It was bound to happen at some point...
And it did. Last night approximately around midnight, I was stopped by a NOPD cruiser as I was out putting up NoLA RISING signs. Fear not, it didn't end up like most episodes of cops. I was, however, particularly surprised by the question, "what is this?" Interesting, I thought, that my multi-tasking abilities have come to remembering to keep my hands on the trunk of the car while explaining a form of street art that doesn't involve spray-painting, destroying peoples' property, or anything else malicious (a point I worked into the explanation).
I was then told that he didn't want to see me putting the signs up anymore. The city was trashed enough as it is. But, that wasn't the end result. He asked me further, since I have now been told not to do it, what I was going to do...especially since I have a bag full of about 130 of these here signs. Well, this requires a delicate handling of my will. While I would have liked to say, I'm going to keep doing what I am doing and I'll risk going to jail to prove my point, it occurred to me that he was a relatively new cop. He had no rank on his uniform, which means he is barely out of the recruit training and he was willing to stop a groomed white guy putting signs up on street-poles (something a veteran NOPD wouldn't bother with unless he wanted to find out if I had seen someone doing something).
So I said this instead (and I paraphrase myself): Well, when I wake up in the morning, I am going to go to City Hall to see if there are required permits for me to post these signs, though I don't think there are because they are on public space. And to make sure I'm not violating some strange law, I'm going to call my lawyer also to insure that I am not in violation of some aspect of the law there. You know, if I am violating the civil rights of publicly displayed telephone poles. I left the last sentence out. It was nice to hear the police officer bring up First Amendment 'freedom of speech and self-expression' line of thinking, which gave me the opportunity to demurely add, 'well yes, there's that too.'
In the end, he said to keep doing what I was doing. Just keep an eye on the signs so that they don't end up faded and junky looking (which I do anyhow and I re-assured him of that). I explained to him that I've done this from the Ninth Ward to Oak Street, from the river to the lake. So, to the new guys at NOPD, please think about your rookie brother and remember that ART is not a criminal activity. I won't put the name of the officer nor his badge number here, as I was intensely memorizing it every time I looked along with his cruiser license plate number (thank you intelligence gathering skills), but I will say, thanks for doing your job, even if I was the one bothered by it. As for those who would ask, "Would you have gone to jail to prove a point?" My answer is this: I've gone further than that to prove points not nearly as important.