Supporters rallied for Ai Weiwei and free expression at the Brooklyn Public Library

Protesters gathered in Brooklyn last night to show their support for the Chinese artist and dissident

Photograph: Lisa Dale Rifkind

Yesterday evening, a dedicated crowd about 200 strong filled the plaza of the Brooklyn Public Library to show solidarity with Beijing-based artist Ai Weiwei. Ai, who has been the subject of a highly acclaimed documentary as well as the center of a global street-art campaign, is the focus of an exhibit opening April 18 at the Brooklyn Museumtitled "Ai Weiwei: According to What?" After an 81-day imprisonment in 2011 and close surveillance by the Chinese government, the politically outspoken architect, sculptor, photographer and filmmaker (amongst other titles) had his passport revoked. As a result, he can neither attend his feature exhibit nor speak about it to the press.    

The rally—hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library and supported by the Brooklyn Museum—focused not only on Ai’s personal struggle with censorship, but also on several other Chinese poets, artists and activists who have been similarly punished for their work. The crowd listened intently as Brooklyn artists and representatives from PEN American, the organizers of the event, recited heartfelt statements and poems from the detained artists themselves. Members of the crowd then donned handcuffs before leading a march across the block to the Brooklyn Museum, where an exclusive video made by Ai Weiwei specifically for this event was projected onto the building’s grand facade.

By the end of the evening, even those who had only casually dropped by joined in a rally cry for international freedom of expression—even the police standing by seemed moved by what they had heard. Finally, a massive group picture was taken to show Ai and the other persecuted artists the support they have all the way from Brooklyn.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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