‘Like it’s still Jim Crow:’ Detroit artist nabbed for city-commissioned mural alleges racism

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A Detroit artist is accusing police of racial profiling after he was arrested while painting a mural as part of the city-championed ‘beatifying’ project. Officers called for a massive back-up after he could not produce the papers.

Tashif Turner, better known under his pseudonym Sheefy McFly in the Detroit art scene, was rounded up by police for damaging public property as he was spray-painting a wall under the city viaduct on Wednesday.

In attempt to clear up the misunderstanding, Turner told officers that he was hired by the city. He rushed to his bag to check if his permit was there and the standoff got really heated.

“They ran up on me like I’m dealing dope, bro, like I had crack on me and I had a gun in my bag,” the 29-year-old artist and musician told Metro Times.

Turner had been issued a permit to decorate the wall as part of the City Walls program launched in 2017, but didn’t have the papers on him as required. The artist claimed that the request caught him off guard since he had already showed other officers his license when approached on his first day on the site.

Police considered his behavior “uncooperative” and called for back-up, with Turner telling The Detroit Free Press, that some “four or five police cars” arrived to the scene. A city official showed up corroborating that Turner was in fact commissioned to paint that site. Yet the artist was arrested for resisting and obstructing police and an outstanding warrant for a traffic violation he committed years ago.

Although Detroit police spokesperson Holly Lance admitted that it’s up to police whether to enforce an outstanding warrant on such type of minor violations, the officers on duty were apparently not in the mood to let Turner off the hook, putting him in jail for 24 hours.

McFly claimed that he was then forced to spend a day in a filthy cell with a dozen of other men without a single bed in it. The artist alleged that he was a victim of racial profiling and was “treated like a felon” because of being “black as hell.”

The artist said that he was glad he retained his cool while in police custody because he was afraid of being shot by police if the situation escalated.

 “I felt that pressure of becoming Trayvon Martin. They put me in jail to bully me. They would’ve beat me or even shot me if they had a opportunity,” he added. 

The incident have seen an outpour of support for the artist, earning him features in several local media. McFly denied his outrage was a PR stunt, dismissing criticism that the situation might have been avoided if he had a permit on him.

He said that he was deeply traumatized by the incident and was still unsure if to finish the work

“I may go back next week, but I need some days to collect myself and figure out how I can be safe. I feel racially profiled and bullied,” he told The Free Press.

Lance, meanwhile, defended the conduct of police. “The bottom line is he had a permit, but he wasn’t able to produce it. His actions resulted in what occurred next,” she said.

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