Banking protest mural to be removed from East End

Hannah Roberts – Daily Mail Oct 5, 2012

A mural depicting money-grabbing bankers will be removed following complaints that it resembles the anti-Semitic propaganda of Nazi Germany.

Azmel Hussain pictured is defending the artwork which has been painted on his property. Click to enlarge

The provocative painting has appeared on a wall in the predominantly Muslim area of Brick Lane in East London, once a thriving Jewish community.

The mural, by international graffiti artist Mear One, shows moustachioed and hooked-nosed bankers huddled around a Monopoly board supported on the backs of the working class, seemingly drawing on long outdated Jewish stereotypes.

Now the artist has been accused of anti-Semitism, a claim he vehemently denies.

But with its continued presence causing public tolerance to fray, council bosses have set a deadline for its removal.

Mear One – real name Kalen Ockerman – completed the painting last month in an area steeped in Jewish history.

Orthodox immigrants fleeing persecution in Tsarist Russia first settled in Brick Lane in the 1880s  and the area remained a proud Jewish neighbourhood until the 1960s.    

Local councillor and long-term resident Peter Golds has urged the police to pursue the inflammatory artist under race hate laws.

Councillor and resident Peter Golds has urged police to prosecute the artist under hate crime laws

He said: ‘When I saw the mural I was shocked. It’s horribly similar to the propaganda used by the Third Reich in Nazi Germany.

‘The money hoarding and hooked-nosed men is classic Nazi.

‘It’s seriously worrying in an area that is so culturally sensitive – Brick Lane was home to the Jewish community and now home to another immigrant group.

He added: ‘It’s intensely racist and has caused a great deal of offence.

‘These horrible stereotypes are not just unpleasant and divisive, they are dangerous as they feed prejudice.’

Lutfur Rahman, the Tower Hamlets mayor, confirmed he had received ‘large numbers’ of negative comments about the mural.

He said: ‘I have received a number of complaints that the mural has anti-Semitic images. I share these concerns. Whether intentional or otherwise, the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions.

‘Where freedom of expression runs the risk of inciting racial hatred then it is right that such expression should be curtailed. I have asked my officers to do everything possible to see to it that this mural is removed.’

The Revd. Preb. Alan Green, Area Dean of Tower Hamlets and Rector of St John on Bethnal Green, who serves as Chair of the No Place For Hate Forum, said: “Whilst I appreciate street art in Tower Hamlets, it must always respect the principles of our diverse community. This mural uses images that have for centuries been used to incite hatred and persecution against Jewish communities. There is no place for such incitement against any community in this borough”.

But Mr Ockerman claims his mural has been misunderstood and, while it is supposed to provoke critical thought and debate, is not supposed to be anti-Semitic.

He said: ‘A group of conservatives do not like my mural and are playing a race card with me.’

By way of explaination the artist, who has been labelled ‘The Michelangelo of Graffiti’ wrote under a video of him creating the artwork on You Tube.

He said: ‘My mural is about class & privilege. The banker group is made up of Jewish & white Anglos. For some reason they are saying I am anti semetic[sic]. This I am most defenatly[sic] not.

‘I believe in equality and brother & sisterhood on a global scale. What I am against is class.’

The council has served a notice on the owner of the building to remove the painting within 28 days. If this is not done by 28 days then the council will take further action.

A council spokesperson said: ‘The mural in Hanbury Street is not on council property but we are responding to a number of complaints about it. We are working with the police in order to establish how best to proceed.’

Mr Ockerman asked supporters to ‘rally’ at the mural and stop any attempts to remove it.