WISCASSET, Maine — The Wiscasset native and New York street artist who faces multiple charges for creating fake ads mocking the New York Police Department expressed gratitude for people helping him with his legal expenses.
Essam “Adam” Attia, who goes by the name “Essam,” spoke hours before friends and well-wishers held a fundraiser for him in Manhattan.
They did so not only to aid his legal defense, but to increase awareness of his situation.
“The last few months of my life have been an incredibly humbling experience,” Essam wrote in an email. “I am blessed to have met so many talented people who have so generously donated their time and craft to come to my aid.”
Animal, an online publication that covers New York art, news, culture and politics, hosted Thursday’s event, called Free Essam. Animal’s founder and editor, Bucky Turco, expected about 400 people.
New York police arrested Essam last autumn after he allegedly planted dozens of satirical ads in phone booths, bus shelters and other public spaces around the city claiming city police use spy drones to monitor citizens.
He was arraigned Nov. 29 and faces charges including possession of an unloaded revolver, possession of a forged instrument and grand larceny. Essam is due in court May 1.
Essam, 29, has hired high-profile lawyer Steven Kartagener to defend him.
Thursday’s fundraiser helped. Photographer Patrick McBride was the emcee, and the event included a silent auction of artwork by more than two dozen artists who sympathize with Essam.
“I suspect tonight will show the beautiful community humanity is capable of when we believe in each other,” Essam said prior to the fundraiser. “I can’t begin to express enough gratitude.”
McBride told the Portland Press Herald the goal was to get money to pay Essam’s lawyers and “for everyone to have a conversation about drones and how our government is using them to assassinate people in the Middle East and to spy on people in this country.”
McBride said he warned Essam when he was working on his drone project that he was going to anger people.
Essam, a 2002 Wiscasset High School graduate who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq, planted dozens of ads in display cases around the city between Sept. 14 and 16. Many of them used his artist signature, “ESSAM.” Nearly 100 posters spotted at kiosks across the city all included the message, “NYPD Drones. Protection when you least expect it.”