McFly had been commissioned by the city to paint the mural. Furthermore, local elected officials came to the scene to defend McFly. Despite their best efforts, police officers claimed he was being uncooperative and manhandled him before arresting him.
"It's an oxymoron — doing something for the city and being arrested by the city," he told The Detroit Free Press.
The Cops ain’t realize they arrested the best Artist in Detroit. The Head of the Graffiti Task Force investigated me and asked what’s my tag name....I said I don’t do Graffiti I sell paintings. I’m a commissioned muralist.— Renaissance Man (@sheefymcfly) June 22, 2019
Detroit's General Services Department started the City Walls program in 2017. The program hopes to pay local artists to beautify local walls. The program was so successful that they increased the budget last year to $200,000 and commissioned 60 murals by 25 artists.
The city paid McFly, also known as Tashif Turner, $10,000 to paint 10 large murals on a viaduct in northeast Detroit.
He was working when a police car approached him and asked him what he was doing. When he attempted to explain why he was there, more police officers showed up and refused to accept that he had been paid to paint the wall. He left the permit the city gave him at home but thought the officers would understand.
A local city official even came to the scene and tried to speak with police, who were unmoved and wanted to arrest McFly for being "uncooperative." McFly says one of the officers grabbed him by the neck as he tried to pack his bag.
Detroit is well known for its harsh stance against graffiti and has a long history of prosecuting artists for attempting to beautify neighborhoods.
The man in charge of the City Walls program, Brad Dick, tried to apologize profusely for the confusion. He explained that the problem started because not all of the police precincts were aware of the program. He even went so far as to admit that other artists involved in the program had been stopped by police.
“I feel bad that it happened. He was there on a city-sponsored project. We want City Walls to be successful. We want it to do well,” he said, adding that new rules had been set in place to protect artists.
"When we’re doing murals, we have a police lieutenant we work with to make sure surrounding precincts are aware that it’s a city-sponsored program and the artists have permits,” said Dick.
“Unfortunately, some random officers who weren’t associated with the nearby precincts drove by and saw him and thought it was an unauthorized action. They stopped him and he didn’t have his permit with him.”
Detroit police arrested graffiti artist @sheefymcfly last week, saying he was committing vandalism.— WXYZ Detroit (@wxyzdetroit) June 24, 2019
But...he was actually hired by the city of Detroit to fight illegal graffiti with city-approved work. @RudyHarperWXYZ spoke to him. pic.twitter.com/7VgGCJ3LAw
Despite apologies from the city, the Detroit Police Department refused to back down.
Detroit Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood tried to justify the arrest to The Detroit Free Press by claiming they violently arrested McFly because of an outstanding traffic warrant in addition to "obstructing" officers at the scene.
“I felt threatened for my life. I felt like if I really didn’t keep my composure, they would’ve beat my a**,” said McFly.
Police arrested McFly and held him at the Detroit Detention Center for 24 hours. Kirkwood added that they sent the charges to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and may still move forward with a case against McFly.
It’s crazy people think I’m doing this for attention, trust me I’m not...The further this report goes the more headlines are saying I’m a Graffiti Artist. 🗣 I AM A DETROIT MURALIST / PAINTER / MUSICIAN @nypost @nytimes @washingtonpost— Renaissance Man (@sheefymcfly) June 24, 2019
“I may go back next week, but I need some days to collect myself and figure out how I can be safe," he said when asked whether he would finish the mural.
"I feel racially profiled and bullied.”