Justin Bieber's Graffiti Sparks Protests by Colombian Graffiti Artists

Photo shared by Justin Bieber on Instagram.

Photo shared by Justin Bieber on Instagram.

[All links lead to Spanish-language websites, unless otherwise noted.]

Hundreds of graffiti artists protested peacefully after learning that the police escorted [en] Canadian singer Justin Bieber so he could write graffiti under a bridge on 26th Avenue in Bogota, a forbidden area according to Decree 75 which regulates this practice within the city. Protesters remembered graffiti artist Diego Felipe Becerra, who was murdered [en] allegedly by a police officer [en] on August 19, 2011.

“Four bodyguards and a police caravan made up the squadron that accompanied Justin Bieber on the night of October 29, when, after the El Campin concert, an alien light illuminated his ‘new pastime': spraying walls,” as journalist Adriana Mejia describes what happened that night on the website Las 2 orillas:

Cuarenta metros de muro, en la 26, fueron justo lo que necesitaba para autografiar la ciudad: Justin Bieber. ¡Vaya arte! ¡Vaya intervención! ¡Vaya mensaje! ¡Vaya ego! Y vaya oso el de la Policía que no se atrevió a impedir que el muchacho caprichoso fungiera de pintor de ocasión mientras lograba conciliar el sueño. Menos mal lo protegieron, no fuera que algún patrullero despistado en asuntos de farándula lo hubiera tratado como a cualquier grafitero de vecino: de muy malas maneras, para no entrar en detalles. Y ahí sí, Bogotá hubiera hecho correr tinta en la prensa internacional.

Forty meters of a wall, on 26th Avenue, was just what he needed to autograph the city: Justin Bieber. What art! What an intervention! What a message! What an ego! And what an embarrassment from the police who didn't stop the spoiled boy from acting as the painter of the moment while he got sleepy. It's a good thing he was protected, lest a police officer distracted about celebrity affairs had treated him like any neighborhood graffiti artist: very badly, without getting into details. And surely, Bogota would have made every headline in the international press.

Many users on social media referred to the double standard the Bogota police showed. Juan Navidad asked:

What would happen if the police had shot Justin Bieber in the back for writing graffiti…?

On Facebook, graffiti artists have organized protests consisting of 24 hours of graffiti in different cities of the country to defend their rights as artists. The user Aldo Civico shares an image taken in Bogota: 

Awesome: 109 graffiti artists who are painting in Bogota on the same wall as @justinbieber @scooterbraun @juanes

Graffiti artists see this incident as a chance to stop being stigmatized, like ‘Don Popo’, hip-hop artist and director of the Ayara Family Foundation, wrote for newspaper El Espectador:

El sentimiento de injusticia, de indignación, de rabia, se había transformado a medida que decantábamos las emociones, “la pelea no es contra Justin, ni contra la policía, lo que se genero fue una oportunidad para cambiar el estigma de vándalos y criminales sobre los graffiteros” “Justin quebró el florero de Llorente para nuestra revolución”… dijimos:

The feeling of injustice, indignation, and rage has been transformed by the pouring out of our emotions. “The fight isn't against Justin, nor against the police; what resulted was a chance to change the stigma of vandals and criminals surrounding graffiti artists.” We said: “Justin broke Llorente's vase [en, a historical act that accelerated Colombia's independence from Spain] for our revolution…”

Gustavo Trejos, the father of the murdered young man, asked for “more freedom so that young people can express their art. There are continual abuses against graffiti artists in the city: they watch them, they take them to a CAI (Immediate Attention Command [en]), they paint their skin, they beat them, and others, like our son, are murdered.”

But the singer's fans experienced their own battle and defended him on social networks:

[Justin only wanted to leave us a gift in Botogá] You had no right to erase the graffiti. Did the graffiti shoot you or something?

The user jack's broken heart gives the singer some credit:

Whether you like it or not, Justin Bieber revolutionized graffiti in Colombia. Incredible.

Meanwhile, 26th Avenue in Bogota has more than 700 graffiti works adorning the city, graffiti artists firmly insist that their art isn't vandalism, and Diego Felipe Becerra's parents continue to demand justice.


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