Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Vandalism in Eureka

I received the photograph by e-mail with the following explanation:

This photo was taken in central Eureka on Tuesday, July 15.

According to the EPD representative who came, spoke with me, and took photos of the same vandals' work in my neighborhood, complaints were coming in to EPD from all over the city after a spree of spray painting between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

The letters were dense black and about one foot high.
I hope you will consider making these important points about graffiti: 1) Victims should call the police and let the police respond, taking pictures and getting information, and 2) Victims may want to take their own pictures and send them to SoHum Parlance, and 3) As another commenter remarked It is very important for Victims of graffiti to remove or paint over the graffiti as soon as they possibly can.

Some ideas on how to remove graffiti. I find that Zinsser 1-2-3 Primer is very good for covering up even dark paint on light surfaces. It dries quickly. I was able to put two coats down in less than an hour even in cold weather, so the letters can no longer be seen.

Another point worth making, Eric. A local anti-gang organization several years ago in Eureka found that too much publicity of vandalism can actually encourage it. It becomes part of a feedback loop for trouble-makers.

So I think printing some pictures is a good idea. It will help people like us figure out if we are dealing with the same people, and whether they are criminal gangs or bored teenagers with underdeveloped consciences. Or somebody we haven't even thought of. On the other hand, printing several dozen of pictures of the vandalism might act as a reward or "an art gallery for delinquents."

I encouraged you to write an opinion piece for the Times-Standard. Go back and read the passage I quoted. That is a message our community needs to hear. Not specifically about what happened in Southern Humboldt, but what is happening everywhere around us. ( I'm not getting into the issue of "collective punishment for individual guilt." )

Sorry for remaining anonymous. Think of me as HighNoon2400 if that helps. And if you HAVE managed to guess my secret identity, please don't reveal it. What am I saying? Of COURSE, you won't reveal it.


For the record, I haven't figured out your identity. But your suggestion that I could figure it out makes me curious.

G N S?
"For the record, I haven't figured out your identity. But your suggestion that I could figure it out makes me curious."

That's interesting, Eric. People often describe ME as "curious."
What is the point of tagging if the tags are so esoteric that only the tagger could possibly know what it means?

GN.S? Or G.N.S? Good night suckas? wtf? lame.
G.N.S. means something to whoever sprayed it all over people's houses, fences, and utility poles. They repeated the same three initials in place after place.

Anybody can make up funny guesses as to what G.N.S. means, but we don't need that. We need to hear from someone who knows what those initials mean to somebody who runs around at night defacing other people's property with spray paint.
Graffiti Non Stop or Graffiti Never Stop.
When did you lefties stop defending grafitti as art?
I'm wondering why some mysterious person would e-mail Eric (who lives in SoHum) with details of some criminal activity in Eureka? Also wondering why that person would ask Eric to comment on same? Not that Eric might not want to comment on the subject, just why this person seems to have asked him to?
Oftentimes initials in graffiti represent the initials of a gang or in some cases of a tagger. They are a way to mark territory–a warning to rival gangs to stay away.

As for lefties defending or not defending graffiti . . . I suppose were it political graffiti it might be more defensible . . . but out and out vandalism with no message, or a gang tag, is not.
Better than another Flatmo mural.
Get used to it. It's an urban art-form and here to stay. As we become more urbanized you can expect to see more of it. Yes it's against the law and yes it's political. In Brooklyn it is the graff-writers who are monitoring those who destroy or cover their work. The writers take photos of the anti-graffiti fanatics and post their photos in the streets with added swastikas on their foreheads or whatever. The anti-graffitists are seen as extreme right wing fascists.
Who gives a damn what vandals consider those who oppose their vandalism?
Fred, you can answer your own question by re-reading Eric's thread about the trashing of Redway Elementary School.

I'm the person you call mysterious. I'm not so mysterious. I'm a long-time resident of the North Coast. I even post messages on your blog once in a while.

I wonder why you chose to focus on the mystery of me, rather than on the mysterious identity of the people who are defacing Eureka.

Eric offered in the Redway School thread to post pictures of vandalism. I sent him such a picture and asked him to make an article of it. He did.

How is there anything wrong in that?
I was in New York City. Once was enough. I came back and now live in Eureka. Telling me New Yorkers have made peace with gangs and taggers doesn't mean a thing to me. Vandals of any sort are not wanted here by any person I would accept as a friend. You want to deface other people's property and public property? Find some other place to live.
8:24 wrote, "How is there anything wrong in that?".

