Salvador Perez, the Lafayette street artist arrested last week for a guerrilla-style art exhibit using the downtown 9/11 memorial, was bonded from jail early this morning following a blitzkrieg campaign to raise money for his release.
Shortly after Perez’s arrest on Thursday, a "Spring Sal" Facebook page was created by Lafayette programmer/techie Crawford Comeaux as a fundraising mechanism to help the 35-year-old artist — a Lafayette resident for the last year who is believed to have arrived from San Diego, Calif. — post his bond, which was set at $11,000 Friday. Perez is facing charges of criminal damage to a historic building and criminal trespassing — charges that didn't sit well with some in the community who, while they might not condone Perez’s message, support his method.
The IND has since learned from a source close to the investigation that the charges against Perez, which seem incongruent with the act of embellishing a public monument with a political message, stem from damage done to a building adjacent to Parc Sans Souci, the roof of which had affixed to it a cardboard rat aiming a missile launcher at the memorial. The rat was similar in construction and artistic style to the airplanes affixed to the 9/11 memorial.
In addition to the 9/11 exhibit, Perez, says Comeaux, is also the artist responsible for a series of graffiti-styled rats seen in random spots around Lafayette over the last year.
Comeaux tells The IND that within 72 hours of its creation, the page successfully raised more than $1,450 in donations, allowing for Perez’s release at 2 a.m. Monday.
“We received donations from people from all walks of life: vets, conservatives, liberals, young, old, black and white,” says Comeaux.
Though Comeaux says he doesn’t agree with Perez’s political convictions — i.e., he’s not a 9/11 “truther” — he believes the artist’s arrest is illustrative of a bigger local issue, namely a resistance to artistic expression in the public domain.
Comeaux brings up the often repeated hope heard from Lafayette residents that one day the Hub City’s artistic community will be on par with other progressive cities — like Austin, Texas — where he argues Perez would have never been arrested, as his exhibition would not have been seen as vandalism but rather as an artistic statement made to provoke thought and discussion.
“What I’ve seen from this whole thing is that we’re not ready for radical messages,” says Comeaux. “We need to start by teaching people how to listen with their eyes, their ears, their mind and heart. For Lafayette’s emerging leaders, this is the kind of guy they should be embracing, not arresting. I know from talking to him he wants to stay here, he likes the art scene and wants to help improve it. He is kind of a loaner and doesn’t have many friends, but he told me today he wants to change that, and I’m glad he feels that way.”