Lennon Wall for Hong Kong: Solidarity in Melbourne

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“Free HK”, part of the Hong Kong solidarity wall in Melbourne, Australia (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

At the time of writing this blog post in early September 2019, there appears to be no end in sight to the protests which started in Hong Kong at the end of March. The spark which lit the tinder was a proposed extradition bill which would make it easier to transport people from Hong Kong to mainland China for questioning and trial. People in Hong Kong do not trust China’s justice system to be fair and impartial. Under pressure from protests whose intensity seemed to take everyone by surprise, the Hong Kong government shelved the extradition bill. This did not end the protests however, as the bill had tapped into a deeply held fear among the people of Hong Kong. Since being returned to China by Britain in 1997, residents of Hong Kong have enjoyed a lot more freedom than citizens of mainland China do, and they protect this freedom fiercely. For the protesters, the extradition bill was just one part of a much broader attempt to strip Hong Kong of its cherished freedom, and they are not willing to give their special status up without a fight. Over the last few months, protesters have clashed with police around the city.

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Hosier Lane in Melbourne is famous for it’s street art, and has become a significant tourist attraction (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

At the start of August 2019, I visited Melbourne in Australia, and I was quite surprised to find a wall full of messages expressing solidarity with, and seeking support for, the protesters in Hong Kong. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been: Australia has strong connections with China. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, and in 2017 there were 500,000 Chinese-born migrants living in Australia. Melbourne is known for its cosmopolitanism, and the city’s Laneways (alleys) are famous for edgy street art, shops, bars, and restaurants. The most famous for street art is Hosier Lane; it has become a popular tourist attraction. The solidarity wall is at the bottom of Hosier Lane, near the junction with Flinders Street.

 

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The Hong Kong solidarity wall in Hosier Lane, Melbourne (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

The wall is made up of posters calling for support and explaining what is happening in Hong Kong, and post-it notes with messages of solidarity. It feels spontaneous, but it is actually the result of a piece by Chinese artist Badiucao. He created a piece of street art featuring Chinese leader Xi Xingping and Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam, then invited people to add their own messages of solidarity. A box of post-it notes and marker pens has been left so that visitors can add their own messages. This practice has become known as ‘Lennon Walls,’ which have appeared all over Hong Kong during the protests. They are now springing up elsewhere, including Toronto and Tokyo. The original artwork of Lennon Wall for Hong Kong can just about still be seen in the above image: it is the black text on the white background peeking out above the post-it notes.

I spent a little while watching other visitors interact with the wall. Many had little interest, others seemed to be interested in finding out what all the fuss was about, and some, particularly those who appeared to be of Asian origin, seemed quite moved by the outpouring of solidarity. I would be curious to know if this message of solidarity reaches protesters in Hong Kong however: do they know how much support they have in Melbourne?

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A box of stationary attached to the wall so that people can add their own messages of support (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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A message left by a member of an airline crew, explaining how much the wall meant to them (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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A visitor to the wall adds their own message (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

It is very important to the protesters in Hong Kong that people around the world know about their struggles and understand them, which is one of the reasons they have targeted Hong Kong International Airport over the summer; a controversial tactic which risks alienating travelers instead of convincing them that the cause is just. The Lennon Wall suggests that the message is getting through, however. It gives a strong sense of solidarity and obviously means a lot to people from Hong Kong. It also highlights the obvious overlaps between street art and resistance; a subversive medium to begin with, street art is an obvious companion to protest.

Sources and Further Reading

BBC News. “Hong Kong Anti-Government Protests.” Last modified 3rd September 2019, accessed 3rd September 2019. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c95yz8vxvy8t/hong-kong-anti-government-protests

Clark, Helen. “Should Australia Fear an Influx of Chinese?” This Week in Asia. Last modified 30th July 2017, accessed 3rd September 2019. Available at https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2100798/should-australia-fear-influx-chinese

Dalziel, Alexander. “Post-it Protest in Support of Hong Kong Backlash over Extradition Plan.” The Age. Last modified 20th August 2019, accessed 3rd September 2019. Available at https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/post-it-protest-in-support-of-hong-kong-backlash-over-extradition-plan-20190720-p5293c.html

Sydney Morning Herald. “Chinese Political Artist Badiucao supports Hong Kong Protesters with Hosier Lane ‘Lennon Wall.'” Last modified 20th July 2019, accessed 3rd September 2019. Available at https://www.smh.com.au/world/chinese-political-artist-badiucao-supports-hong-kong-protesters-with-hosier-lane-lennon-wall-20190720-h1ge99.html

