Federal Judge Rules in Favor of Graffiti Artists in NYC Lawsuit

A federal judge has ruled in favor of seven graffiti artists who filed a first amendment lawsuit against the City of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.

Judge George B. Daniels today (May 2) granted the group’s request for a preliminary injunction against recent amendments to anti-graffiti legislation that went into effect on January 1.

Effective Thursday, the New York Police Department and all city agencies will be largely prohibited from enforcing the amendments pending final outcome of the case.

An underlying lawsuit will now be litigated with the injunction in place.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the plaintiffs and everyone else whose First Amendment rights were being trampled upon with these laws,” said fashion designer Marc Ecko, who has actively supported the graffiti artists and was present when the decision was made. “I am very pleased that the courts have recognized the hypocrisy of this anti-graffiti legislation and its effect on the right to free expression for legitimate artists under the age of 21,” he continued.

The decision marks the end of days of litigation concerning the lawsuit, titled Vincenty v. Bloomberg, 06 CV 3158 (GBD). The suit, brought by seven graffiti artists, was filed April 25 in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

“As someone whose career has been shaped by graffiti art and street design, I’ve increasingly felt a responsibility to lend my support to these and other aspiring artists whose rights to express themselves through the medium of legal graffiti-inspired art were being suppressed in New York and cities across the country,” Ecko said. “The motif of graffiti is one that has the right to exist credibly, and it is great to see the courts make a distinction between illegal vandalism and the motif of legal graffiti as a legitimate art form that cannot be pushed aside by legislators.”

In August 2005, Ecko partnered with attorney Daniel Perez for a successful federal lawsuit against the City’s efforts to stop Ecko’s graffiti block party by revoking a street permit for the event. Federal Judge Jed Rakoff granted a preliminary injunction in that case and ordered the City to reinstate the permit.

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