Wanted “Drone” Poster Artist Discusses How He Punked the NYPD

From Animal New York

On Sunday, September 16th at around 1am, a white van—labelled with “Van Wagner’s” blue logo and topped by a yellow strobe light—circled through permanently lit Times Square. Inside the vehicle, the driver and passenger, both dressed as construction workers, were nervous. They had just vandalized one kiosk a few yards away from an NYPD tower, now they were about to hit another one right underneath the nose of a large white NYPD security camera. Hearing his partner worry, “we’re really pushing some buttons here!” “Essam” shot back, “keep your head down, if they don’t see our faces we’re in the clear.”

They hopped out of the van with their tool belts and in less than a minute another authorized Van Wagner spot was replaced with one of the drone spoofing pieces that have so angered the NYPD lately. Five hours later Essam and the team he calls his “bros” (they also utilizes two “security vehicles” to scope out the scene, and in one instance “dodge a tail”) had knocked out 50 such spots. The next night, again concentrating mostly in midtown, they knocked out fifty more.

“That first night I couldn’t sleep at all,” Essam recalls. “My heart was pumping and I kept waking up in a cold sweat. Bloomberg, Kelly and his cronies are not going to take this lightly if I get caught.”

Last Friday, “Essam,” a 29-year-old art-school grad from Maine, who served in Iraq as a “geo-spatial analyst,” sat down with ANIMAL in an undisclosed Brooklyn studio to talk about his philosophy and technique. Right off the bat, he admitted, “I’m not part of the street art scene at all.”


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