Valparaiso University’s campus magazine awarded its annual “artivism” prize to a painting of a Minneapolis police station on fire.
The painting — titled “Order is Not Justice” — was created by Sam “Doc” Janowiak and was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” according to The College Fix. It depicts the burning of the Minneapolis Third Precinct police building three days after the death of George Floyd.
Janowiak told The College Fix that he prefers to create offensive art and has been involved in several on-campus activist events since May 2020.
“If it offends enough people, it’s probably going in the right direction,” Janowiak said. “If the ideas are fundamentally commendable, and the cause is fundamentally virtuous, the result is even more likely to be sound … It might be offensive, yes, especially to the people who desperately wish to convince others that its content is not directed at them.”
The student said he organized three of the four summer demonstrations at the university that were aimed at “protesting the racially motivated police killings of African Americans.”
The award was distributed by the university’s student-run publication The Lighter. The magazine features work from students “of any type of prose, poetry, or visual art.” Winners were announced on the publication’s Instagram page.
Faculty advisor Mark Wagenaar told The College Fix that the award contest is run each year and is judged by “someone who’s willing to do it for a hundred bucks.” Janowiak’s work was picked by a Valparaiso alumnus who reviews books on YouTube.
“As our budget was something like zero this year, we had two recent alums judge the contest with faculty judging the other writing contests,” Wagenaar said. “This year’s just was, apparently, drawn to heavy-handedness. These days you can never be too didactic.”
College campuses have become breeding grounds for anti-police sentiment following the resurgence of Black Lives Matter. Students across the nation are organizing under the name “Cops Off Campus Coalition” to “get cops off campus and cops off the planet.” On May 4, hundreds of educators and students participated in a “day of refusal” wherein they refused to go to work or class to protest the presence of police on college campuses.
The coalition encourages activists to participate in a slew of activities including “march[ing] to your chancellor’s house and let[ing] them know how you feel,” hosting a “teach-in with abolitionist speakers,” “redcorat[ing] your campus police stations,” and hosting “street puppet theater.”
Students have also organized independent anti-police chapters such as Northwestern University’s “NU Community Not Cops.” The group vandalized and burned school property in October and placed the charred remains at the feet of police officers guarding the home for the university’s president. The group also vandalized Northwestern’s iconic Weber Arch as part of an anti-police demonstration.
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