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"Avenging angel" graffiti condemned by Detroit police and police watchdog group

Some graffiti found on a Midtown Detroit youth center this week evokes recent incidents of violence and tension between police and civilians--and it's being condemned as inflammatory by both police and community groups.

The image, which has since been painted over, was found adorning an outdoor wall of the YouthVille Detroit organization. That building sits just down the street from the Detroit Police Department’s Central District.

Situated directly under a yellow sign reading “Safe Place,” it depicts what appears to be an "avenging angel"--a dark figure with angel’s wings and a halo, pointing a gun at a police officer with his hands up in the air.

A Detroit police spokesman called the image “disturbing” and “disheartening”—and a frequent department critic agreed with that assessment.

Ron Scott, head of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said it was “drawn by someone obviously has a distorted view of what justice really is.”

Scott said he felt compelled to speak out because the graffiti seems to promote acts of individual vengeance over collective justice—and goes against work his group is doing to promote police-community reconciliation, and avoid the kind of violent confrontations that have erupted across the country in the wake of recent police killings.

“It would be contradictory, it would be in fact hypocritical, if we allowed ourselves to narrow this down to a specific attack on individual officers,” Scott said.

“It is not a question of an individual act of violence and retribution and vigilantism. It is an issue that we have to deal with as a community together.”

Scott also blasted the “dubious artist” for putting the graffiti on a youth center devoted in part to helping kids learn conflict resolution skills. He urged whoever is responsible to “bring their concerns to public attention” through dialogue.

“That’s the proper forum for this issue,” Scott said. “Not to hide behind tags, and then hope you get propagandistic value out of it.”

A YouthVille official sayssurveillance cameras likely recorded the vandalism. Detroit Police are investigating.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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