climbed the Brooklyn Bridge and replace the American flags atop the towers with white flags. Those flags were also quickly removed by city workers.