Street Artist Behind Satirical NYPD “Drone” Posters Arrested

from A street artist who hung satirical posters criticising police
surveillance activities has been arrested after an NYPD investigation
tracked him to his doorstep. With the help of a small crew, the artist
now identified as Essam Attia had placed the fake Big Brother-style adverts in locations throughout Manhattan,
using a fake Van Wagner maintenance van and uniforms to avoid detection.

In a video interview with Animal New York prior
to his arrest, a voice-scrambled and silhouetted Attia explained that
he placed the provocative ads to “create a conversation” about
disturbing trends in police surveillance, alluding to recent efforts by
the Department of Homeland Security to “facilitate and accelerate the
adoption” of unmanned aerial drones by local police departments.
The posters also followed recent expansions in NYPD surveillance powers which allow officers to monitor citizens by creating fake identities on social networking sites.

The NYPD’s response seems to have proven Attia’s point: months
after forensics teams and a “counter-terrorism” unit was spotted on the
scene, the NYPD last Wednesday successfully tracked down and arrested the
29-year-old art school vandal, who identified himself in the video as a
former “geo-spatial analyst” serving US military operations in Iraq.

It’s not the first time the NYPD has overreacted to unsanctioned public
art. Earlier this year, the department arrested 50-year-old Takeshi
Miyakawa after he illuminated the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
with harmless LED lanterns made
from plastic “I Heart NY” shopping bags.
The crackdown in Attia’s case,
however, seems to have more to do with the public embarrassment faced
by the department as a result of the mock ads.

Attia now faces 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged
instrument and grand larceny possession of stolen property for his spree
last September, with an additional charge of weapons possession after
officers allegedly found an unloaded .22 caliber revolver under his bed during the raid.

As for the drones themselves, the NYPD has still not revealed any plans
to use aerial robotic enforcers. But if the expanding list of FAA authorizations and documented use of drones by local police in Texas and Miami, Florida are any indication, it may be only a matter of time.

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