Street artists, taggers in graffiti lawsuit strike back with counterclaims

Today local street artists named in a lawsuit in April filed counter suits, claiming they have been damaged after being wrongly named as taggers who have spraypainted their names on the sides of buildings.

Additional lawsuits are expected from residential property owners and businesses fuming over constantly removing large letters and symbols from the sides of their buildings.

A newly formed public-private graffiti task force painted over tags on the Hill Street bridge Saturday, sending a message that the spraypainted names and symbols on buildings, fences and highway signs won’t be tolerated.

Two of the city’s well-known street artists, a skateboard business and another person have struck back with legal claims of their own, in response to a multi-million dollar lawsuit against graffiti taggers. Greg Mike, Douglas Alexander Brewer, Stratosphere Skateboards and Grant Taylor say they had nothing to do with the graffiti tags that have colored two Old Fourth Ward buildings, according to documents recently filed in Fulton County State Court. What’s more, Mike and Brewer, both commissioned artists, say they don’t like being lumped in a lawsuit that primarily is going after a group of Grady High School students.

What started it all was a suit filed April 1 in Fulton County State Court. It names a group of taggers as well as Mike and his business, the ABV Gallery & Agency. The lawsuit claims that Brewer is known as his tag,  "Hense," and "Sever," and Taylor is known as  "GNAR." Both deny that they are connected with those tags.

The suit also names Stratosphere Skateboards Inc. – as well as other people and their respective tags.

The group is being sued by two Edgewood Avenue residents and a metal supply business, claiming intentional property destruction and asking for $1 million from each.

Momentum for the lawsuit started after a lawyer found graffiti tags on another building in the Old Fourth Ward. He used Grady High School books, notebooks and sketch pads, left next to the graffiti, to match some of the accused taggers to their names.

Mike and Brewer were not among the names attached to those sketchbooks.

In the suit, Mike and Brewer also take exception to being tossed in with that group.

Brewer’s countersuit states that he’s a well-known Atlanta artist – and was sued only because of “his fame and standing in the local and international art communities, solely because of his high profile, in an effort to garner media attention.”

Mike runs the ABV Gallery & Agency in the Old Fourth Ward and participated in the “Living Walls” grassroots meeting on street art last summer. Mike pasted up two of his “Loudmouth” posters on the side of a Edgewood Street building – and that’s how he met up with the two people who are suing him.

Residents Stan Mobley and Dave MacDonald own that building and went to Mike’s gallery to confront him about the posters.

According to court documents, Mike said he thought the building was abandoned and said he was sorry.

He also said MacDonald and Mobley “cornered him and violently confronted him with threatening remarks, specifically that they would ‘kick his ass and do everything in their power to make an example of him,” court documents say.

Brewer wants MacDonald and Mobley to pay his legal fees. Mike does, too, but he’s also asking for punitive damages, saying he’s suffered financial distress, anxiety, loss of business and community support.”

He’s not the only one asking for that type of money. Grant Taylor, a Grady High School graduate and professional skateboarder, as well as Stratosphere Skateboards, also want punitive damages saying that they have been libeled because of the lawsuit against them. Taylor also denies that has any connection to the Grady High School books, notebooks and sketch pads, according to court documents.

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