Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NYC officials remove Edward Snowden statue secretly installed in Brooklyn park


A sculpture of Edward Snowden stands atop a column in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park on Monday, April 6, 2015.
NEW YORK — Dressed in reflective yellow construction gear while working under the cover of darkness early Monday, a small group of artists installed a tribute to NSA-leaker Edward Snowden in a Brooklyn park.
But it was gone by midday.
The Snowden bust stood atop a column at the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, a site built to honor more than 11,000 American prisoners of war who died aboard British ships during the American Revolutionary War.
The location was no coincidence.
Speaking to Mashable on the condition of anonymity, the artists said they chose the spot because it is "loaded with significance and meaning and reverence of others." It positions Snowden, they said, "as a continuation of a story that began at the beginning of this country" — one represented in the plight of the captured Americans.
Snowden Sculpture Full
A sculpture of Edward Snowden stands atop a column in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park on Monday, April 6, 2015.
"We feel that Snowden's actions really continue that story," said the artists. "It is built upon a set of ideals to live freely, not be confined or surveilled or monitored by your government. You can’t have freedom of expression to pursue liberty if you feel like you're doing it under a watchful eye."
While others have created Snowden statues before, they've primarily been mobile installations. The sculpture that stood in Fort Greene Park was meant to be permanent. The artists had hoped the city would have considering leaving the sculpture where it was, but they were prepared for the inevitable.
A spokeswoman for New York's Parks Department told Mashable earlier in the afternoon that they were looking into the statue's removal. Shortly after that Vine's Jeremy Cabalona posted video of NYC Parks Department workers covering up the Snowden statue with a blue tarp.

By 2:40 p.m. ET, the statue was gone.
"Parks and NYPD have removed the sculpture," the spokeswoman, Maeri Ferguson, confirmed to Mashable. "The erection of any unapproved structure or artwork in a city park is illegal," she said, referring further questions to the NYPD.

The story behind the Edward Snowden statue

The three artists — two of whom who planned the idea while a third created the "museum-quality" sculpture itself — spent the better part of year on the project.
Their hard work paid off: Animal New York's Bucky Turco, who exclusively documented the installation Monday morning, said it looks so official that "over a dozen people walking their dogs passed by the new bust on Monday morning without noticing the unsanctioned piece."

While they originally considered other locations to install the sculpture — Belvedere Castle was one of them — they felt the Martyrs Monument offered them the best chance to convey the ideals that Snowden's revelations are all about.
Snowden Monument Google Maps
"It gives the whole thing so much more meaning," they said. 
"It’s not just about Snowden. It’s about the ideals that he was trying to work towards and push others to care about."
"It’s not just about Snowden. It’s about the ideals that he was trying to work towards and push others to care about." The monument to the POWs, "who were fighting for the same ideals that Snowden is fighting for" gave them a bridge to make their case.
"This is a guy who some of the traditional mass media has portrayed as a traitor, or a terrorist, and the very same thing would have been said about these POWs in the Revolutionary War times," they said. "But with 200 years of perspective, we realized they were fighting for something all of us are very grateful for. We hope it will shift people’s perceptions, or open their eyes, that there could be a different story than what they’e been told."

Ideally, for the artists, the city would have preserved the statue and make it accessible to people, allowing New Yorkers to continue the conversation that began when Snowden leaked batches of NSA documents to Glenn Greenwald.
In a statement, they appealed to the city to "embrace and protect" the piece, much like the Wall Street Bull:
NYC has a long history of welcoming artists and the challenging discourse their works usher in. In keeping with this tradition, we hope New York will embrace and protect this piece, much as when the “Wall Street Bull” was granted a permanent public home after its guerilla placement. Even though it's already on it's way towards being removed, the possibility exists for the city to make the piece available for public viewing in a sanctioned way. Our additional hope is this gift has brought a renewed cultural relevance to the space, inspiring more visitors to ponder the sacrifices made for their freedoms and their responsibility to ensure our liberties last long into the future.
"If you look at history, the people we honor with statues now — certainly the people rebelling against the British rules — were criminals one day," the artists told Mashable. "Now they're heroes."
"We’re wondering if on the long arc of time Snowden will be considered a hero, too."
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