I have received a lot of celebratory calls this week and while there has indeed been a victory, it is not mine to enjoy. Fred Radtke, the man who used his personal vendetta to have me cited for 1,100 counts of posting on telephone poles, has seen his day in court.
Mr. Radtke was cited for criminal damage to private property and plead "no contest" to the charge of criminal trespass. As an end result, Judge Sens ordered Radke to cease his signature gray paint without the prior and express permission of the property owner. According to sources in the media, city and state property is also off limits.
With his plea agreement for his trespassing, Mr. Radtke received a 60 days suspended sentence under a probationary period of 6 months. After the 6 month period, on 21 September 2009, Mr. Radtke will return to court for a status hearing. If his behavior is exemplary, then the charges can cleared from his record. However, any sign of wrong doing on his part and the court can hold him liable for punishment.
In any case, what can we hope has been learned from this tale of vandalism with a good meaning?
First, to the people who support Mr. Radtke, let's hope that the lesson has been that you cannot trust someone who acts on behalf of people who do not want or request for his help.
Second, to Mr. Radtke, let's hope that this can be a time of proper reflection that you have done more harm than good. Having said that, I don't believe your task is finished. What people want from you is simply that you respect what is theirs to respect. You are more aware than most of the numerous products that remove graffiti and yet for years you have persisted in painting street signs, irresponsibly on historic brick, and on peoples' property without their express, written consent. Removing graffiti, not covering it with more vandalism, is but one of the ways to address the noble issue you care so much about. The backlash you have been suffering recently is because of your methods, the disregarding way you've treated the general public and your relentless efforts to make this a Crusade. I feel for you and I extend to you an olive branch...
Third, to the people of New Orleans, this is a minor victory in the overall battle for the welfare of our city. In the past when something has been institutionally broken in New Orleans, it is allowed to continue and exist in its own way. To a certain degree, Mr. Radtke gets to fight on, but he has to do so with the norms of society being applied to him. Perhaps right now he feels a bit like Jean ValJean, unjustly punished for doing the "right" thing.
Some may lament that our city will now look like a ghetto because taggers will be out unabated. To a some degree, you have to address the simple fact that despite all the laws on the books and all the police on the streets, there has been no abatement and there will never likely be. Slathering grey paint over a tag doesn't fix graffiti, it makes it worse (artistically, socially, and economically). You aren't fixing the issue, you are covering it up and then pointing out that the issue still exists.
At no time in the past has anyone ever said his cause isn't a fair one. BUT, they have said his methods are terribly inappropriate on historic property and unlawful without permission from the property owner. What was won yesterday in the plea was not a punishment against Mr. Radtke, but a general sense that at some point, somewhere along the chain of justice, there has to be a time when enough is enough. INDEED, that time has come. Mr. Radtke's blatant chest-pounding about irrational comments that artists are "anarchists, agitators and Members of the Church of Satan" have done little help his cause.
Perhaps this small victory for New Orleans will lead to other much larger victories around the city. We can hope that from this, people can draw hope that other injustices can be won. There is reason to fight on for our grand ole city because if something as minimally important like this can attract so much attention, just imagine what we can do for the housing concerns of Mid-City if we all speak up. Imagine that a collective voice can force the powers that be to address corruption wherever it may reside. Believe it possible that we can conquer the crime problems that we face on a day to day basis. Collectively we can be the change we wish to see.
With that, in the coming months, it will be up to you, the people to watch to make sure Mr. Radtke stays in line. You've asked for justice to prevail and in a very small way, it has. Now, there are rules and guidelines he has to follow and it is up to you to make sure they aren't just brushed over by the police or by him. If you see him painting inappropriately in public: photograph him, call and report him as the perpetrator, and be prepared to give the police an accurate accounting and possibly the approximate cost of the repairs. If the police won't take action, our City Attorneys office can take complaints.
With all that, let us hope it doesn't come to that. No one wants to see people punished here other than what is reasonably applicable. I'm willing to give Mr. Radtke a second chance providing he plays by rules that aren't inconsistent with the culture of New Orleans or the wishes of the people of out fair city.
New Orleans graffiti activist told to keep his hands off
by Doug MacCash, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday March 25, 2009, 9:40 PM
SEE THE ARTICLE LINKED BELOW...
"Some people's trash is another person's treasure, " Sens said after the sentencing.
WGNO'S SHELDON FOX REPORTS ON RADTKE'S COURT CASE