Politics and Street Art: Brexit in Brick Lane

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Street art is a format the frequently expresses political viewpoints (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

If you’ve spent any time in the UK over the last few years, then you won’t have been able to escape Brexit. Britain’s exit from the European Union may well be the most significant thing that’s happened in this country in decades, and it hasn’t even actually happened yet. Brexit has seeped into every aspect of life. Brick Lane in Shoreditch is one of the best places in London to see street art (and to get bagels!). The street and surrounding area has a fascinating social and cultural history, and in the last twenty years or so has become one of the most painfully cool parts of London. It is a hub of independent shops and cafes, art galleries, and gentrification. Brick Lane itself is an informal open air art gallery, covered in street art that is painted or covered over regularly. Street art is a format that often engages with politics, and the artists who produce it are not afraid of expressing subversive or critical views in their work. On a recent visit to Brick Lane in December 2018, I noticed a distinct anti-Brexit theme to much of the street art I found.

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This is an example of paste-up art, which has been produced elsewhere then attached with wheat paste or wallpaper paste. It looks hand drawn rather than printed. The artist, Honesy, has a bold, simplistic style that I quite like (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is also an example of paste-up art, although it was obviously printed rather than hand drawn. This means the artist can produce as many identical copies as they like, although I only saw this poster once on Brick Lane. It was produced by a pair of artists called Quiet British Accent, who make street art based around pre-decimal pennies, a red white and blue colour scheme, and the acronym QbA (in this case it has been expanded to Quiet Balanced Advice) (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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To be honest, this is the least artistically accomplished artwork that I came across in Brick Lane that day. It looks like permanent marker on a bathroom or kitchen tile, but I don’t know if the tile was installed by the artist, or if it was already there and the design was drawn on in situ. There is so much street art and grafitti in Brick Lane that it is often layered on top of each other, with new stuff partially or completed obscuring older artworks. My gut instinct is that this tile was already on the wall, and the artist made use of it rather opportunistically. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t time and thought put into the design, however. This might not be as high-quality as the other artworks featured here, but someone still put some effort in (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is another example of paste-up street art, this time produced by Uberfubs, also know as the Street Jeweller. This artist is known for images of skulls, often adorned with rhinestones or crochet. Their works also often contains a political message, such as this one. (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I haven’t been able to find out who produced this poster, another example of paste-up art. Many of the key architects of Brexit have been accused of acting to serve themselves, rather than in the best interests of the country (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This poster was obviously produced by the same artist as the previous one. It features the inexplicably influential Jacob Rees-Mogg, comparing him to Voldemort, the evil villain from Harry Potter (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This mural was produced by American street artist BK FOXX, who is known for her photorealist style. It was painted in September 2018. It doesn’t explicitly mention Brexit, but it is hard to interpret it any other way. (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Vienna’s Street Art

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Central Vienna is beautiful, but a little too formal for my liking (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This summer, I spent a few days in Vienna on a family holiday. Although beautiful, I found the city, particularly the city centre, had an add, formal feel that didn’t sit very well with me. It didn’t feel lived in, more like a model city than an actual place. There were some parts of the city I did connect with however, like the Prater funfair, the city’s lively protest sticker culture, and the street art. I quickly discovered however, that the advice the guide books give you about finding street art is not necessarily the best.

Dotted around the Museum Quarter of the city there are a series of Micromuseums, small passageways that focus on different art genres, including literature, typography, and sound art. They are the brainchild of Q21, which provides creative work and exhibition spaces in the Museum Quarter. One of these Micromuseums is called Street Art Passage Vienna, and its where a lot of guide books direct you if you want to see street art in the city. Whilst I like the idea of turning “simple means of entrance and exit to innovative art spaces,” I found the reality a bit disappointing. The space is almost 10 years old, and it feels a little neglected.

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The Street Art Passage Vienna was looking a little neglected when I saw it in July (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The two  permanent pieces of art in the passage by Invader (2008) and Lois Weinberger (2013) (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The main feature of the passage is a tiled bridge by French artist Invader (2008). His distinctive Space Invader mosaics are a recognisable feature of many cities. There is also a permanent typographic piece by Lois Weinberger (2013), which is visible in the above picture on the wall behind the Invader bridge. There are also temporary exhibitions by a wide range of artists (you can see a full list here). There are two vending machines, which are supposed to contain mini catalogues and sets of stickers that you can buy for 2 Euros, but the machines were empty when I went there. In addition, each temporary artists produces a limited number of affordable screen prints, designed to encourage young art collectors.

