The gay artist who last week received a fine from Belfast City Council for chalking the word “love” on the footpath in front of City Hall has protested the council’s decision by using 6000 pennies to spell ‘Love’ on the pavement in the same spot where he received the fine.
Christopher Gillen, the artist in question, was supported at the protest by other art students, city counsellors and members of the trade union Unison.
A spokesperson for Unison, Nathalie Donnelly said, “In a city that is plagued by hate, to fine someone for writing ‘love’ on the pavement is just totally ridiculous.” She continued “this was clearly a homophobic gesture” as it is common to find messages written in chalk on the pavement around Belfast City Centre and it appears no one else has been handed a fine.
Christopher Gillen said that he had intended to write the word love in coloured chalk in various locations stretching from Royal Avenue down to the University of Ulster Art College. Mr Gillen named his artwork the “rainbow of love”.
Whilst drawing out his artwork at City Hall he was approached by a member of the public at City Hall who became physically threating and shouted in his face for drawing graffiti.
Art student, Gearoidin Devine, who was in attendance on the day Gillen was fined said it was “ridiculous” as the chalk “would wash off with the rain”.
Barbara Muldoon, the event co-ordinator, said, “People are outraged at the idea that this fine has been imposed. The reality is Belfast is a city that is scarred in sectarian graffiti and racist graffiti and has been for a number of years and only one person has been fined under this particular piece of legislation”.
Mr Gillen defended his actions on the Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster last week and received much support from the public. Several phone-in callers stated that it was commonplace to find hurtful, harmful, tribal and other offensive statements on the ground and some people were astonished by the Councils decision to single out Mr Gillen for a fine.