Nothing wrong with that. Just seemed it would of made more sense to see blogging on Eureka crime on Carson Park Ranger's blog, or some other Eureka blog, rather than a SoHum blog.

As for who is doing this stuff, who knows? Seems to me, though, the few graffiti guys they've caught in Arcata were all adults, at least from what I've read in the papers.

Of course, could be juveniles caught doing it might not make the papers.
I think Carson Park Ranger is more interested in acting clever than serving the needs of Eureka's citizens. I'd be glad to learn otherwise, though. Will he cover this wave of vandalism? So far, he hasn't.
Accident Gallery in Old Town was vandalised, also. Windows broken. But since we sell the best supplies for tagging, I doubt it was the same perps. Don't know if our legal graffiti art was tagged or not, haven't been down to the gallery yet. Of course, there are those out there who would say, "serves you right".
Since you sell tagging supplies and represent 'graffiti art' it mat have been a retaliation for Monday nights spree.
I don't consider graffiti to be destruction of property. Not in the same way as window breaking or trashing of computers or what not.
I believe many a blank wall could use some creative marks and some wild spirit. Took a long train ride recently and was just amazed at the quality of graffiti art along the tracks.
Now, granted, GNS doesn't look like great art.
I consider myself very left leaning and I also find graffiti ridiculous. Very little of it is 'art' in any meaningful sense of the word. In fact the more artistic ones are from years ago and have since been defaced or are hidden in completely obscure locations. This crap is just crap.
It really doesn't matter whether it's art. You don't have the right to impose your art on someone else's property. It's a basic equation. I'm certain most of the graffiti "artists" would throw a fit I performed my own art on their bedroom walls.
I do have to say that the subway train graffiti of the 1970s was much more attractive than today's graffiti, and I'd have no problem with the public allowing that art. But then, the "artists" probably wouldn't bother.
There was a training on gangs at Redway School recently in response to some concerns that staff had when they saw kids doing certain graffiti. Did anyone notice how most of the Estelle signs around Par and other parts of Redway had graffiti on them? I think for most of the local kids it's a lark, learning how to draw the stuff, the lettering style is quite advanced (these Eureka ones aren't but others are).. so it's an anti authority thing and is also quite an achievement to make it look good. Many local kids probably don't know what they are doing and aren't interested in gangs. But, and I hate to say it, there is gang activity in So Hum and the sooner we realize it the better. The trainer from Eureka was apparently very serious about how big of a problem it is up north, in places like Eureka and Hoopa in particular. There have been gang related murders and there are some gang members in jail. There is undoubtedly an influx of Mexican folk into our area and some may have connections from the south that are less than savory. Up north it's not just the Hispanic gangs, but the Blacks, Asian, White Supremacists, Native American etc too. Apparently there are signs of Nazi gang types around So Hum too.
Took a long train ride recently and was just amazed at the quality of graffiti art along the tracks.
Now, granted, GNS doesn't look like great art.

As a matter of fact it looks a lot like great art. Compare it to this
12:57 wrote, "There is undoubtedly an influx of Mexican folk into our area and some may have connections from the south that are less than savory.".

And some of them don't know they're bringing less than savory kin up here.

Back when I worked at Humboldt Juvenile Hall, we got a transfer- in from Los Angeles County. A mexican kid. He was an American citizen,though, and was very well behaved while in custody.

He came up here because his father moved and the court allowed him to move up here to live with his father when his case was finally adjudicated.

The kid was a gang member, or at least suspected of being one. I spoke with his father once when he was visiting. He told me he moved up here to get his kid "away from all the gangs".

He didn't realize is kid was the gang. Once he got out of Juvenile Hall, he formed up his own gang. I next heard of him when he was arrested as the ring leader of the gang that did the drive- by shooting at the Bayshore Mall some years ago where an asian kid was shot in the stomach.

I think he got life or at least a lot of time for that one.

Some of these folks don't realize their own kin are the problem.
To me, the graffiti art vs. vandalism question is a lot like the plant weed vs. garden question. The location of a thing has an influence on its acceptability regardless of its fundamental qualities.

Eric brings up the "property rights" position that effectively says an owner has total discretion how their property is displayed. That has a lot of merit.

But I can also side with a "community" that imposes its taste to decorate or beautify an ugly edifice. I think Eureka's Old Town has special regulations for property owners. Some cities have grafitti parks, formal or informal.