When there is crossover between the informal, ephemeral tradition of  street art and more formalised traditions of artistic display like art galleries and museums, there can be tensions. Whilst street art is often associated with a certain urban ‘scruffiness,’ in the case of the Street Art Passage Vienna it just felt neglected. For me, street art is exciting and vibrant, it makes a city feel more alive. The Street Art Passage felt…stagnant.

If you want to see dynamic and vivid street art in Vienna, and lots of it, then I would recommend going to the Danube Canal, which splits of from the Danube proper north of the city centre, then loops round to the west of the river before rejoining the Danube further south. The canal is below street level, with a tow path on either side and concrete walls rising to the main roads that run either side. The walls on both sides of the canal are covered in street art, and there are also some sculptures along the tow paths. In the hour or so I was walking along the canal, I saw several artists working on pieces on the walls.

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The Danube canal is below street level, with concrete walls between the tow path and the street. The walls are covered in street art and grafitti (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The confluence of the Danube Canal with Wienfluss. In the bottom right of the photo, there is an artist working on an image of a woman (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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An in-progress piece of street art on the wall under a bridge across the Danube Canal (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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A map of central Vienna with the Street Art Passage Vienna and the Danube Canal marked on it (Source: Google Maps, with alterations by the author).

Most guide books and websites will send you to the Street Art Passage Vienna if you’re looking for street art in the city. But I wouldn’t recommend it. The litter, dust bins, and empty vending machines felt a little sad. The street art at the Danube Canal, however, is energetic and vibrant, and helped me to connect to a city that had I had struggled to relate to previously.

London’s Protest Stickers: Anarchism

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Stickers of all kinds are ubiquitous on street furniture in London, like this post box in Brick Lane (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 07/06/15).

Along with anti-fascists, anarchists are some of the most prolific stickerers I’ve come across in London. The Anarchist Federation (AFed) are particularly keen on stickers as a method of protest. At its simplest, anarchism is the belief in a society based on voluntary, cooperative institutions. Force, compulsion and government are not required. Anarchists believe that this is the only way to achieve a fair and just society. The Anarchist Federation is a working class organisation that works towards achieving that.

As anarchist communists we fight for a world without leaders, where power is shared equally amongst communities, and people are free to reach their full potential. We do this by supporting working class resistance to exploitation and oppression, organise alongside our neighbours and workmates, host informative events, and produce publications that help make sense of the world around us.

(Anarchist Federation, no date.)

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This is the most recognisable style of stickers that AFed make. The colours, logo, and web address remain the same, but the content changes. This photo was taken on 20/05/15 in Upper Street, Islington (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is another variation of  the classic AFed sticker. The group advocates direct action for achieving their goals (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 12/01/16).

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This sticker is part of another series that the AFed produce featuring prominent figures in anarchist history. This is Buenaventura Durruti, a Spaniard who was very active in the run up to the Spanish Civil War, as well as the War itself. He was killed by a sniper in November 1936 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 17/04/15).

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Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was, and still is, well known for her anarchist writing and speeches. Born in present-day Lithuania, she moved to America when she was 16, and was significant in the development of anarchist philosophy in the US (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Byng Place, 12/05/15).

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This is one of the best known quotes attributed to Emma Goldman. I don’t know who made this sticker, but it is a sentiment I have seen in other AFed stickers. (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Regent’s Canal Tow Path, 20/05/15).

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This sticker is one of my favourites. It is made by Active Distribution, which makes and sells all things anarchic. I come across their stickers quite often (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Heygate Road, 04/06/15).

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AFed have also been known to use references to popular culture in their stickers. This sticker features Finn and Jake, the main characters of an animated TV series called Adventure Time. It is made for children, but has developed a large adult following (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Elephant and Castle, 25/06/15).

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And who doesn’t love a good yoda impression?! (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Euston Station, 27/02/15).

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AFed stickers can often be funny. This is a relatively new sticker (I think!), and is particularly pertinent in the context of the Islamaphobia that our society is currently struggling with (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Euston Road, 09/02/16)

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This is another one by Active Distribution; you can just make out the web address in the top right corner. I found this sticker on the Ayslebury Estate during the occupation that took place there last year (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Ayslebury Estate, 05/05/15).

