UPDATED: Cops free Snowden statue after rogue artists turn themselves in

UPDATED: Cops free Snowden statue after rogue artists turn themselves in
Geoffrey Croft / NYC Park Advocates

Free at last!

The bust of whistle-blower Edward Snowden that was confiscated by police after rogue artists famously erected it in Fort Greene Park last month is back in its creators’ hands — and is now headed to a Williamsburg art gallery, the artists’ lawyer reported on Wednesday.

“We are thrilled the statue has been released for public viewing,” the activist artists said in statement. “The goal of this project has always been to help the public have an important national debate about mass surveillance.”

The jailbird statue will enjoy its freedom by appearing temporarily at the Boiler gallery on N. 14th Street, between Nassau and Wythe avenues, in Williamsburg. The owner of the art space said he had already settled on a “surveillance” theme for the gallery’s annual show, and when he and his collaborators saw the news about the effigy, they decided the bust would be a perfect addition to their show.

“Snowden is a very interesting character, so when we saw these artists putting the bust in public and creating a dialogue, we thought being able to put it back in a public venue would be great,” said gallery owner Joe Amrhein.

The hand-off: The bust of Edward Snowden that artists mounted in Fort Greene Park and police then removed awaited its release from police custody on May 6.
Magda Sawon

Two of the activists behind the installation agreed to reveal themselves to cops in exchange for the statue’s release. The city then issued Jeff Greenspan, a former Buzzfeed executive, and Andrew Tider, a City College of New York adjunct professor, with $50 civil fines for the stunt.

The pair said they had originally wanted to remain anonymous, but came out of hiding for the greater good of springing the statue from the slammer.

“We didn’t do it so that we would have the statue back, but rather because we really feel like it belongs to the public,” Greenspan said.

Greenspan said he, Tider, and a sculptor pal named Doyle Trankina worked on the project for about a year before the night of April 7, when the pair crept into Fort Greene Park and placed the plaster bust atop a column, along with a plaque bearing Snowden’s name. The Parks Department quickly covered the statue with a blue tarp, and police took custody of the bust a few hours later. But given the amount of press coverage the stunt received, they believe it was worth all the effort. In fact, Greenspan said, the literal cover up by Parks workers helped drive their message home.

“The fact that they covered it added another leg to the story,” he said. “To see him actually step on the eagle’s head, a symbol of freedom, to cover the likeness of a man who revealed secrets in the name of freedom, that sent out quite another message to the world.”

Jailbird: The bust of Edward Snowden and plaque bearing his name, which are now headed to a Williamsburg gallery. The real Edward Snowden remains in exile in Russia.
Geoffrey Croft / NYC Park Advocates

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro[email protected]cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz