Art And Response

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An artist and activist known for visually beautiful and harrowing pieces that question the status quo is taking to the Baltimore streets to challenge police officers to “restore the trust of their communities.”

Michael D’Antuono — whose controversial A Tale Of Two Hoodies, inspired by the racial profiling that led to Trayvon Martin’s death, went viral — is back with his latest painting, It Stops With Cops.

Like most of D’Antuono’s art — the detailed pieces serve to make those who support the institution of racism uncomfortable — It Stops With Cops was created to inspire police to “break through the blue wall of silence and restore the trust of the communities they are sworn to protect.” The artist carried an eight-foot banner to the steps of the Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore Monday — the location of the first trial for the six officers arrested and charged in the April 2014 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man whose spine was severed when officers failed to place him in a seatbelt during transport in a police van.

During testimony last week in the trial of former police officer William Porter, Dr. Carol Allan, the medical examiner, testified Friday Gray died of suffocation due to his spinal cord injures. Porter’s defense team argued he was a rookie cop who was the only one to come to Gray’s need. Porter joined the force in 2012 and forgot about his training in placing seat belts on those who ride in the van, because no one ever acted out on it.

None of the officers in the case moved to place Gray in a seat belt for his safety. D’Antuono’s painting, in calling for officers to break through the wall, urges them to speak up and hold their colleagues accountable.

In addition to putting the banner on display at the trial, which boasts a majority Black jury, D’Antuono plans to deploy a 17-foot traveling billboard of the piece to pass by the courthouse throughout the week.

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The piece, which shows an officer clutching the night stick of another officer as he attempts to beat a Black man, is not “anti-police,” D’Antuono assured us in a press release sent to NewsOne.com.

“They say most cops are good,” said D’Antuono, “but good cops don’t let bad cops get away with killing defenseless citizens.”

(Originally published at NewsOne.com)