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Bad Message in Graffiti

July 25, 1991

Your Q & A with guerrilla artist Robbie Conal (Times, July 21) disturbed me greatly. It is not his images or his commentary that bother me but his method of spreading the truth as he sees it.

Since the early days of the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987, Conal and his devotees have been plastering the Los Angeles metropolitan area with his posters. As a private citizen who has decided to volunteer his spare time to eradicate graffiti, I know first hand about Conal's wanton destruction of public property. I have personally removed 25 to 30 of Conal's posters. I have scraped them off traffic signal switch boxes, streetlight control boxes and RTD shelters. To remove them I have had to apply large quantities of highly toxic chemicals and considerable physical effort. It is my experience that Conal's vandalism, on average, cost more to remove than any of the other graffiti I encounter on a regular basis.

Conal is an awful example for adolescents and young adults who see his antisocial conduct as the most sincere form of rebellion. In my neighborhood, I estimate that 10% to 20% of the graffiti, not including Conal's posters, is done by adults and I blame Conal directly or indirectly for inspiring a large part of this vandalism. As a Stanford grad with a bright future, Conal need not worry even if he is arrested. His powerful and influential friends will hold a fund-raiser for him to pay for his expenses while his legal defense will be provided free of charge. The same will not be true of the misguided and unfortunate young person who is foolish enough to follow Conal's example and gets caught.

The Times must consider the message it is sending out to the public when it implicitly gives its stamp of approval to public vandals like Robbie Conal. He may be talented but this does not give him the right or the authority to damage public or private property.

SEAN McCARTHY

Los Angeles

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