Since 2009, Peoples’ Justice has been working NYC-based community artists to paint murals that illustrate Know Your Rights facts in neighborhoods that are heavily impacted by stop-and-frisk and other forms of discriminatory, unlawful and abusive policing. These murals incorporate community and many involve youth and community residents in the design and painting process. There are currently Peoples’ Justice murals in Washington Heights, the South Bronx and Northwest Bronx, Central Brooklyn, Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. Peoples’ Justice also periodically places Know Your Rights and Cop Watch billboards throughout many of the communities most highly affected by police violence, such as Sunset Park, Washington Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Corona, Hunts Point, and the North Bronx. Peoples' Justice has also begun developing and performing Know Your Rights guerrilla theatre skits in and around subway stations as part of outreach actions throughout the city, influenced by "Theatre of the Oppressed" performance techniques.
Peoples’ Justice’s public art has several purposes: first, it is meant to compliment the Know Your Rights workshops and outreach we do on a regular basis. Visual art communicates differently than the written or spoken word. By creating Know Your Rights murals, billboards and guerrilla theatre, we seek to bring important information directly to the streets where it is needed the most, in a way that is visually striking and memorable.
Second, we seek to encourage the spread of the culture of Cop Watch by depicting scenes in which community members are observing and documenting the police and reminding everyone (community members AND cops) that Cop Watch is legal.
Third, public art is also about shifting culture and creating hope. Everyday low-income New Yorkers of color confront the prospect of being wrongfully stopped, frisked, arrested, harassed, injured and even killed by the police. For those who have lived through traumatic police encounters, seeing the police every day means the possibility of re-living that trauma is ever present. Our hope is that our Public Art projects will be a beautiful and informative presence in the face of this reality and act as a permanent statement that we are demanding and creating change.
Many of Peoples’ Justice’s public art projects have been made possible by support from the Center for Constitutional Rights.