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NYPD Removed Inwood Mural at Request of Community Leaders, Kelly Says

By  Carla Zanoni and Ben Fractenberg | July 27, 2012 8:13am 

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said complaints from community leaders led to the removal of a controversial mural in Inwood.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said complaints from community leaders led to the removal of a controversial mural in Inwood.
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DNAinfo/Chelsia Rose Marcius

INWOOD — Cops painted over a controversial mural in Inwood earlier this week after receiving complaints from local leaders, the NYPD said — a move that prompted the artist to plan a meeting with the NYCLU.

NYPD brass engaged in a game finger-pointing Wednesday, saying police removed the mural at the request of community leaders, despite having earlier said it was because of resident complaints.

Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the department’s “anti-graffiti program,” which is active throughout the city, was responsible for removing Alan Ket’s mural. The piece depicted the police force, several global corporations and federal agencies as “murderers” on Tuesday.

“Community leaders there and the owner of the building wanted the mural, if that's the proper name for it, removed,” Kelly said during a press conference Thursday. “So we did it, and that's what we do. We do it throughout the city."

Calls to elected officials throughout the district were not immediately returned.

Earlier in the week, law enforcement officials said they acted after receiving calls from several members of the community who said they were offended by the artwork. Armed with buckets of black paint, roller brushes and drop cloths, a pair of plain clothes officers arrived at the New Edition Cleaners at 4929 Broadway at 11 a.m. Tuesday and pained over the piece.

The mural had been painted on the wall of the business with the permission of its owners. It showed the word "Murderers" painted over tombstones and coffins with epitaph names that included the NYPD, the Environmental Protection Agency and global corporations, including Halliburton and Monsanto,

Ket’s landlord told him Wednesday that he would not be allowed to paint a new mural on the brick wall until he receives police approval.

Ket, who has had permission to paint murals on the wall for at least five years, said he plans to meet with his landlord next week to continue discussions about the wall.

He plans to meet with the NYCLU next week, too, to weigh his options.

“What actually happened was that the police, under the guise of community leaders or community complaints, took it upon themselves to remove a piece of art,” Ket said. “This is highly problematic in a country where we pride ourselves on having freedom of expression.”

Despite the incident, Ket said he does not take the situation personally, but said he was saddened that the “actual message of the mural has been lost.”

“The mural wasn’t a censorship piece,” he said. “It was about organizations, corporations and companies involved in crimes against us, crimes against humans around the planet, and it’s not even part of the conversation anymore.”