The 51-year-old artist, who is sometimes also credited as Michael Kaves through his work with the Lordz of Brooklyn, has argued that the NYPD’s recent initiative to replace graffiti across the city “endangers hundreds of valuable, recognized, and permitted artworks,” New York Daily News reports.
“Using an undiscerning eye and an obtuse brush, the untrained crew went out to blot out art from street canvases," said McLeer in the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday (June 1).
The initiative from the city and the NYPD was scheduled to kick off on April 10, which McLeer says is the same day he saw officers share a photo on Twitter of one of his Brooklyn artworks being painted over. “When I found out this piece was destroyed, I was devastated. When I made this work, I was full of pride," said McLeer of the mural, which was titled Death From Above. "I felt it had an epic quality to it. It was a piece dedicated to my mother and became one of my oldest public pieces, standing untouched for 13 years."
He’s also argued that when he painted the mural around 13 years ago, he had permission to do so. “The artist Kaves [McLeer], the property owner, the tenant of the property, and many community members were shocked and enraged by the NYPD’s attack on the Mural which had been appreciated and preserved by the community," the lawsuit reads.
McLeer is asking for the police department to “recognize what they destroyed was art,” and to compensate any artists impacted by the campaign. “At the end of the day, the city has made a deliberate decision to remove a citizen’s artistic expression,” he added.”