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This sticker echoes the sentiments of the Emma Goldman quote above. It looks like someone objected to the message however, as the sticker has been quite badly torn. It reads “never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth” (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Tottenham Court Road, 19/05/15).

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My French is rusty, but I know enough to identify this as an anarchist sticker! I think that it roughly translates to “The elections…are you still having fun?  Abstention” Revolution! Self Management!” (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 17/04/15).

You can see where I found these stickers on the Turbulent London map.

Protest Stickers: New York City 2, Part 2

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Stickers obscuring a road sign in New York City (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Street art is everywhere in New York City, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. For those of you that are new to Turbulent London, I am especially interested in stickers, particularly those with political subject matter. So on a recent trip to New York City, I took my camera and my habit of photographing random bits of street furniture to see what protest stickers I could find on the streets of the city that never sleeps. This is the second time I have visited NYC since I started photographing protest stickers, and the first time I struggled to find many. This time however, I found so many stickers that I have decided to do two blog posts, hence the slightly awkward title (the first post, published last week, is here). In the last post, I looked at the different kinds of issues which protest stickers address, the different types of stickers you can find, and some of the most common themes in the stickers I found. This post is far less organised I’m afraid, its just everything else that I wanted to include!

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Some American industries. including the building trade, still have very strong unions. Builders in New York tend to plaster their hard hats with stickers, so that they become a walking representation of their unions and the causes that they consider to be important (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Last week I talked about some of the most common themes that came up in protest stickers, police brutality and the upcoming Presidential election. Animal rights was another common theme; this sticker contains the web addresses of meatvideo.com, which shows abuse at factory farms, and In Defense of Animals, a group which campaigns for animal rights, welfare and habitat (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker also references meatvideo.com, but it is not quite as well made as the last one. I remember seeing this sticker design when I was here in 2015, so there’s a chance this particular sticker has been there quite a while (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker criticises people who wear fur. The picture is unclear because the sticker has been wrinkled by rain, but the message is still pretty clear thanks to the huge red writing (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Feminism was a less common theme, but it did crop up now and again (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I found this sticker on some scaffolding right outside our hotel when we first arrived- I took it as a good omen for the trip! (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The East Village is one of the ‘coolest’ neighbourhoods on Manhattan, and some stickers are local to this area. The Shadow claims to be New York’s only underground newspaper, and is published from the lower East Side. It was started in 1989, after local people were disillusioned by the mainstream media’s coverage of the Tompkins Square Park riot in 1988. I featured one of The Shadow‘s stickers last time, but didn’t know the story behind it until this trip (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker was produced by the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, which is located in a squat on Avenue C. The Museum is volunteer-run, and focuses on grassroots campaigns to keep communal spaces in the city out of corporate hands (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The clenched, raised fist is a common symbol of dissent (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker has been partially obscured, but it reads “We stand with Texas Women, and we won’t sit down!” It was produced by Ultraviolet, a group that campaigns for women’s rights. This particular campaign is about preventing attempts to restrict access to abortions in Texas (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Being a millennial myself I find this a little harsh, but everyone is entitled to their opinion I guess! (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The SEIU is the Services Employees International Union, and 32BJ is the local New York branch. It represents cleaners, security guards, and others whose work involves the maintenance and servicing of buildings (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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New York City has rents comparable to London, and it must be difficult for small businesses to survive. Save NYC is a campaign to “preserve the diversity and uniqueness” of New York. This was in the window of a dry cleaners in the East Village (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker has adapted the design of the one dollar bill to call for the legalisation of cannabis (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This stickers celebrates the actions of Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who leaked information from the National Security Agency in 2013 which sparked intensive debate about the balance of individual privacy and national security. PeaceSupplies.org sells stickers, shirts and patches related to various campaigns (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker promotes Save Stonewall, a campaign to create a national park to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which took place in Greenwich Village in 1969 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Parent Team is a group which supports parents of children dealing with drug or alcohol addiction. Here they are calling for free childcare for all, which doesn’t quite match up with their main purpose, but is an admirable goal none the less (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is a sticker produced by the street artist and anti-war activist Jef Campion (a.k.a. Army of One/JC2). He used his art to emphasise the ill effects of war. He passed away in 2014, but his memory lives on in his street art (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This photo illustrates how the location of a sticker can influence or reinforce its meaning. This sticker was placed on the stop sign at a pedestrian crossing, emphasising its anti-gentrification message (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The International Museum for Activist Art is a website which displays art that aims to raise awareness of the issues facing society, and I would definitely recommend having a browse through it (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I found this in Washington Square Park on my last day in New York. It uses the story of Goldilocks to call for the preservation of our planet. Earth is ‘just right’ for human habitation, a rare attribute that we shouldn’t take for granted (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Protest Stickers: New York City 2, Part 1

