[Update: The IND has learned from a source close to the investigation that the charges against Salvador Perez, which seem incongruent with the act he’s accused of committing, actually stem from damage to a building adjacent to Parc Sans Souci where employees on Wednesday morning (Sept. 11) discovered another piece of artwork: a rat aiming a missile launcher at the memorial. The source tells us there was some damage to the property, evidently when the suspect(s) climbed the building to erect the piece and via damage to the roof’s surface.
Also, it appears that Perez might be behind a public art/graffiti campaign conducted across Lafayette earlier this year.]
The Lafayette man accused of defacing the 9/11 memorial downtown remains behind bars as a movement to spring him from the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center builds steam.
Thirty-five-year-old Salavor Perez, known variously as Sal and Ace, had a hearing Friday morning during which a judge let his $11,000 bond remain the same and ordered a public defender be appointed to the rogue artist. Perez is facing charges of criminal damage to a historic building (the memorial is a building?) and criminal trespassing (in a public park?) — charges that aren’t sitting well with some in the community who, while they might not condone Perez’s message, support his method.
“I believe heavily in freedom of speech and artistic expression; it’s something that's recently been shown to be under constant attack,” says Crawford Comeaux, 30, Lafayette programmer/techie. “I don't feel that had the content of what he’d done been different and more appealing to the masses, he would be receiving the treatment that he’s receiving right now.”
Perez’s content — painted cardboard airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center beams and a President George W. Bush effigy holding a wad of cash in one hand and remote control in the other — conveyed the assertion that the United States Government orchestrated the attacks of 9/11 in pursuit of darker albeit vague goals. It’s known as the 9/11 Truth Movement — adherents are often mockingly referred to as “truthers” — and it has been a robust undercurrent in American conspiracy theory since virtually Sept. 12, 2001.
Comeaux says he isn’t a truther, but supports Perez’s use of art in generating public discourse. “I don’t ascribe to the theory; I kind of think that what he did was, yeah, a little bit distasteful and potentially disrespectful, but at the end of the day that’s not what we define our laws by — we don’t define our laws based on whether or not I agree with your opinion or find it in poor taste.”
Perez’s case has garnered international attention. England’s Daily Mail picked up the story, peppering its coverage with negativity in referring to Perez’s actions as a “callous crime” and a “vile prank.”
We inspected the monument closely Wednesday afternoon after the cardboard pop art had been removed by police and, aside from a few scuff marks that might have been caused when the beams were climbed to affix the airplanes, there’s no discernible damage to the monument and certainly no lasting damage. So, we wonder aloud, is the criminal damage charge really warranted here? Comeaux also pointed out that wreaths, flowers and other tokens were placed at the monument and created as much damage as the “art” Perez is accused of placing there. It really is the message, right?
One IND reader, in an email to us, registered his frustration:
Did 9/11 take place in Lafayette? Does the monument pertain to any aspect of cultural history in Acadiana? Does a Bush quote in French make sense on a monument to an event that inaugurated such vehement anti-French jingoism, to the point where a people of French origin ignored their own cultural history? It’s just a piece of tourist kitsch.Comeaux and others are trying to raise money to cover Perez’s bail and to hire him an attorney to fight the charges. They’ve established a Facebook page, SpringSal, as well as a Twitter account, and are seeking donations.