March 14, 2013

Artists rally for Mainer who planted fake ads mocking NYPD

A fundraiser Thursday will help Essam 'Adam' Attia combat criminal charges and raise awareness of drone concerns.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

A New York street artist who was raised and educated in Wiscasset and faces multiple charges for creating fake ads mocking the New York Police Department will have a fundraiser Thursday in Manhattan to aid his legal defense and raise awareness of the case that authorities are building against him.

Fake NYPD Post
click image to enlarge

In this September 2012 file photo, New York City police officers wait to remove a fake NYPD "public service" ad at a public phone bank in Lower Manhattan. The ads, installed by Essam "Adam" Attia of Maine, depict the police force as a drone-deploying Big Brother.

Marcus Santos for the New York Daily News

Essam "Adam" Attia, who goes by the name Essam, was arrested last fall in New York after he planted dozens of satirical ads in phone booths, bus shelters and other public spaces around the city claiming that New York police use spy drones to monitor citizens.

His case has drawn national attention.

He was arraigned on Nov. 29 and faces more than 50 counts, including possession of an unloaded revolver, possession of a forged instrument and grand larceny.

He is due in court next on May 1.

Attia, who was 29 at the time of his arrest, has retained a high-profile New York attorney, Steven Kartagener, to defend him. Neither his lawyer nor the Manhattan District Attorney's Office would comment on the record.

Animal, an online publication that covers New York art, news, culture and politics, will host Thursday's event, called "Free Essam."

It will include a silent auction of artwork by more than two dozen artists who sympathize with Attia, as well as music and speeches.

Rock photographer Clay Patrick McBride will emcee the event.

"The goal is to get money to pay his lawyers and for everyone to have a conversation about drones and how our government is using them to assassinate people in the Middle East and to spy on people in this country," said McBride, who said he warned Attia when he was working on his drone project that he was going to "(expletive) some people off."

"His goal was to remain anonymous. He just wanted to be an anonymous artist creating a conversation about something very serious," McBride said. "Now that same conversation can happen with his participation."

Animal's founder and editor, Bucky Turco, expects about 400 people at the event.

More than 30 artists have donated work, and several bands will play.

"Obviously, the key to this event is to raise money. He is facing a bunch of charges, and this should help to level the playing field," Turco said. "He is not a wealthy man."

Attia, who has a background in the military, has said his drone campaign was designed to raise awareness about the growing use of drones by government agencies to spy on citizens.

"The meaning of the drone campaign for me, it's really about creating a conversation," Attia told in one of the few interviews he has given since his arrest.

Artists have rallied around Attia, Turco said.

Many support his right to free speech, while others share his outrage about the use of drones by the government.

Since Attia's arrest, mainstream news outlets have reported several stories about drones and the privacy issues surrounding them, Turco said.

"The timing couldn't be better on this," he said. "His message is so right on and timely."

Attia was raised in Wiscasset and worked his way through the public school system there.

He graduated from high school in 2002 and ended up in New York as a street artist.


Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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