The city of Troy in New York State is facing legal action for shutting down the Sanctuary for Independent Media for building code
violations when a controversial exhibit opened in March.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and the arts group filed a notice of claim against the city and city Public Works Commissioner Robert Mirch seeking unspecified damages.
The city shut the facility to public gatherings after digital artist Wafaa Bilal's video game and exhibit Virtual Jihadi moved there from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful, said Melanie Trimble, executive director of NYCLU's Capital Region chapter.
The notice is a first step toward filing a lawsuit. Trimble said the arts group and NYCLU have not assessed what damages they seek.
There is a climate of fear in the city, Sanctuary for Independent Media co-founder Steve Pierce said. Pierce, who is also an adjunct professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said city officials use their government authority to go after
people who do not agree with their political views.
Mirch led a demonstration protesting Bilal's video game exhibit, which features himself as a suicide bomber on a mission to assassinate President Bush. Mirch supervises code enforcement and also is majority leader of the Rensselaer County Legislature.
Update: Night of Bush Capturing
24th July 2008, See article
Bilal, an American citizen as well as a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, is currently exhibiting Virtual Jihadi at the Windy City's FLATFILE galleries, accompanied by a renewed round of controversy.
During a speech, Bilal said that the idea for the game started with Quest for Saddam... in which the object is to find and kill Saddam Hussein. Apparently someone in Al Qaeda obtained a copy of the game, changed the skins of the soldiers and Saddam so
that now the player is an Iraqi killing Americans and hunting George Bush [the so-called Night of Bush Capturing game].