Art shop owner decries raid, graffiti charges

The owner of an Edmonton art store is questioning tactics police used to arrest one of the city’s most prolific graffiti artists.

Jamie Law, 31, faces 35 mischief charges in connection with stencilled graffiti, mainly in the Whyte Avenue area, over the past few years.

The charges were brought against Law — who works under the name Daft Punk — after police raided a showing of his work at the Paint Spot on Whyte Ave in June.

"It's a disproportionate response,” said Kim Fjordbotten, who owns the Paint Spot.

She says that a half-dozen officers in bulletproof vests raided the shop and seized Law’s work.

"It was really sad to see what was left, which was nails on the wall and little left-over tags," she says.

The work, much of it on canvas, was taken as evidence.

Law, who works in a tattoo parlour nearby, would not comment on the charges.

Fjordbotten says she’s disappointed by the raid, saying instead of arrests, officials should attempt to communicate with street artists.

“There’s a process I think this city is missing, and that is how to engage the street artists and bring them into the conversation about … having an etiquette to street art.

"That is shut down — they are scared to come forward.”

Police Const. Ryan Catcher says cracking down on graffiti is about more than just the images themselves.

He says preventing things like graffiti can be effective at deterring other crimes.

“Chaos begets more chaos. When graffiti is prevalent and people can observe it, it shows that this area may be safe to commit more crime,” Catcher said.

But Fjordbotten says officials need to see a difference between vandalism and art. “I agree, tagging is bad. But this is not tagging. This is found urban art. And the city has no vocabulary for that," she said.

Law is scheduled to appear in court in September.