Graffiti artist who worked for Adidas is banned from Olympic Games venues. Darren Cullen is also barred from owning paint or using most public transport as part of pre-emptive police crackdown.
Source: guardian.co.uk – 18.7.2012
When Adidas wanted to create a mural to illustrate the launch of its new football boot last year, it turned to “professional graffiti artist” Darren Cullen for help. Cullen, 38, runs a firm providing spraycan artwork and branding to major international companies, and says he has never painted illegally on a wall or train.
But despite having worked with one of the Games’s major sponsors, on Tuesday Cullen was arrested by British Transport Police (BTP) and barred from coming within a mile of any Olympic venue, as part of a pre-emptive sweep against a number of alleged graffiti artists before the Olympics.
BTP confirmed that four men from Kent, London and Surrey, aged between 18 and 38, had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, two of whom were also further arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage.
They were bailed until November under strict conditions restricting their access to rail, tube and tram transport, preventing them from owning spray paint or marker pens, and ordering them not to go near any Olympic venue in London or elsewhere. None has been charged.
The arrests were in connection with “a live and ongoing criminal investigation into linked incidents of criminal damage between January 2007 and July 2012”, said a BTP spokesman.
But Cullen, who says he has never painted illegally and whose firm Graffiti Kings has worked with major blue chip firms including Microsoft and NPower and the Royal Shakespeare Company, said he was not questioned over any alleged incidents of criminal damage.
Instead, he said, he was asked about a website he had set up two years ago on behalf of a client, frontline-magazine.co.uk. The website was “all about the history of graffiti”, Cullen said, but did not promote it. “I don’t condone or promote illegal graffiti,” he said. “I always say to young people: ‘Don’t do it. It’s no good for you.'”
The arrests come as the Metropolitan police’s strategy of halting potential disruptive action in advance of major public events was given high court endorsement. The tactic is a key plank of police planning to ensure the Games are not disrupted.
In the high court on Wednesday, Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Openshaw ruled the police did not operate an unlawful policy by carrying out pre-emptive strikes before Prince William’s wedding last year.
The judges dismissed applications for judicial review from 20 people among scores who were arrested or subjected to searches in the days before and during the wedding.
“We find nothing in the various strands of the claimants’ case, whether taken individually or cumulatively, to make good the contention that the policing of the royal wedding involved an unlawful policy or practice, with an impermissibly low threshold of tolerance for public protests,” said the judges.
Human rights activists had argued the case had major implications for the policing of other major events, including the Olympics.
In addition to his previous work for Adidas, Cullen said he was in discussions to provide artwork with another major Olympic sponsor and had been commissioned to spraypaint a London taxi to be used by a leading broadcaster at the Games. His computer equipment, phone, iPad and his son’s laptop had been confiscated.
The four men’s bail conditions also forbid them from entering “any railway system, including tubes and trams, or [being] in any train, tram or tube station or in or on any other railway property not open to the public” unless in limited circumstances including attending a written appointment with a solicitor.
They are also barred from possessing “any spray paint, marker pens, any grout pen, etching equipment, or unset paint”.
One graffiti blog claimed that among those arrested, some “had stopped painting graffiti without prior permission over a decade ago … while others haven’t touched a spray can at all in many years”. It accused police of attempting to “sanitise” London before the Games.