Art stunt pseudo-terrorizes NY subways

Once again–which is more appalling? This isn’t the first time that clueless or insensitive art geeks have staged bogus bombings on New York’s subways, only to face criminal charges from an NYPD which is equally clueless about the first amendment. From AP, Oct. 14:

NEW YORK (AP) _ The dean of a Brooklyn arts college chastised two students who planted packages in the subway for a class project, saying it was like shouting fire in a crowded theater.

Robert Barrett and Jamie Davis, both 21, were arrested earlier this week on charges of placing fake bombs in the mass transit system _ a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

They said the stunt was part of a class project at the Pratt Institute.

“There’s a difference between challenging paintings and thought-provoking conceptual projects and criminal activity,” Frank O. Lind, dean of Pratt’s School of Art and Design, told The New York Times. “This was shouting fire in a crowded theater.”

Barrett told police he wanted to draw attention to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “If you see something, say something” campaign, which urges people to report suspicious packages. Barrett said the program is ineffective.

Police said Davis helped Barrett prepare the cardboard tube and four bags _ a tote, a backpack and two duffels _ by stuffing them with copies of The New York Post and comic strips. Each was marked with the slogan of the MTA campaign and a phone number to report anything suspicious.

Davis took photos of the packages after they were placed at various spots on Sept. 28 _ on the G train in Brooklyn, the L train in Manhattan, a platform at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street, and aboard a No. 1 train in Manhattan, police said.

Arson squad detectives determined the packages weren’t a threat and traced them to the two students. Barrett was arrested on Tuesday and Davis on Thursday.

Both are enrolled in a sculpture class taught by Marsha Pels, who asked students to create a site-specific installation. But when she was told about Barrett’s plan, she reportedly warned him against it.

Davis was shivering and teary as she faced the charges Friday in Manhattan Criminal Court, where she was released on her own recognizance. Barrett was released earlier in the week on $1,000 bail.

See our last post on fear in New York City.