Clearly, taggers want excessive attention and recognition and need to be limited. But unless its obscenities or do permanent damage, I don't put them in the same category as the Redway School vandalizers.
...basic equation...would throw a fit I performed my own art on their bedroom walls.12:44pm

Many graffiti artists, some of the best, are houseless. Their bedroom walls are in the alleys and streets.
The real graffiti artists are long long gone. What you have today are are dumb kids whose experience in life amounts to playstation and this shitty ass rap music. So they scrawl a couple letters on a wall. By the way, I looked up GNS, so we have some Polish graffiti artists here in Humboldt! Graffiti Non Stop is a Polish thing! So I doubt that's what it means, unless we have some Polski thugs in town.
Gang members are obsessed with respect. They claim a sure way to get hurt is to show a gang member some disrespect.

Yet they 'diss' everyone else in our society by breaking our laws, hurting people.

I agree with Eric. No one has the right to put their paint on my property. If they want to paint it, they need to talk with me and get my permission. Or they can make an offer to buy my place and tag it after they buy it.

Otherwise, their 'tagging' is a form of disrespect.

These vandals, whether gang members or troubled teens, would be wise to remember that showing disrespect to people by defacing their homes can result in upleasant consequences for the taggers, too.
Got Freedom?

most youful taggers who deface city and public property...grow up to be great artist, designers and musicians(the people that design the clothes your kids were and the music they listen to. there are many proven examples of this), or they just stop and find a different field. if there is a legal wall for KIDS to do their art, there would be a whole lot less graffitti (san francisco is a perfect example for 10+ years there were multiple locations to do legal graf. psyco city on market @ valencia, ghost yards where sf dumped all the old trains at the end of army @ 3rd, but when willie brown tried to clean up the city he started busting kids at these legal spots, immediatly after a wave of graffitti sweep sf rooftops and building fronts.

i agree that defacing private property is wrong, art or not but public property is something different. i say tag on the freeways and bus stops, lets see some colr in these bland boring streets, i never asked for every freeway to be grey, nor should my tax dollars be spent to remove it. put that money in schools and nuture art programs to help kids do more than just write in the street, when you are able to channel a persons creativity in this manner there is no way in hell they will ever be a: republican, neo-con, or cop

and for those who dont know
Gang graffitti:

youth art/ graffitti:
"The most important thing in art is THE FRAME. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively - because, without this humble appliance, you can't know where THE ART stops and THE REAL WORLD begins. You have to put a 'box' around it because otherwise, WHAT IS THAT SHIT ON THE WALL?"

- Frank Zappa, from autobiography, 1989
No one has the right to tag public property either. It belongs to all of us and we all have to pay to clean it up. If they want a wall where they can do their grafitti they need to work through the system to get it which would be educational as well. Some community service time scrubbing paint off cement might make them think twice about doing it again.
Paint over it. Let them know that their crap work won't last forever. Hell, all the decent looking graffiti gets scrawled over anyways. And up the penalties, this should be akin to burglary.
Like I told my 2 year old the first and only time she wrote on the wall. "Aww, how pretty. Too bad you didn't do it on paper so we could save it to show daddy." And she helped me wash it off.
How can we induce more parents to adopt the humane and effective methods of the mother who wrote that last comment?

Thank you for skillfully teaching the right lesson at the first "teachable moment" and for sharing your delightful story!
Hey, I just got back into town and probably no one is reading this thread, but I have two contributions.

1) One of the new graffiti markings by my Eureka house is also "GNS."

2) GNS stands for Graffiti Never Stops, as I wrote in an earlier post. Apparently this is common knowledge among local teens and is a standard anti-authoritarian statement. Annoying, troublesome, a problem to be addressed, yes, but at least NOT a gang territory indicator.
That's encouraging, Karol.

How did you find out that GNS is a generic anti-authority symbol among local teenagers?

I wonder how we can trust teens about this. Wouldn't they have a motive for hiding the meaning of GNS if it actually stood for something more ominous than just a generalized anti-authoritarian feeling?

Did you call EPD? What did they tell you about it?

Do your teens have any clue who might have done this?
Every person who is hit with graffiti can fight back by removing it as soon as possible.
MY ADVICE: Stop blogging about graffiti long enough to walk around your house. If you see graffiti, remove it right away. If you just leave graffiti where it is, you are as much of a problem for your neighbors as the vandals are.

