‘We Make Kids Disappear’? Wielding Paint Rollers, an Art Collective Scaled a Bay Area Billboard to Protest Trump’s Immigration Policy

Artists in San Francisco’s Bay Area are turning to guerrilla tactics to express their opposition to Trump’s separation of immigrant families at the US border. The activist art collective Indecline scaled a billboard that was advertising junk removal and transformed it into an indictment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A video released by the collective shows a trio of masked and hooded activists approaching the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? billboard, which features a photograph of a screaming toddler, under the cover of night. Aided by a ladder and long-handled paint rollers, they climb up to the top and carefully adjust the ad. In under an hour, they changed the phone number and the slogan “We make junk disappear” to read “We make kids disappear,” and signed it “—I.C.E.,” as first reported by Mercury News. 

The billboard, located in Emeryville, California, along Interstate 80 leading to the Bay Bridge and San Francisco, is owned by ClearChannel. It has since been removed, according to the collective.

Immigration has dominated the headlines of late thanks to President Donald Trump’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy at the border. By insisting on arresting all immigrants attempting to claim asylum in the US, ICE must separate children from their parents, as it is currently illegal under the Flores settlement to imprison children for extended periods of time. (Pressured to end family separation, Trump signed an executive order this week seeking to amend Flores to allow entire families to be jailed together, indefinitely. But since the “zero tolerance” policy was enacted last month, immigration officials have taken 2,300 children from their parents, and the vast majority of those families are still separated.)

In an email to artnet News, a representative for Indecline said those circumstances—and the policies that created them—are what led to the billboard protest: “This project is in direct response to President Trump’s dedication to the inhuman and blatantly racist practices and policies surrounding immigration, specifically, his willingness to inflict immense trauma on young children and their families under the his banner of xenophobia.”

The anonymous artist group has become known for its high-profile anti-Trump stunts, especially its hideous, poorly endowed, naked Trump statues, titled The Emperor Has No Balls, which popped up ahead of the 2016 election in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. Most recently, they infiltrated Trump International Hotel and Tower and transformed a suite into a jail cell, replete with a Trump impersonator locked away with live rats.

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artElana Alipingart