When Montreal Graffiti Becomes Political

On June 7 (2011), in downtown Montreal, police shot and killed two people. One was the suspect, armed with a knife, the second, an innocent bystander, who died from a bullet to the chest, received during an armed intervention. Shortly afterwards, Graffiti Solutions was asked to urgently remove anti-police graffiti, which started to appear at numerous locations in Montreal, including several around the Lachine Canal.

 

Graffiti, which provides a platform that is accessible, has an almost immediate impact and (sometimes) provides anonymity, has long been a preferred means of protest in a world where people are sometimes afraid to speak up, to be heard, to offend – where people sometimes prefer to remain silent, afraid of being labeled, categorized or perhaps denied employment due to an opinionated comment they posted on Facebook.
It is also, however, a gratuitous action, and an act of vandalism.
In this case, one has to wonder if it is a courageous gesture of protest, or a cowardly act; the author choosing to hide and remain anonymous rather than being identified – both by the message supporters and its detractors (and police). At the same time, what other options exist to publicly broadcast am message for someone who is not involved in a political or media environment?
Perhaps collectively, we need to find a real platform – a means of communication – where people can express themselves openly to the authorities, be heard, and engage in constructive dialogue, which is still the best way to initiate positive social change.
In Quebec, it seems that few people stand up to denounce authority or injustice in a logical, intelligent and efficient manner. When someone does, their position is often met with apathy or scorn. It’s as if we always hope that someone else can address and solve our problems without making noise or rubbing some people the wrong way. Let someone else take the initiative. Understandably; it is easier to be an “armchair quarterback” than it is to be a player on the field.
In this case, though, the “hate” graffiti acts in the same way. Despite the obvious impact of the message, possibly read by thousands, the anonymity of the act prevents it from being taken seriously, and its author is dismissed as a simple vandal, instead of being a real agent and initiator of change