Fashion designer and entrepreneur Marc Ecko announced the filing of a First Amendment lawsuit yesterday against the Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Councilman Peter Vallone and the City of New York.
Filed on behalf of seven artists under the age of 21, Ecko’s lawsuit challenges anti-graffiti legislation that directly impacts the First Amendment rights of young citizens and aspiring artists in New York.
The amendments, which went into effect on January 1, 2006, make it a criminal offense for simple possession of spray paint and broad tipped markers for all persons under the age of 21- regardless of whether they are possessing those materials in connection with a college art class, a high school project, or are on the job as a union painter’s apprentice.
The laws also establish a blanket prohibition to purchasing spray paint for people under 21.
“I have learned of these and other aspiring artists whose rights to pursue legal graffiti-inspired art were being suppressed due to overly broad legislation here and in numerous cities across this country,” Ecko said. “That is why I have chosen to dedicated my time and resources to calling attention to the absurdity of laws and ensuring the rights of these individuals aren’t being preemptively censored.”
The artists will ask a federal judge for an order preventing the City of New York and the New York Police Department from enforcing recent amendments to New York City’s anti-graffiti laws.
The plaintiffs have filed affidavits in the case alleging that they are unable to express their artistic freedoms under the existing legislation.
In August 2005, Ecko waged a successful federal lawsuit against censorship when Mayor Bloomberg and Councilman Vallone tried to stop his graffiti block party by revoking a street permit for the event.
Ecko proceeded to file suit against Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York and won, clearing the way for the permit to be immediately reinstated and the graffiti block party to take place successfully as planned.