Sunday, August 05, 2007

Perspective: War memorial, or graffiti?

Willie Filkowski’s memorial isn’t a statue or an eternal flame. But he still thinks he has the right to show it to the public.

Since July 1, the 15-year-old Cypress Lake High School student has been paying tribute to Iraq war casualties on the sidewalks of downtown Fort Myers, writing 283 names like Joel Dahl and Richard Parker in bright-colored chalk.

“You don’t realize each person has a name,” the red-haired theater student and Fort Myers resident said. “I thought it would be thought-provoking, and it appeals to people on both sides of the issue.”

Fort Myers police stopped him and his two companions Monday evening in front of the federal building on First Street, telling him his work was graffiti, Filkowski said. They also checked to make sure his memorial wasn’t gang-related. They had received a call from a city worker who claimed there was an antiwar protest going on downtown.

An officer advised Filkow-ski to apply for a permit with the City Council, said Maureen Buice, Fort Myers Police Department spokeswoman. Filkowski said he inquired about the permit Tuesday.

Although police aren’t classifying Filkowski’s writings as graffiti, his efforts may be in vain.

Al Abdo, acting city manager, said even if Filkowski applies for a permit, he won’t be granted one.

Read the rest at the News Press