Eric, you're on vacation, so I'll save my question for later.

Karol, you've posted on this subject. Don't you agree that responsible neigbhors get rid of graffiti as soon as they possibly can?

After all, the longer the graffiti stays on the wall, the fence, the pole, or whatever, the longer it advertises that the whole neighborhood just doesn't give a damn what happens to it.
Update: Both the black and the red paint graffiti recently sprayed on property in Eureka said GNS. Some was sprayed sideways, which made it look strange to most eyes. The police department does not believe it is evidence of gang activity. Unofficially, one officer told me he believes the vandalism is being caused by teens with anti-authority attitudes. So to me, I see kids who have issues with their parents or teachers and they are being cowards, taking out their feelings on the community at large.
It also seems as if the part of Eureka affected by the attack of graffiti vandals may be smaller than originally thought.

It happened north of Eureka High School for a few blocks on K and J Streets. Most of the vandalism has been covered over by residents and by the organizations that own the poles that were defaced. The damage seems to have been limited to this area. If anyone knows of other areas that have been affected, please post a note here. I'll check back and make sure the appropriate authorities know about it.

This situation proves we can react quickly and effectively. We did it this time, and we can do it again if need be.

Next time, we may catch the vandals in the act. Won't that be fun?
How was I able to determine that the vandalism was occurring only in certain areas, not "all over Eureka" as the early reports indicated?

I drove around and took notes on what I saw with my own two eyes.

It's like being a detective, except nobody paid me and I didn't get a TV show named after me.

Not that I'm complaining!

The outcome was positive, and if the need arises again, I will know exactly how to respond.

Have a good weekend, everybody!
To the person who painted over and erased the graffiti in my neighborhood: thank you so much, it looks way better!
And I wish I had seen you doing it so I could have helped. I should have done it. I appreciate you and what you did.
And I found out about
GNS=Graffiti Never Stops by googling "graffiti" and "GNS" and reading a bunch of websites. There is one that has DVDs of graffiti by notable "writers" and one such was GNS. This is certainly not just a local thing. There are many websites that are quite sentimental about graffiti as an art form. Also I read an article from 2004 North Coast Journal online, "Art or Vandalism." It was an education.
Karol, the NCJ phrases it as an 'either or' situation. I see it as 'both and'. It's vandalism, it's art, (you may call it bad art but nonetheless it's a valid artform, and it's something that's more than both put together. It's certainly a growing phenomenon in out urban areas and one that is not going away.
I, on the other hand, see graffiti, when it is placed on someone's property without their permission, as a criminal act. It is a form of disrespect. It is an assault upon the dignity of other people. It is a form of social illness, like lying to obtain money or lying to get permission to wage unnecessary wars. Smaller in scale, of course, but similar in its disregard for the rights of other people.

By the way, Karol, you sound like one of the good guys. From now on, you can be a big help by keeping your eyes open and alerting the police if you notice new incidences of vandalism. Peace!
You missed my point. You say, "on the other hand", but I never said that I opposed your position of graffiti being criminal. I didn't say that I didn't see it as vandalism. My point was that it could be looked at as 'both and' (crime and art). I didn't oppose anything you said, I was opposing the NJC headline of it being 'either or'. I didn't say it wasn't criminal.
Don't you think that by calling vandalism "art" you may be encouraging more vandalism?
One new act of vandalism has appeared on someone's new wooden fence at 9th and J Streets. The paint is red and it looks similar to the earlier vandalism.

Let's continue to keep our eyes open. We can remove or cover vandalism after it happens. Even better, we may be able to spot the vandals and call the police in time for them to be caught.

We've already made our neighborhood a better place to live. If we manage to nab the vandals, maybe they can be straightened out before they go on to do worse things. Call it "early intervention."
Don't you think that by calling vandalism "art" you may be encouraging more vandalism?

I am not making graffiti into art or naming it art. It already is considered to be an art-form by our mainstream society. I am looking at that. Use your search engine. The vast number of videos and books documenting the 'art' of graffiti and the graffiti that has been taken from the streets and sold as fine art attests to the fact that our culture considers it to be an art-form and hence it can be beneficial to society as art. Whether you and I think it's art, or not, doesn't change the place it now has in our culture. But for your clarification, let me also say that I am NOT encouraging anyone to do graffiti, or graffiti art, or whatever. I encourage everyone to NOT do graffiti. But that won't stop it.
Graffiti vandalism makes beautiful cities and neighborhoods ugly. Some spray paint vandalism is used by violent criminal gangs to mark the borders of their criminal territories. Some such vandalism is done by young people without the imagination or the guidance to find anything better to do with their time.

