Free Speech

Freedom Blasters

A Chicago alderman takes on property rights and free speech.

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Credit: Gabriel Villa

In May, art festival organizer Ed Marszewski asked the Chicago painter Gabriel Villa to paint a mural on a building owned by Marszewski's mother. The mural depicted three Chicago police surveillance cameras, one embossed with a skull, one with a crucifix, and one with a dead deer. Although the city requires no permit for murals on private property, Alderman Jim Balcer—responding, he claimed, to "three or four" citizen complaints—had the city's Graffiti Blasters bureau paint over the art without bothering to consult the property owner.

Balcer defended his actions in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, insisting that the mural was a "threat to the community" and that "everything in it was death." Balcer added that the mural may have indicated gang activity, although he couldn't cite anything specific in the images that fit that description.
Mayor Richard M. Daley told the paper that Balcer's decision was a mistake, but he doubted there would be any repercussions. "This is not the end of the world," Daley said. "It's not that serious. Let's slow down. No one was killed."

Officials later told local TV stations that a worker from the Department of Streets and Sanitation was disciplined for destroying the mural, although they wouldn't say who the worker was or what discipline was administered. Balcer says he'll "never" apologize for issuing the order.

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  1. Private property in this country is nearly a wistful memory. The arrogance of that alderman is typical among the governing class. Too bad when others are elected the often decline into such thinking.

    The emperor has no clothes.

  2. DAMNIT!!!

    “Too bad when others are elected they often…”

    A stitch in time saves nine.

  3. balcer is a douchebag.

  4. Alderman Jim Balcer-responding, he claimed, to “three or four” citizen complaints-had the city’s Graffiti Blasters bureau paint over the art without bothering to consult the property owner.

    Sounds like trespassing and vandalism to me.

  5. Officials later told local TV stations that a worker from the Department of Streets and Sanitation was disciplined for destroying the mural, although they wouldn’t say who the worker was or what discipline was administered

    Even this doesn’t matter. The city’s Department Of Streets And Sanitation, in labor discussions with the union, is going to strike all prior disciplinary actions from each worker’s records. So if you were 1 fuck up away from getting the axe, you are now free to fuck up all over again.

  6. If Chicago wasn’t broke I’d sure the fuck out of them. That was a work of are and worth at least 300 million.

  7. I would not be surprised in the slightest if:

    a) Mr. Marszewski and/or his mother had neglected to make certain *cough* campaign or other donations,

    b) donated to the, erm, incorrect cause, or

    c) both of the above.

    “It’s not that serious. Let’s slow down. No one was killed.”

    That’s a splendid metric for judging wrongdoing by the government, although I’d rather doubt it works the other way.

    “Forget it, Jake; it’s Cook County.”

  8. “It’s not that serious. Let’s slow down. No one was killed.”

    Call me an old reactionary if you want, but if somebody stepped onto my property and started messing around, I’d be stepping outside with a pistol loaded and readied…

    (Well, at least I would if I didn’t live in Soviet Canuckistan)

  9. Jim Balcer is a pig turd.

  10. Good thing nobody out of the Chicago political scene ever acquires REAL power. Right, guys? Right?

  11. Chicago politicians are completely retarded if not completely in bed with the mob. Obama is no exception.

    I laughed at all the dopes here at reason and elsewhere who thought Obama would be anything other than a stupid thug. This guy won his first two elections by opening the sealed divorce records of his opponents.

  12. The victim here should be entitled to destroy property belonging to Balcer of a dollar value equal to the value of the building Balcer ordered defaced.

    No, not just the value of the mural, which was probably negligible. When a representative of the state orders state employees to usurp the prerogatives of a private property owner, he has violated that owner’s property right completely. Since it was the complete property right that was violated, Balcer should have property of similar value either taken from him or destroyed.

  13. They were just helping to make the point.

  14. “It’s not that serious. Let’s slow down. No one was killed.”

    I’ll have to remember to try that on a DUI offense.

  15. I’m sure these pols would be just as calm and reasonable if someone sandblasted the paint off their cars.

    And, of course, the person who did it wouldn’t be disciplined in any fashion.

  16. Couldn’t one claim that the actions of city officials is “gang activity”?

  17. *sigh*
    How many years till retirement so i can move away from this Gulag?

  18. JB–

    I don’t actually think Obama’s stupid (I don’t think he’s particularly smart either). The rest of your post I agree with.

  19. Balcer, I’m coming to your house and painting it purple. Don’t worry, nobody will be killed.

  20. So, is the alderdouche’s name pronounced “Balls, sir”?

  21. Would it be illegal to put a bounty on Balcer’s house and car paint jobs? Like, $5000 to anyone [other than Balcer or his family] who repainted them in rainbow colors or to look like vomit or something?

  22. You know what a good artist would do….paint another mural.

    Fight the fight, don’t just bitch to bitch

  23. Responding to “three or four” complaints, huh?

    Good thing Balcer doesn’t read H&R — he might have to nuke Chicago.

  24. “Balcer added that the mural may have indicated gang activity, although he couldn’t cite anything specific in the images that fit that description.”

    Well, the police *are* a gang, after all.

  25. This guy should be glad no one torches his home. I hear it is very gang like and has a criminal living inside. At least 3 or 4 people have told me this so it must be true.

    BURN IT DOWN!! It’s for the children.

  26. Balcer added that the mural may have indicated gang activity, although he couldn’t cite anything specific in the images that fit that description.

    Good opportunity to remind people that anytime you see the word “may”, inserting “or may not” immediately afterward will clarify the actual meaning of the sentence. Thus:

    Balcer added that the mural may, or may not, have indicated gang activity

    See? The sentence now means exactly what it meant before, only the meaning is more apparent.

  27. Chicago politicians are a bunch of anti-liberty, liberal numbskulls. This is something the citizens of Illinois have known for quite a while, especially those of us who are really from Illinois (ie downstate).

    And this is the political atmosphere from which our president is from.

  28. As a Chicago resident I am not at all surprised. After all, this town was rated the least Libertarian city in the country by Reason. If there are any Chicago-based readers here, please look into the American Liberty Alliance (www.americanlibertyalliance.com) – They are currently looking at putting together a Leadership Committee for Illinois. The ALA aims to unite people who share the same common values of free-markets and individual liberties. So whether you are a Ron Paul Republican, Libertarian, Constitution Party, or whatever your party alignment may be – join us and make noise about these attacks on our freedom in our city and in all of Illinois!

  29. The next mural should be of Balcer with a Hitler mustache.

  30. Does anyone else feel sorry for the poor Sanitation worker who was disciplined for doing what his boss told him?

    “Forget it, Jake; it’s Cook County.”

    Great reference, I almost forgot about that movie. You know, there’s a Chinatown in Chicago, too.

  31. We’re fortunate down here to have a councilman who would stand up for the property rights of people like Marszewski.

    Sometimes – though very rarely – good public officals do exist.

  32. WE need to get back to the idea that those in political power are the EMPLOYEES and SERVANTS of those who elected them. HOW do we do that? Simple throw out everyone in an elected office in the entire US who has not come down straight across the board for individual freedom taking complete precedence over the “rights” of government. LIBERTY FOR ALL,
    FDB

  33. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke

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