muckraker report

Vigilantes are attacking graffiti writers in Detroit

Graffiti _8467The proliferation of graffiti is impossible to miss in Detroit.

Squiggly lines of paint are scrawled on street signs, storefronts, bridges, billboards, parking meters, water towers and vacant houses, churches and high-rises. Vandals with paint-filled fire extinguishers also are dousing vacant buildings and houses with 30-foot-tall lettering.

Fed up with the inundation of graffiti, some Detroiters are taking matters into their own hands. Just this month, anti-graffiti vigilantes have targeted or assaulted at least 12 graffiti writers.

Broken windowsBefore the start of the fireworks Monday, two men shattered the windows of cars that belonged to graffiti writers and other vandals who were painting and tossing debris from the window of the abandoned Fisher Body Plant #21 on Piquette on the east side. The vandals waited until the men left and took off.

But the vigilantes – one with a gun, the other with a baseball bat – came back and approached a pair of photographers who were walking to their car after the fireworks.

“They yelled at us for ‘tagging and being a part of the problem,'” one of the photographers told me in an e-mail. “They made sure we knew they smashed those windows. Talked him down and left unscathed. Well a little shakey but uninjured.”

Graffiti_9950The vigilantes were described as large black men in their 30s, one in a white SUV, the other in a black sedan.

Earlier this month, three men attacked two daring taggers who were scrawling on an abandoned storefront on Chene during the day. The taggers were surrounded and beaten, but neither sought medical attention.

When a few 20-somethings were tagging an industrial building near the Packard Plant on the east side two weeks ago, vigilantes spray-painted red streaks across the vandals’ nearby car.

Police said the number of attacks on taggers is likely much higher than what is reported because vandals don’t tend to involve authorities.

The attacks come at a time when graffiti is saturating entire commercial strips and seeping into neighborhoods, covering stop signs and vacant churches, schools and businesses that are for sale.

Chris Hayes, a lifelong resident of Detroit’s east side, said he’s never seen so much graffiti.

“It’s everywhere,” Hayes, who lives near the Fisher Body Plant, told me. “These punks have no respect. This ain’t a playground; it’s our home.”

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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  • TiPO

    HA! Love seeing my cars window on the interwebz. Wanna let you all know that while the drive home with a broken window did suck, the fat ass insurance check was very nice. LOTS of money for paint.

  • Mouse

    Eh. Detroit is a piece of shit city anyway. Those Vigilantes are going to end up being shot





  • Apples

    There is no stopping it, Detroit will always be a place for it. And guess what? It is our fucking playground, our canvas. So you better get use to it. Not because we hate the city, we love it, which is why they’re blessing it with art.

  • Apples

    Graff writers don’t tag on people’s houses or cars or churches, so you can’t say “how would you feel if someone tagged your house” because that wont happen unless the house is abandoned or its gang tagging. Plus Detroit just looks like a war zone, might as well put some color on those ran down shitty buildings. Honestly, graffiti is the least problem Detroit has hahahaha! Y’all just don’t know any other way to help Detroit.

  • Ahmasi

    If I give you my permission or commission your work, then that’s art! If you paint on my propoerty (or anyone else’s) without permission or being comissioned to do so, then tha’t graffiti and vandalism!!!

  • Positive Polly

    Most of Detroit is covered with dilapidated plain buildings which are falling apart due to serious structural damage, these “vandals” are using art as a means to distract they eye from the ugly ruins that Detroit has been left in. If these “vigilantes” have a problem with that then they should join a city planning board as a means to better Detroit. Using vandalism on tagger’s cars or even verbally threatening these said people is counter productive and it’s only furthering the dark stereotypes that Detroit already has. Why not try to get all of these people together and put them to work positively on the beautification of Detroit? They technically want the same things for Detroit, to better the city.

  • Eric

    Good. Detroiters taking back their property from tourist taggers.

  • vigilantesupporter

    I hope the vigilantes break their fucking fingers when they catch them, Brand new freeway offramps and service drives downtown full of eyesores from assholes with paint cans! It makes the city look trashy as fuck, and obviously the vigilantes have a little more class than the taggers.

  • Toka313

    This is absolutely horrible. I wish the worst on vigilantes who don’t respect writers. Writing has a pretty long tradition of being a way to “take back” spaces. It’s rooted in political message. This makes me want to go out and become a tagger.

    • bdcanuck

      And I will be behind right there with you, taking back the space that you refer to as your vehicle, with a can of paint and a political message.

      • Toka313

        It’s one thing to paint the car. Frankly, I find that amusing. It’s another thing entirely to brandish a firearm like you waz George Zimmerman. Particularly since writers self-regulate with their own code of what can and can’t be written on.

        • bdcanuck

          I’m surprised you’re not in favor of black Detroiters giving the taggers (who are largely white) hell.

  • JesusHChristman

    Yeehaw Detroit dun signed it’s rights over to the Graffiti spritzers so if you don’t like it you can Mooooveeeeee back to Toledo you scum suckin fuckin whores.

  • John T. Feret

    There is an excellent way for those who choose to “tag” buildings with their “artwork” to avoid any sort of possibility of an encounter with vigilantes.

    Don’t do it.

  • Visual Ronin

    On one hand I can commend the actions of the vigilantes and on the other hand I start to fear for my well-being as an urban photography and urbex participant. All I need is for some over zealous Demetrius Do-right to mistake me for a tagger and decide to teach me a lesson. I’ve never had any problems with the homeless, the scrappers or even the locals but now we have a new problem to contend with.

    • jamieb

      based on the numbers .. ill go out on a limb and suggest they have only attacked real taggers they observed in the act. No one with a thermos was attacked thinking it was a can of spray paint. No one painting their home was attacked. Catching a tagger is not penetrating the mafia. You see the same spots tagged, then cleaned and you get pissed. You are having your morning coffee and see some jackazz tagging and you go out your house and bust some skulls or threaten to. You say stop doing that, or dont do it here, cause ill split your head open.

      You have more risk getting jacked for your car, your camera, your wallet, your cell phone, then being mistaken as a tagger.

  • Ronald Diebel

    Somebody has to do something.

  • allam

    So what who cares what they looked like ,it sound’s like the K _ _ which was started to keep white boys in check , but went in to over drive , it’s high time some body started to do some thing about tine lawlessness here in the fastest shrinking city in the universe . The town has been called the wild west, for good reason , maybe these large dudes or some one like them will do some thing about illegal scraping , wife beating, standing out side party stores drinking and peeing , car theft . I’ll even buy them a gun and a bat.

  • parker

    I’ve got friends who are taggers who tell me stories about stuff like this all the time. I dont think this is anything new, as messed up as it is.

  • Allen Davis

    That stop sign looks like a VD-ridden blue-balled bull shot a load of Long Dong Silver pancake jizz all over it. Anything to clean up that nonsense would be appreciated.

  • Kobie Solomon

    Not everyone that uses spray paint is a narcissistic piece of shit. There are a lot of people pin the city using graffiti to change things for the better, and there are a lot of people just pissing on the landscape.

    There IS a difference, and people in this city need to realize that fact as a whole.

    • jamieb

      explain how it helps anything. In detail, with real examples from real life.

      Unless they own the building, or its a requested mural they are doing for free, or i would live them being paid, then sorry. They are POS and they are the problem.

      • Phil Chinn

        Explain how you help with your stupid proclamations, in real life, you piece of shit.

        • Kobie Solomon

          HAHA! Nice one Phil

      • Kobie Solomon

        Wow. What an open mind you have… Grandma.

    • Eric

      I’m sure Detroit will become NYC or Chicago thanks to taggers. Get over yourself and go spray paint your mall if you’re bored.

      • Kobie Solomon

        How’s this?? This was done by a graffiti artist, WITH spray paint. It has changed the image of the complex it resides at, and has become a landmark for the city and a positive inspiration for hundreds, maybe thousands of people.
        Get over YOURself, you peanut minded prick. This rabbit hole goes far deeper than your shallow perceptions, and reaches farther than your tragically short vision.

        • Eric

          I don’t often have peanuts on my mind, but isn’t it amazing how well graffiti can turn out when you have the building owner’s permission and it isn’t a hit and run tag.

          • Kobie Solomon

            Correct, Eric; So it’s not nearly as open and shut as most people on this blog are making it. This city- no- this entire REGION has a pandemic ignorance in every area from race relations, to basic city services, and ESPECIALLY in the areas of the arts and culture.
            A vandal will always, and will only ever be- a vandal. A graffiti artist ( and there IS a difference) may start as a vandal but they have something else driving them.
            Graffiti can beautify or destroy a city; and people should be focusing more energy on the REAL problems in Detroit… And with all the shit we have wrong with our town, bitching about graffiti should be at the very bottom of the list of solutions. At this point in our history it’s a waste of time and resources that should be better spent on other things.

            And you’re not telling me anything new. I’ve made a career out of graffiti art- you’re about 20 years behind the rest of the civilized world on this subject. The debate has been had thousands of times and is already over. You’re kicking a dead horse.. And believe me- this ” problem” will only get worse for all involved as this storm of dissent and violence grows. You don’t know half of the half about this issue or what you’re really up against. Y’all squares are fighting a war that can’t be won with an unstoppable and invisible army that replenishes it’s ranks constantly, spans the globe, and has been growing steadily for over 40 years. You ( and anybody else for that matter ) whining while you sit on your ass at a computer won’t change ONE SOLITARY thing.. I reiterate: get over YOURself. Graffiti isn’t going anywhere. EVER.

