Colombian police kills boy, protects Justin Bieber, for graffiti

@justinbieber- Street art

When 16-year-old Colombian Diego Felipe Becerra was “caught” painting graffiti in Bogota, Colombia, the police shot him to death. When Justin Bieber wanted to grace a tunnel in the same city with his inane graffiti, the police escorted and protected him.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by Justin Bieber’s tasteless and offensive behavior. After all, this is the same gem who wrote in the Anne Frank House guestbook,  “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.” (Maybe if she had been a belieber, she wouldn’t have died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Maybe, if more people had been beliebers, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened!) But I was still somewhat shocked to learn that on Wednesday night Bieber defaced the tunnel walls of Bogota, where he is on tour, with tacky and inane graffiti. In case you missed the point that this was street art, Bieber, in a very subtle, meta, po-mo way, painted “Street Art.” (see above)

In the great tradition of radical street art, Bieber sprayed “Free Breezy,” protesting the unjust incarceration of self-imposed rehab check-in for anger management for  political prisoner commercial hip hop artist and domestic violence perpetuator Chris Brown.


He also paid homage to his dearly departed PAC, not the rapper 2PAC, but Bieber’s pet hamster PAC, who sadly passed away in March.


Bieber was accompanied by his body guards and the Colombian police. Not everyone was supportive of Bieber’s artistic expression. The Secretary of Bogota, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo  called it a disgrace and said Bieber owes Colombia community service like a free concert. As for why the Colombian police protected Bieber for engaging in illegal activity, Police director (who apparently moonlights as an art historian and cultural anthropologist) Rodolfo Palomino said, “We have to evolve. The graffiti is the expression of a feeling of a motivation.”


Interestingly, the police didn’t have the same artistic appreciation for the graffiti of 16-year-old Diego Felipe Becerra whom they shot to death in August 2011. Becerra’s crime was graffiti, but the police, who are currently on trial, swiftly concocted a story claiming that the teenager was armed, with a gang, and in the process of robbing a bus. Also, he looked like he was about to shoot them. This was easily contradicted by the autopsy reports which revealed that Becerra was shot in the back at close range. According to one of the police, as Becerra lay dying in the hospital, a police higher up said, “it’s better if he dies because the dead don’t talk.”


The disturbing and stark contrast between the police response to Bieber and Becerra was not lost on the teenager’s father, Gustavo Trejos, who said, “While graffiti artists here in Colombia get attacked and thrown into jail by the police, an international artist is escorted by the same police to do his art.” The double standard, in which graffiti lands Colombians in jail and celebrities under the care and protection of the police is problematic, to say the least. And killing a Colombian while protecting a famous foreigner for the same crime is even more tragic and outrageous.



Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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