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A doorway in Greenwich Village with a high concentration of street art and stickers (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

New York City has a thriving street art culture. Almost every neighbourhood has walls covered in art, both official and unofficial. There are also a lot of stickers, of all kinds- I spotted one sticker advertising a new novel, which is something I haven’t come across in London before. Lots of stickers generally means lots of protest stickers, and during the week that I was there in early March I found loads. I wouldn’t like to say whether the amount of protest stickers is increasing, or I have just got better at spotting them since I visited last time, but it certainly felt like there were a lot. I found so many in fact, that I have decided to split this post into 2 parts, with Part 2 being published this time next week.

Protest stickers are a great way of seeing what kinds of issues are important to the people of a city. Some themes crop up again and again, whilst other topics just appear to be a particular bug bear of one zealous stickerer (I am still looking for a less clumsy way of referring to people who put up stickers!) Stickers are just one of the ways in which protest imprints itself onto the physical fabric of a city, but they can also be one of the most long-lasting, although their transience is one of their defining characteristics.

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As in London, gentrification is a contentious issue in New York City. These stickers are drawing attention to the issue in a tongue-in-cheek manner (at least I hope it is!) (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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You can find stickers about a whole range of issues, relating to a whole range of scales. The relevance of this sticker is confined to New York City (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Some stickers refer to national scale issues. The upcoming Presidential election is just about all anyone can talk about in America at the moment, and this obsession is reflected in New York’s protest stickers (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Some stickers are about international scale issues. In case you can’t read the top line, this sticker says “Stop Iran- We Stand with Israel” (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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There are some stickers that defy scale; this sticker doesn’t refer to any issue in particular, instead advocating a more forgiving attitude that could probably help a lot of contentious situations (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker also takes an abstract approach. It is by a street artist called @ApillNYC who, despite the @, has very little information about them on the internet (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Some stickers are not even remotely relevant to New York City. This sticker comes from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, which seeks justice for the 96 people who died in a crush at Hillsborough Football Stadium in Sheffield in the United Kingdom. I have seen these stickers before in London and I was very excited to find them here, on the viewing platform at the top of the Rockefeller Centre (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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As well as relating to a whole range of scales, protest stickers come in a whole range of forms. This sticker is basic, and was probably quite easy to make (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Whereas this sticker blurs the boundary between protest sticker and street art, and likely took a lot longer to produce. This sticker, which I suspect was pasted to the wall rather than being stuck with its own adhesive, is by someone called Individual Activist (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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One of the most common themes of protest stickers in New York City is policing. There has been widespread controversy in America over the past few years over the treatment of civilians by police officers, particularly when it comes to ethnic minorities. Rise Up October was organised by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker plays on the idea that the police should protect citizens, rather than pose a threat to them. In reality, the police can pose a threat, particularly to members of ethnic minorities (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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To serve and protect is another phrase commonly associated with the police. This sticker is implying that the police serve and protect property, rather than people (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker is advertising a different demonstration against police brutality. I think that #Octresist was also organised by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, in 2014. If that is the case, then this sticker is getting quite old! (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Garden State Ultras are a sports fan group with a radical edge. ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards) is part of the international radical language (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker wouldn’t win any prizes for subtlety, but sometimes that is the best way to get your message across (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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As I mentioned before, the Presidential Election is a hot topic in America. Donald Trump is a controversial figure who nobody seems to like, yet he keeps doing well in the primaries (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Most New York stickerers seem to be fans of Bernie Sanders. A democrat, he has been called America’s Jeremy Corbyn, he has been giving some people hope that politics can be done differently (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker was produced by The Personal Stash, which sells marijuana-themed accessories and promotes the reform of laws relating to marijuana (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker comes from Bernie Sander’s official campaign. Sometimes, the line between protest and formal politics can become blurred as radicals attempt to reform the system from within (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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And just to end the post on a positive note…(Photo: Hannah Awcock)

Don’t forget to check back next week for Part 2 of Protest Stickers: New York City 2!