          • Eric

            If you’re doing legal graffiti/murals, then it’s not likely that someone’s going to chase you down now is it?

          • john

            Yeah it is nice when people don’t have to rush to get things done. If only they had some legal places to do it…

          • RowdyYates

            Sure, that looks nice. But it won’t be long and some other jackass is going to come by and write “EDUB” and a bunch of other unintelligible crap over it and ruin it. the majority of the graffiti in the city is useless squiggles, i guess it’s the tagger’s signature or something, but it has nothing to do with art. maybe there are a few graffiti artists out there, but they are far outnumbered by disrespectful pricks.

    • Eric

      And there’s a difference between getting a building owner’s permission to do a MURAL and doing an illegal hit and run tag. What would you do if someone was spray painting your house? Didn’t think so.

      • Kobie Solomon

        Depends on if they were doing a good job..
        Good job= free art, possibly a new friend, and a more open mind.

        Bad job= missing person(s).

        So again, I can see your point… but there’s more to it.

    • HUH?

      How can graffiti CHANGE anything? Thats nonsense. If you want to change something fix, repair, donate time…

  • Sgt Batty

    by the way i am a white but get along good with the black. probably because i too have a considerable largess in my pants as well. there is a brotherhood among the Kielbasa Kings that is much deeper than color

    • Connie Summers

      Disgusting. First you say you are coming to our city to assault people and run them over then you have to talk about your male parts. Detroit does not need assholes like you coming here at all. we have enough problems. And what do you mean “the black” who is “the black”?

      • Sgt Batty

        look here toots, last i checked you weren’t the goddamned mayor so i don’t need a written invite from you.

        It is clear that you need a visit from Sam Sam the Salami man to un-jam your red zone. After that I will be glad to have you as my tour Frau around Detroit you can show me where to go to run down the maximum bums and grafilthy writers and I can give you a ride in the sweetest Crown Vic you have ever seen. Admit it you want to ride with SGT Roy… you NEED to ride with SGT Roy.

  • Mr_G

    Good, hopefully they learn a lesson (i’m not supporting it) But I have to say as an explorer that loves to capture photos of the beautifully decaying / historic buildings in Detroit, I have to spend countless hours Photoshopping that non-sense out of my pics – There is good graffiti/art, and then there is tagging which adds no value or creativity to anything

    • parker

      I hope you’re still so smug when you’re facing down a psycho with a baseball bat. What’s to stop these lunatics from hurting someone who isn’t a tagger?

      • Mr_G

        Sgt Batty – I’m a psycho/muggers worst nightmare. I have a
        license to carry (glock 23) that I have with me at all times – if anyone tries anything where I feel my life is in danger, I will be staring in their eyes as they take their last Breath

        • DickMcTits

          Lol faggot.

        • Apples

          Well Everyone doesn’t have a gun like you hmmm?

  • bebow


  • Sgt Batty

    I am loading the car now and headed north at 110 per. I have been lying in wait since 1978 to do some ol’ skool skull crushin’. I have an 82′ Crown Vic Interceptor with a solid steel cow chaser on the front end. I have no problem pursing and running down any graffiti perp that i don’t get the chance to administer a cranial mull handle commendation to. I love Detroit

    • Toka313

      No you’re not. YOu’re going to sit behind a computer screen as a comment commando and talk a lot.

  • ThePeopleofDetroit

    Good. If you want to scribble-scrabble on a wall, do it in your childhood bedroom, you narcissistic pieces of shit.

    – Noah

    • Kobie Solomon

      Thanks. I’ll be sure to spread that around. *hugs*

  • B bo

    Uh Alan, I actually know one of the photogs who was approached. Steve said they were black men cause guess what they were black men. Graffiti may be getting out of control but these two guys also told my friend he was part of the problem for being an urbexer. Providing a description is just trying to keep others informed so they can be safe and alert.

    • Alan Stamm

      Uh, so they can watch for large black men in their 30s? Plenty of folks in that large sea.

      • jamieb

        maybe so if 4 more people are attacked by the same guy they can match up the stories?

        I actually support this, as the cops wont stop it … i usually am by the books guy, but i really like this.

        I am white, but a description of a large black guy 30ish is not bad.

        You ARE HYPERSENSITIVE, self loathing white guilt cliched white liberal.

        You are not helping anything, you are not fixing anything, and i know damn well if you casually watched the news and saw a description in milford for a large 40ish white man you would not flinch.

        That is because you have no values. This is a means for YOU to actually not say we are all the same, but for you to say you are better. ALAN thinks he is a better person.

