5. Rodney Bowman: Can't stop graffiti in his neighborhood

"Ever since I jumped out of that tree, I've probably covered about 50 [graffiti tags]."

Bowman is talking about June 29, when he jumped out of a tree in the dead of night to confront two young men spray-painting graffiti near the Krog Street tunnel in Cabbagetown. The verbal confrontation became physical, and Bowman was charged with disorderly conduct.

Since the incident, Bowman has accelarated his effort to cover up his neighborhood's graffiti tags (often a phrase or a graffitist's nickname or logo). He insists he has no problem with artful graffiti, like some of the pieces found in the Krog Street tunnel. It's tagging he can't stand.

Sloppy taggers diminish the reputation of skilled local graffiti artists like Totem, Bowman says.

"It [also] makes our community look bad," Bowman says. "Over in Grant Park, you don't see that many."

As Bowman describes it, a newly painted wall in Cabbagetown is tantamount to whispered invitation in the ears of eager taggers: "If you paint the wall, they will come."

Bowman says his appearance – he has a long, white beard – intimidates a lot of graffiti artists.

"They say I look crazy."

He says he's been successful at reducing graffiti in certain parts of his neighborhood, but that taggers just move around to avoid him. "It's like cockroaches. You turn them out of one house, they go to the next house. That's how I look at these people. Cockroaches."

Taggers recently hit the house across the street from him. He sees the tags when he leaves his house.

Taggers also hit a church near his house with graffiti reading "Hate in 08" and "Fuck your god"

"That really pissed me off."

Though he has no plans to let up, Bowman thinks a one-man crusade is doomed. He won't be successful at driving out graffiti until more people from his neighborhood and surrounding ones join forces.

"One voice shouting in the crowd – you won't hear it. Everyone shouting at once, you'll hear it."

But he's given up arborial stakeouts.

"One person jumping out of a tree and making an ass of himself is only gonna make matters worse. I know first hand."


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