The National Coalition Against Censorship regrets the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s decision to relocate a temporary installation of 20 public sculptures rather than allow it to remain in its current location through February 28th as originally planned. The Port Authority is moving the sculptures to JFK Airport after receiving complaints from members of the public.
The installation consists of 20 nine-foot-tall sculptures shaped like pieces of candy, each depicting the flag of a G20 summit nation. It is on display close to the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan. While the artist says the work is intended to depict peace and unity among nations, the sculpture representing the Saudi Arabian flag drew criticism from a group advocating on behalf of the families of 9/11 victims, many of whom have filed suit claiming that the Saudi government assisted the 9/11 hijackers.
It is important for government agencies to be sensitive to their communities when they plan public events and displays. However, government cannot bend to the complaints of each and every member of the community. Aware from the outset that the sculpture’s location by the 9/11 Memorial might offend, the Port Authority still chose to display the work. Moving the installation to JFK Airport in response to complaints raises concerns about government censorship.
Ironically, the demand that the Port Authority remove or relocate this sculpture is at odds with the very American freedoms to which the rebuilding of the World Trade Center is dedicated.