Some spray paint vandals, after defacing the buildings of hundreds of other people, become "artists." If they had not perfected their art by destroying the property and the peace of mind of so many of their neighbors, such "art" might be considered a good thing.

I consider this type of "artist" tainted. I think that instead of being given money for their gallery work, they should be convicted of their acts of vandalism and sentenced to clean up the mess they have left on other people's homes and property.

I respect real artists who respect their fellow human beings.

One thing we don't need, and I am glad you are not proposing it, is to give destructive spray paint vandals the idea that their illegal marks are in any way considered "art."
Exactly. I'm glad that you get my point. Together we can solve this problem. It's art. But it's vandalism too.
I have seen graffiti that is artful at some of the locations mentioned in the NCJ article. There is something interesting about that kind of graffiti.

However, the graffiti appearing around town lately is NOT and could never be considered art. It's just scrawling. So what's the point? I think it's an indicator of disenfranchised youth, striking back at a system that doesn't respect THEM. Not that I approve of their reaction; I think it's immature and doesn't consider the consequences for others. But I do think it's a social symptom and bears examining.

I heard this song on the radio recently and I wonder if it isn't a peek into the kind of frustration and disenfranchisement that inspires a youngster to scrawl graffiti everywhere:

Signs (by the Five Man Electric Band - 1971)

And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people need not apply"
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said "You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do"
So I took off my hat, I said "Imagine that. Huh! Me workin' for you!"

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin' would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house, "Hey! What gives you the right?"
"To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in"
"If God was here he'd tell you to your face, Man, you're some kinda sinner"


Now, hey you, mister, can't you read?
You've got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can't even watch, no you can't eat
You ain't supposed to be here
The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside

And the sign said, "Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray"
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn't have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said, "Thank you, Lord, for thinkin' 'bout me. I'm alive and doin' fine."

However, the graffiti appearing around town lately is NOT and could never be considered art. It's just scrawling. So what's the point?

Some would call it art. But that's really beside the point here because anything painted onto private property without the owner's consent is an aggressive act of vandalism and must be seen as such. The perps knew that.

I think it's an indicator of disenfranchised youth, striking back at a system that doesn't respect THEM.

At best their scrawls are a bland and mediocre attempt to be provocative and shocking. But if they really wanted to be shocking they should have found a legal venue and painted some, er... I better stop here, don't want to give anyone ideas.
Can we all agree that parents have a responsibility to teach their children how to cope constructively with their feelings?
At eighteen, my family could hardly stand me. I'd been getting good grades for a long time, and I was convinced I had the answer to all the world's troubles.

I was frustrated that they hardly listened to any of my wonderful ideas!

I was disenfranchised! Heck, I couldn't even vote!

Even so, I didn't go around making messes all over town and thinking it was a "cool" thing to do. I would never have disgraced my family by doing such a thing.
I always liked that song, Signs, but now I see certain problems with it.

"If God was here he'd tell you to your face, Man, you're some kinda sinner"

Actually, something very similar did happen many years ago. Some of Jesus' disciples were ridiculing other people they saw at the Temple.

Jesus called his disciples hypocrites. He said, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you may be able to see well enough to help your neighbor remove the speck from his eye.

This graffiti will be installed in a museum.
It's value according to an executive vice president at Sotheby's is "in the six figures".
One can see the obvious difference in quality between this graffiti, which is a valuable cultural artifact, and the recent scrawls in Eureka which are nothing but crap.
Here is the article.
Why are we even talking about rich New Yorkers buying spray painted canvasses?

The effete elite are entitled to throw their money into sewers if they want to.

We have been talking about efforts to prevent our little city on the North Coast of California from being thrown into the sewer by vandals.

I fail to see the connection between one situation and the other.
Read the article. It's not a canvas. It's a wall full of graffiti that is being excavated and either sent to a museum or placed somewhere as a public monument.
What does it matter to Humboldters what New Yorkers think is art?

Why should we care any more about New Yorkers than they care about us?

I still don't see what one phenomenon has to do with the other.

Are you from New York? Are you an art student? Why does the subject of graffiti as art in New York fascinate you so?
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