A 29-year-old Black male painter and musician was commissioned by the city of Detroit to paint a mural as part of a multi-year beautification effort to combat illegal graffiti, only to be arrested by police for vandalism while working on the project.
“It’s an oxymoron — doing something for the city and being arrested by the city,” said Sheefy McFly in a Friday night interview with The Detroit Free Press.
McFly, whose real name is Tashif Turner, was painting a mural near 7 Mile and John R on the city’s northeast side when two female officers pulled up and arrested him on June 21.
“The Cops ain’t realize they arrested the best Artist in Detroit,” Sheefy later said on Twitter, “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.”
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
McFly has become a sought-after artist in recent years, and was hired through the city’s managing contractor 1xRun, a Detroit-based art publishing house, to work on the Detroit Viaduct Beautification effort. Heavy.com reports that this effort stems from the City Walls project.
According to the city website, the goals of the City Walls project “are to highlight the values and the identity of the communities where the artwork is being created, empower Detroit artists, and to provide a positive cost-benefit to the public via art versus the cost of blight remediation.”
But without his city-issued permit in hand, McFly said police mistook him for a vandal after he had been working on the viaduct for several days.
He tired to explain the situation to the “four or five police cars” on site, and a city official also showed up to vouch for him, but McFly said the officers were hell bent on charging him with a crime, even as he attempted to walk away to check his bag for his permit.
The misunderstanding led to him being arrested for alleged resisting and obstructing police, as well as on an outstanding traffic warrant, said Detroit Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood. She also noted that the muralist was uncooperative with their investigation.
“They treated me like a felon even though I was commissioned by the city to do this,” said McFly, who added that the incident left him feeling quite “depressed” after being arrested for the first time. Now he’s not sure if he’s going to return to the site to continue work on the mural.
“I felt threatened for my life,” said McFly. “I felt like if I really didn’t keep my composure, they would’ve beat my (expletive).”
McFly spent about 24 hours at the nearby Detroit Detention Center before being released.
“We had to sleep on mats. They didn’t clean any of the cells,” he said. “It felt like animals in a cage.”
A court date for his parking ticket warrant has been set for July 3.
In the meantime, as far as finishing the job for which he was reportedly paid $10,000 by the city, McFly says: “I may go back next week, but I need some days to collect myself and figure out how I can be safe. I feel racially profiled and bullied.”