On Friday, the documentary Vigilante, Vigilante premiered in San Francisco--the film follows three "middle-aged white men who...consider themselves as performing a community service by wiping out graffiti in their geographically disparate environs," according to Variety. The only vigilante who's happy to be followed by the documentary crew is Joe "Graffiti Guerrilla" Connolly, who until recently lived and wiped out graffiti in Carthay. Connolly's been painting over tags in the area for 20 years, but he quit his job as a rug salesman 15 years ago to go full time. In a 1994 LA Times article, an LAPD officer warned that he was pissing off the local taggers enough that "If he doesn't watch it, Homicide is going to be investigating his murder." But he's cool--the Madeleine Brand Show met up with him last week and reported that he carries a machete.
The tagger/anti-tagger dynamic isn't totally antagonistic. Connolly sometimes attends gallery openings for street artists whose work he's wiped out. And he says he appreciates the difference between art and tagging: "I don't paint out artwork and murals because it's really pretty to look at." (Plus he has in the past painted messages like "Graffiti no longer accepted here. Please find a day job." on popular tagging spots.) He says what he dislikes is tagging's implied violence.
The Madeleine Brand Show says Connolly's moved out of Carthay and now "hopes to control the whole area bounded by the Interstate 10 freeway, Pico Avenue, Fairfax Avenue and La Brea Avenue."
· Graffiti guerrilla Joe Connolly's counter spray paint campaign [SCPR]
· NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE : A Community Activist Takes His War on Crime and Blight to the Street [LAT]
· Vigilante, Vigilante [Official Site]