New York Daily News

February 29, 2008 

Museum exhibit in Brooklyn on police shootings draws fire from police union

By JOTHAM SEDERSTROM
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

A cop-bashing art exhibit at a taxpayer-funded museum in Brooklyn portrays the city's Finest as trigger-happy racists who have put bull's-eyes on the backs of black New Yorkers.

Police abuse victims, including African immigrant Amadou Diallo, are depicted as shooting targets in the "The Blue Wall of Violence" exhibit at The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts.

Nearby, a machine attached to three police batons creates a bracing thud as each of the clubs repeatedly bashes against a wooden stand just below the targets.

Police union officials were outraged over the broad strokes artist Dread Scott used to paint cops.

"You could fill this entire museum with people of all races and ethnicities whose lives were saved by the very police that this art exhibit vilifies," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said.

"Police guarantee the right of free expression to everyone, even to people who obviously do not appreciate the risk and sacrifice we make for them."

Museum founder Laurie Cumbo defended presenting Scott's work. While about 30% of the Fort Greene museum's funding comes from city and state tax dollars, she noted that taxpayers also fund the NYPD.

"'The Blue Wall of Violence' shows that the killing of unarmed black men is a horrific epidemic that needs serious recognition because it shows that these events happen far too frequently in our communities," she said.

"If we're going to be paying tax dollars to the Police Department, we need to hold them more accountable in our communities."

Scott said the show was not timed to coincide with the start of the 50-shot trial this week, where cops are charged with killing bridegroom Sean Bell in Queens.

Still, the coincidence was not lost on him.

"With Sean Bell there's nothing in my mind that would justify what the cops did," he said. "It's not enough to kill him, now they're calling his character into question."

Scott has courted controversy before: In 1989, then-President George H.W. Bush denounced the artist for burning the American flag in a "disgraceful" exhibit called "What Is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?"

Spokesmen for the state Council on the Arts and the city Department of Cultural Affairs said the $68,000 in taxpayer money given to the museum did not specifically fund Scott's show.

"It is always the Council's policy to support artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure," said Heather Hitchens, the Council on the Arts' executive director.

jsederstrom@nydailynews.com