The day after John Oliver aired a widely discussed interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, officials have removed an unauthorized bust of Snowden that was apparently placed there by a group of rogue artists early Monday morning.
The bust appeared overnight at the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, perched on top of a stone column that helps light the monument at night.
Beneath a bronze eagle directly below the newly installed bust, photos show “SNOWDEN” spelled out in large lettering.
In 2013, information leaked by Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had eavesdropped on dozens of foreign leaders and had engaged in widespread data collection on phone logs of nearly every American.
Snowden appeared Sunday in an episode of "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" that highlighted the issue of government-sanctioned surveillance as Congress prepares to decide whether to renew key portions of the Patriot Act.
“We’re used to seeing in our visual vocabulary in society statutes, busts, memorials. We chose to pay tribute to Snowden through the medium of a bust because that is one of the visual pieces that society uses as a guidepost to who a hero is,” a person claiming to be one of the artists responsible for the bust told Animal, which exclusively documented the predawn installation.
According to the publication, the piece is made of a high-quality sculpting material and was finished with a bronze patina to make it fit in among the other monument sculptures. It took about six months to sculpt, mold, cast and ship the bust to New York, Animal reported.
The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, dedicated in 1908, commemorates 11,500 American POWs in the Revolutionary War who died aboard British ships.
The artists told Animal that the site holds special significance.
“We have updated this monument to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies,” the artists said in a statement to Animal. “It would be a dishonor to those memorialized here to not laud those who protect the ideals they fought for, as Edward Snowden has by bringing the NSA’s 4th-Amendment-violating surveillance programs to light.”
According to photos and video posted on social media sites, the illicit lettering was removed and park officials covered the unsanctioned bust with a tarp.
By 3 p.m. local time, city parks staff and police had removed the sculpture. "The erection of any unapproved structure or artwork in a city park is illegal," said Maeri Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the department.
“If this thing gets taken down right away, we’ll certainly be disappointed,” one of the artists told Animal. “You can rip the statue out, but you can’t erase the fact that it happened, and that people are sharing it and that could inspire people to speak up in their own creative ways.”