A yard sign painted by a middle school student showing a policeman pointing a gun at a child mysteriously disappeared hours after it was installed Monday as part of an art project on the lawn of Jones Creek Branch Library.
The sign, painted in black and white, depicts a law enforcement officer pointing a gun at a child holding a teddy bear, with the words “Police Brutality: STOP IT!” painted to the side.
The sign was one of 20 that was to be installed and displayed over two weeks in a project sponsored by The Walls Project, a local organization devoted to innovative public art. The assignment challenged Woodlawn Middle School students to paint pictures on recycled yard sale signs in response to current events or stories they saw in the media.
Woodlawn Middle School officials do not know who took the sign, said Adonica Duggan, East Baton Rouge Parish school system spokeswoman. Assistant Library Director Mary Stein said the same.
“The signs began arriving yesterday afternoon. The image that everyone is referring to was only up for hours,” Stein said, adding that staff noticed it was gone before the library opened Tuesday at 9 a.m.
She said the library received several complaints about the sign, including one from a patron. Stein said she believes the sign may have been taken out of context because an explanation of the street art project, or title sign, had not been posted before the sign in question was installed. In addition, only a handful of the 20 signs had been put up by Monday evening.
Other signs include symbols taking stances against obesity, kidnapping and broken hearts, Stein said. Others support peace and love of music.
“When you just see the image without the others, out of context, you get a totally different feeling,” Stein said. “Out of context it’s disturbing to see that.”
“I don’t think the child had experienced police brutality in his life,” Stein said. “I think he had just responded to a popular media story.”
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said she’s glad the sign was taken down, though not if it were stolen.
Hicks said this incident has sparked an opportunity for dialogue, though, about the relationship between law enforcement and the community’s youth — a much-needed discussion, she said.
“I don’t think (taking down the sign) solves the problem at all,” Hicks said, equating it to putting a Band-Aid on a tumor. “We can take it down and pretend it wasn’t there. That doesn’t change the fact that we have young people in our community that feel this way.”
The Walls Project Executive Director Casey Phillips said part of the organization’s goal is to inspire dialogue, and for that reason, the organization supports the student’s free expression.
“We stand behind the art of the student,” Phillips said. “The (social media) dialogue around this #MyWall mini-mural is one example of the public discourse around social issues we need more of in the Capital City.”
Follow Danielle Maddox Kinchen on Twitter, @Dani_Maddox4.