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April 7, 2015updated 02 Aug 2021 9:12am

Artists erected a statue of Edward Snowden in a New York park, but city officials have already removed it

By City Monitor Staff

In the early hours of Monday morning, a trio of artists installed a four foot high, 100-pound bust in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park.

The park is no stranger to monuments: it contains the huge Prison Ship Martyrs memorial, dedicated to those who died aboard British ships in the Revolutionary War. But this new statue, affixed to a pillar that forms part of the martyrs’ memorial, was a little more up-to date: it depicted the bespectacled head and shoulders of Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency employee (NSA) and whistle-blower.

The bust was made of plaster painted to look like bronze:

Image: Animal New York via YouTube.

Letters attached to the base of the column spelled out “Snowden”. 

The night before the statue appeared, Snowden was interviewed by US talk show host John Oliver,who asked the only question anyone seems to care about when it comes to digital privacy: “Can the US government see my sexts?” (yes, they definitely can). 

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Ten hours after the statue’s appearance, however, parks officials removed it. Ironically, the bust is being held at Brooklyn’s 88th Precinct pending investigation, while the man himself remains at large, facing charges for leaking thousands of NSA documents to publications around the world.

The three artists responsible for the statue are still unidentified, though they allowed news site Animal New York to film the installation. They named the project “Prison Ship Martyrs Monument 2.0”, and wrote in a statement: 

We have updated this monument to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies. It would be a dishonour to those memorialized here to not laud those who protect the ideals they fought for, as Edward Snowden has by bringing the NSA’s 4th-Amendment-violating surveillance programs to light.

All too often, figures who strive to uphold these ideals have been cast as criminals rather than in bronze.

The group says they’re planning to create more busts of the whistle-blower and erect them throughout the US.


Update 8/4:

Hours after city officials removed the statue, another art collective filled the blank space atop the pillar with a hologram of Snowden, and projected his name onto its base:

Click for a larger image. Image: The Illuminator. 

In a blogpost, The Illuminator collective wrote:

Our feeling is that while the State may remove any material artifacts that speak in defiance against incumbent authoritarianism, the acts of resistance remain in the public consciousness. And it is in sharing that act of defiance that hope resides.

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