Detroit Police Arrested a City-Commissioned Artist Because He Didn’t Have a Permit

A Detroit artist hired to combat illegal graffiti was arrested by police officers over a misplaced permit.

In 2017, the city began an art program called City Walls. The program aimed to cut down on illegal graffiti by teaming up with local artists and giving them permission to create murals throughout the city. The program was designed, in part, “to provide a positive cost benefit to the public via art versus the cost of blight remediation.”

Artist Sheefy McFly, whose real name is Tashif Turner, was hired as part of the initiative.

While working on his art on Wednesday, however, McFly ran into some trouble. The Detroit Free Press reports that two police officers approached McFly while he was in the middle of a days-long project. Officers mistook him for a vandal; McFly did not have his city-issued permit at the scene.

McFly attempted to explain to officers that he had permission to paint, but the situation escalated with the arrival of an estimated four or five police cars. A city official even appeared on the scene to corroborate McFly’s story. According to the police spokesperson, police determined arrested McFly for resisting, obstruction, and an outstanding traffic warrant.

He shared an impassioned post from his mother, noting the overaction from police simply because he was painting a mural. “He could have been KILLED over paint brushes and spray cans,” she wrote.

“Worst thing about it is they humiliated me dog. They treated me like a criminal in front of my artwork I did for my city pulled up [seven] Cars deep. They took me to jail [and] treated me like a felon. I’m just a Artist bro,” he tweeted of the incident.

McFly’s experience is more than a simple misunderstanding. It raises the question of how much government permission is enough government permission. Police remained undeterred because of a lack of paper despite the fact that McFly had a representative from the city speak up in his favor, who likely had very little reason to lie.

There’s also something to be said about the police response overall. The creation of art, even illegal art, is not deserving of an army of squad cars. Even more concerning is the way an attempt to explain to officers that a crime was not being committed rose to an obstruction charge. The way McFly was approached and his subsequent arrest were likely disproportionate responses to what was perceived as a low-level crime in action.

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