Snowden sculptors threaten to sue the NYPD over ‘indefinitely detained’ statue

The statue is currently being held in an NYPD precinct basement.


Kevin Collier


Published Apr 14, 2015   Updated May 29, 2021, 2:08 am CDT

Speaking through an attorney, a group of activist artists have threatened to sue the New York City Police Department for detaining their bust of Edward Snowden in a Brooklyn park.

“It is somewhat ironic that as Edward Snowden is in exile in Russia, his statue is being held hostage in the basement of a police precinct in New York City,” their attorney, Ron Kurby, said in a press conference Tuesday morning.

Snowden himself, a former National Security Agency systems analyst, was grounded in Moscow after leaking agency documents to the press. He is currently on temporary asylum in Russia, from where he occasionally gives the rare interview.

The statue’s location, near a monument to sixteen Americans who died while detained British prison ship during the Revolutionary War, was no accident. The work itself “was always meant to be a gift to the city, and in turn, the public,” the artists said in a printed statement. “Its goal was to inspire thought and discussion over what ideals we cherish as Americans, and how these values determine who our heroes are.”

The NYPD didn’t immediately return the Daily Dot’s request for comment, but it has previously confirmed that its Intelligence Division was investigating the statue. According to Kurby, the statue itself sits in the basement of the 88th precinct, and the only crime the artists could be charged for is trespassing in a city park after hours to install it, a class B misdemeanor.

“Whatever the right of the parks department to remove an unauthorized sculpture, that does not translate into the right of the police to indefinitely detain a work of art. The statue itself is not contraband,” Kurby said.

Kurby said the artists have proposed what they see as a fair compromise: for the police to loan it to an upcoming Manhattan art installation focused on surveillance and privacy.

“I can’t imagine they would be so unreasonable [to not agree], but in the offhand chance they are, but on the offhand chance they are, we will prepare litigation,” he said.

Photo by Kevin Collier | Remix by Max Fleishman

Share this article
*First Published: Apr 14, 2015, 12:55 pm CDT