Graffiti - vandalism or political statement?

First published in News

In a typical day every one of us will see a piece of graffiti on a wall, train track or even on a bridge. But what does it mean to us?

The majority of society has branded graffiti as vandalism and the people creating the graffiti as criminals, but in some cases the graffiti has been put there in remembrance of someone or as a political dig.

This isn't a new way of expressing opinions, right back to Ancient Rome evidence has been found of graffiti, such as people's names and caricatures of politicians on the sides of buildings in Pompeii.

Artists such as the notorious Banksy have been wanted by the police for years for "vandalising" property, however when you see his work you soon realise that he isn't doing it out of pointless boredom but is trying to convey a political message to the masses.

These graffiti artists represent a segment of society who care about their country but have been ignored and not give a voice, the majority of these are teenagers.

Through this hate campaign against graffiti, local governments have created a stereotype of most teenagers; this is that they are aggressive people who engage in illegal activity such as "vandalism" and have no regard for others around them.

When really some of these people care a lot about their community and are doing the graffiti to get the message out to people that something needs to change and chose the method of graffiti because it can't be ignored like a letter or a speech.

However, it seems that the older generations don't understand this and have done the best to campaign against this "crime" and to do whatever they an to keep the masses believing that it is a "crime", an not freedom of speech or a political statement.

This was shown in two cases, the first being last year when Billy Cox was shot at the age of 15 and a mural was put up on the estate in his memory, however a few months later the local council made plans to remove it.

This caused outrage from the youth of the estate who said that it's there to honour Billy and if the council take it down they will paint it back on again.

The second example of this happened in the subway that connects the Fountainbridge with Dalry, there a mural depicting well known sites an regular buskers from the 1990s which was whitewashed after someone wrote "Blair, Bush & Israel - partners in war crime" which officials described as "offensive".

This isn't offensive, this is a political statement on the Iraq crisis which by the local council washing off they are censoring.

Both of these stories show the government's eagerness to cover up all personal expression on public matters, it's ironic that as children you are encouraged to speak up but as a teen are told to keep your opinions to yourself.

The overall message of graffiti seems to be that if local authorities aren't going to listen to the youth of today then they are going to put the message out there themselves in bold ways that can't be ignored.

Thus, graffiti has to been seen as more of a political statment made by teenagers than just vandalism.

By Hannah Vickers, aged 18, from Lee Green

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