The New York City Police Department and Secret Service forced the closure of a political art show by artist Yazmany Arboleda titled “The Assassination of Barack Obama / Hillary Clinton”. While Police Commissioner Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly denied the artist was arrested or that the gallery show was forced to close, by detaining Mr. Arboleda for questioning on the basis he posed a threat that required investigation, the Secret Service effectively forced closure of the exhibition and thus political expression.
Were the police concerns valid you ask? Isn’t there a high probability that someone who titles a public show the “Assassination of ___________ (insert public figure)” is a dangerous individual with intent to commit a violent act? Wouldn’t the police be remiss if they didn’t furtherinvestigate such an individual?
Here’s the problem.
Individuals that pose actual risks to public figures are highly unlikely to advertise their intent so publicly. It is far more difficult for police and protective agencies to identify such individuals as what few telltale signs they present are far more ambiguous and require far more analysis to detect. Given the high volume of potential threats, federal agencies must be very efficient in their investigations and surveillance. They must be able to quickly determine which threats to invest resources in further investigating and which to dismiss as incredible.
How efficient and effective were the Secret Service and NYC Police Department in this instance? Let’s see… It would take the average casual observer less than 30 seconds to identify the images on display in the gallery as innocuous political art (judge for yourself below). The word ‘Assassination’ is clearly used artfully in the show’s title, of course, to connote the assassination of each presidential candidate’s character by the indecencies of the long political nominating process. The show is clearly about ‘character assassination’ not an incitement to murder (which, even if it were, is arguably within one’s rights to promote).