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Spike Lee's Memorial to Victims of Alleged Police Violence Keeps Growing

By Janet Upadhye | September 3, 2014 4:44pm
 Spike Lee's studio in Fort Greene has become a memorial to four men who allegedly died at the hands of police.
Spike Lee's studio in Fort Greene has become a memorial to four men who allegedly died at the hands of police.
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DNAinfo.com/Janet Upadhye

FORT GREENE — Spike Lee has transformed his Fort Greene film studio into a memorial for black men — some unarmed — who were allegedly killed by police over the last two months.

Lee commissioned artist Adrian Franks to create digital prints depicting the faces of four men — Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford and Ezell Ford — who were each killed in police-related shootings around the country.

The director is using these memorials to raise awareness about police violence.

"This madness has to stop," Lee wrote on Instagram. He could not be reached for comment.


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Lee's first memorial was for Eric Garner, a Staten Island father who died after police allegedly put him in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.

The memorial is a large-scale image of Garner with the words "I can't breathe," which Garner was heard on video telling police the day of the incident. An autopsy ruled that Garner's July 18 death was a homicide by a chokehold, but the city's police unions denied a chokehold was used.

A week later, Lee added second memorial for Michael Brown, an 18-year-old man who was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9.

The memorial shows a picture of Brown, whose death has sparked ongoing protests in Ferguson and around the country, with the words "My hands are up."

Witnesses said Brown had his hands raised when he was shot, but Ferguson police have released very few official details about the incident.

The third memorial was erected two weeks ago for John Crawford III, who was shot and killed by Police at a Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart Store on Aug. 5.

According to reports, the 22-year-old father of two was waving what appeared to be a rifle around the store when he was shot. The gun was later found to be a BB or pellet gun and Crawford insisted to police that it was "not real" before the shooting, according to family. Police were reviewing surveillance footage from the incident.

The artwork shows a picture of Crawford with the words "It's not real."

The most recent memorial was erected week for Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old man who was killed by police in Los Angeles on Aug. 11.

Ford died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the autopsy report. An autopsy found that Ford had been shot in the back. Ford's family said he was diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia, according to reports.

Lee's memorial to Ford includes the phrase "Shot in the Back 3 Times."

Lee has posted each memorial on his Instagram account where the many commenters thanked him for the memorial.

"I just love you," wrote Instagram user Flor Rebelde. "You champion us, you lift us up, and when something is wrong, you have no problem speaking out."