      • jamieb

        whats wrong with you? “So they can watch for large black men in their 30s”?

        LOL yes, watch. Watching is not bad. Do you think they are going to be rounded up put in prison with out a trial and end up on a chain gang or prison labor camp!

        HEY WAKE UP!! The taggers tag with out a problem from the cops in broad day light.

        Noting is going to happen to some vigalantes.

    • jamieb

      depending on how close you are, that might be as good a description as one can get. If they are dark black guys, in shaddows, with no distinctive features, no big ears, no crazy hair cut, no lazy eye, no missing finger. If you see something go down in a matter of seconds and its two guys both 6’4 260lbs – 280s two men … both very average blend looking minus their size. How would you describe them?

      Two large black men, thats how you would describe them. I assume if they one guy had a massive scar they would share that. If the other guy had his hair died like dennis rodman they would share that. If they one guy had a prosthetic arm they would share that.

      • Alan Stamm

        Understood, Jamie.

        But absent any pool-shrinking details beyond the appropriately used vehicle descriptions, why post what’s essentially a generic label based solely on size and race?

        It seems to cast an XXL net and may, just may, play into a stereotype that SOME people (not Steve) have of what they consider scary-looking people.

        That’s all I suggest. I’m glad it sparks a constructive discussion on a sensitive topic worth this type of explanation and reflection — another dividend of reading Motor City Muckraker and being part of its online community.

        • jamieb

          i have seen better descriptions, but also many like this that were not minority hate driven. Just mustached white guy 30-50. Brown haired white guy 5’10. Thanks thats about 30% of all white guys plus or minus and inch.

          Its real science that peoples minds jacked with adrenaline do not make a good witness. Its not like watching the opening scene of CSI or SVU from the comfort of your home.

          This is detroit, not rural canada, they are not going to scoop up the first black guy at the bus stop, then pistol whip him back into the jim crow era. Blacks run detroit, they run the cop union, they run the courts. Black people cannot get a bad deal in deroit for being black anymore then i can for being white in bloomfield hills or birmingham. Detoit is about 80% black i do not see this as a super useful description.

          You can tone done the worrying, you are not in the running for white guy of the year, or national white guy friend of black persons of the decade award. They aint gonna make a statue of you.

          • Phil Chinn

            It’s hilarious that you proclaim that black people can’t get a bad deal in Detroit. Other than the fact that white flight jackasses have taken every nugget of wealth they can with them to the suburbs. I’m glad you can’t sell your houses in the burbs to get out. Rot.

  • Alan Stamm

    Honestly, Steve? You type and publish “large black men in their 30s” without hesitation? . . . Or after ignoring the flag (that should be) waving in the back of your mind?

    That’s a pertinent, useful description how exactly?

    You should know the phrase is somewhat of an eye-rolling joke in the vein of “round up the usual suspects,” and is mocked in by Charles Barkley in his 2009 book title: “Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?”

    • Rowdy Yates

      It’s clearly stated that “That’s how they were described.” I don’t get it. What’s the issue here?

      • Alan Stamm

        The observation is that how they are described is an urban crime cliche and marginally more specific than saying each has two eyes, two ears and a nose.

        What is large — tall? husky? both?

        Not exactly a helpful All-Points Bulletin, in my view, though certainly an oft-used phrase.

        I believe Steve heard it as described and repeats it non-maliciously, unconsciously . . . as happens with cliches.

        • vxnrh

          I would think that anyone who is approached by two men, one with a gun on his hip and both with baseball bats looking very angry would not be paying very close attention to their details. I would be more worried about getting away safely. I also know one of the photogs.

        • Nika H. Choppers

          ‘Urban crime cliche’ in a city that is predominantly black is sort of a moot point here.

          I agree that it could have been a bit more descriptive, but color of skin is just that– a word of description, and not a race card.

          • ThePeopleofDetroit


        • magic6435

          How would you like large black men described beyond being large black men? Maybe as small white women?

        • jamieb

          this is an informal report i think. i do not think the vandals wanted to admit being vandals and file charges, but instead this is an informal recounting by a witness.

          So what if they are large and in their 30s. Large means three things. Large as in just tall, large as in just massive and wide could be fat or super muscular, or large as in tall and fat or or tall and muscular.

          Its useful because it eliminates females, people not in their 30s, non blacks, thin people, thin and small people.

          Just saying male, thats half the population, then black that reduces it down 80-90%, then 30s that reduces it down a further 70-80%. That loose description gets the entire population down to small single digits. We are talking 1-3%.

          That is very useful.

          You are clearly a self loathing white with a guilt complex.

    • A Chami

      Leave him be, it makes him feel better about himself.