Young New York City artists won back the right to buy and carry spray paint and broad-tipped markers on Monday, thanks to a court ruling suspending an anti-graffiti ban on 18- to 20-year-olds.
Seven young artists had said their constitutional right to free speech was violated by a change this year in the law that raised to age 21 from 18 the ban on buying and carrying the items, including to and from work or art schools.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels granted the temporary order pending the outcome of a suit by the artists and backed by fashion designer Marc Ecko.
“It is unreasonable to tell young artists that they have the right to express themselves,” but then place “unreasonable restrictions with regards to their ability to obtain tools to communicate their art,” the judge said.
He said the city had no right “to single out 18- to 20-year-olds,” noting the ban still applied for those under 18.
The city’s law office vowed to challenge the ruling, saying: “We believe that these restrictions are important parts of the city’s ongoing battle against illegal graffiti.”
Plaintiff Nellie Dumont, 20, an arts student, said: “This is about our legal rights to be an artist.”
The suit names as a defendant the law’s sponsor, city councilman Peter Vallone, who wanted to erase the image of graffiti-riddled streets and subway cars in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
A feud with Vallone and Bloomberg erupted last year when Ecko launched a video game featuring graffiti art and organized a street party that included painting graffiti on mock subway cars.