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G.R.L artist and 5 American protesters arrested in China

August 20, 2008


Unless you’ve been living under a rock- you know about all the detentions, disappearances, and shootings of people in China who have been outspoken about the ongoing struggle for a free Tibet.
Needless to say, I was shocked to hear the news that a friend of ours from Brooklyn was just arrested with 4 others for holding up a banner near the National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, on Aug. 19 around 11 p.m. spelling out the message Free Tibet in Chinese and English using blue L.E.D. lights. Fortunately this was followed by info that they are safely on their way home.
This banner was co-created with the help of Graffiti Research Lab member James Powderly who was also arrested and is currently being detained due to his plan to use his invention, “The Green Chinese Lantern,” a 400 milliwatt handheld green laser with micro-stencils to beam a Free Tibet message on a Beijing landmark, possibly Tiananmen Square.
Prior to this planned action, Powderly’s invitation to participate in Synthetic Times, a new media art exhibition at Beijing’s National Media Art Museum of China, was revoked, after he expressed indignation that the work must be approved by the Chinese government.
According to G.R.L’s press release:

James is proud to have been kicked out of the Synthetic Times new media art exhibition in Beijing because he wouldn’t censor his little art project. James wonders why organizations like the MoMA, Parsons, Eyebeam, Ars Electronica and many other arts and cultural institutions around the world who claim to support free speech and expression would participate in a show like this. But they did! It was after being kicked to the curb by the show’s curator that James connected with Students for a Free Tibet and decided he would go to China anyway and do what he though was right in support of Tibet, Taiwan, free speech and the people of China. James lives, if indeed he is alive, in the County of Kings, Brooklyn, and teaches at the Communication Design and Technology program at Parsons the New School for Design.

The NY Times reported that,

Two video bloggers, Brian Comley, 28, and Jeffrey Rae, 28, were with James when he was detained. On Tuesday night, he sent a text message to a friend saying he had been held since 3 a.m. on Monday. His current whereabouts are unknown.

I hope James is safe and released soon. I also hope that attention continues to be drawn to the violence and repression sanctioned by the Chinese government. The price of protest for Chinese citizens is atrocious. Most recently those who applied to the Chinese government’s designated Olympic protest zones were rejected, disappeared and detained, and sentenced to “re-education through labor.”


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2 comments on “G.R.L artist and 5 American protesters arrested in China”

THe Students for a Free Tibet press release:
Beijing – Five pro-Tibet activists unfurled a banner spelling out “Free Tibet” in English and Chinese in bright blue LED “throwie” lights in Beijing’s Olympic Park tonight. The five were detained by security personnel after displaying the banner for about 20 seconds at 11:48 pm August 19th. Their whereabouts are unknown.
The detained activists are Americans Amy Johnson, 33, Sam Corbin, 24, Liza Smith, 31, Jacob Blumenfeld, 26, and Lauren Valle, 21.
“The Chinese government is desperate to turn the world’s attention away from its abuses in Tibet as the Olympics take place, but the creativity and determination of Tibetans and their supporters has once again ensured that Tibetan voices are heard and seen in Beijing despite the massive security clampdown,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “The Chinese leadership must realize that the only way it can make the issue of Tibet disappear is to acknowledge the demands of the Tibetan people and work with them to bring an end to China’s occupation of Tibet.”
The lights used on the banner are blue 10 mm light-emitting diodes (LEDs) powered by small batteries, commonly known as “throwies.” Throwies are open-source technology attributed to OpenLab and Graffiti Research Lab, developed as a means of creating non-destructive graffiti and light displays. This is the first time ever that they have been used on a banner. James Powderly, free speech activist and co-founder of the Graffiti Research Lab (GRL), was detained in Beijing early this morning (see
Students for a Free Tibet has staged seven protests in Beijing over the last two weeks, placing the issue of Tibet’s occupation front and centre as China hosts the Olympic Games. The protests have included a dramatic banner hang near the Bird’s Nest Stadium; a display of Tibetan flags near the Bird’s Nest just before the opening ceremony began; a symbolic die-in at Tiananmen Square; a protest by a Tibetan woman with flags outside Tiananmen Square; a blockade of the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park; and “Free Tibet” banner hang outside the CCTV headquarters. Thirty-seven members and supporters have been detained and deported, not including those detained today.
Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) is a network of young people and activists campaigning for Tibetan independence, with 700 chapters in more than 30 countries worldwide. SFT’s international headquarters are in New York, with offices in Toronto, London, and Dharamsala, India.

The lights used on the banner are blue 10 mm light-emitting diodes (LEDs) powered by small batteries, commonly known as “throwies.” that’s cool!

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