While the sudden appearance of a mural immortalising Paul Parker – the NSW RFS firefighter who pulled his truck to a complete stop just so he could shout “tell the Prime Minister to go and get fucked” straight down the barrel of a news crew camera – quite clearly livened up an otherwise dull corner of inner-northern Melbourne, it turns out the story behind the piece has a little wrinkle in it. Namely, the artist – Van Nishing aka Van T Rudd aka former PM Kevin Rudd‘s nephew – was briefly arrested by Victoria Police while painting it. Even though he had permission to be painting it.
Rudd issued a statement detailing the whole shebang via the Socialist Alternative Facebook page, claiming that three members of Victoria Police arrested him on Lygon St just after completing the mural on Monday.
Rudd had permission to paint the mural from the building owners. But he was nonetheless detained by police and accused of criminal damage by the officers. Rudd’s claim also asserts that police threatened to call DHS officials to remove his three children, who were with him throughout the creation of the piece, so he could be transported to a police station alone.
The statement, in full, reads as follows:
“Just wanted to clarify some things about painting this firefighter mural yesterday as I’m only just realising there have been many queries.”
“It’s true, I was arrested, handcuffed and charged in hazy (smoke-filled) daylight criminal damage (ie graffiti) by three Victoria Police officers in front of my young children just after completing the mural. And the cops also threatened to call DHS to remove my kids so I could be transported separately to the police station. After about half an hour of typical Vic Pol intimidation – taking my belongings, searching my car, and talking to my children as though they (the cops) were angelic saviours – I was eventually able to clarify the permission I’d had to paint the artwork of the legendary firefighter.”
“They quite reluctantly backed off and withdrew the arrest charge, although they’re still sending a court summons.”
“As many climate protesters, graffiti and street artists know, the state government of Victoria and its police force are not friends of political art in public spaces, especially when done on private and state owned property without permission. But even in this case, when permission was given, and the willingness of people to see a mural like this in full public view given the fire emergency, the state will still find it a threat to business as usual, and seek to forcefully limit its exposure.”
“The repressive actions of police must be resisted.”
For now, the mural remains up on the corner of Lygon and Mary Streets in the inner-city suburb of Carlton North.