Banksy's Newest Target: Tear Gas Used on Refugees
London mural takes shot at tactics allegedly used on refugees in France
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2016 12:38 PM CST
Commuters take photos on their phones of new artwork by artist Banksy opposite the French Embassy in London on Monday.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

(Newser) – Two giant sheets of plywood now cover Banksy's latest mural opposite the French embassy in London—though developers of the building it's spray-painted on say they're trying to keep it safe, the BBC reports. Never one to shy away from controversy, the artist borrowed the girl who famously appears in promos for Les Miserables and added tears streaming down her cheeks, ostensibly due to the tear gas canister at her feet. It's Banksy's statement against the so-called "Jungle" camp in Calais, France, where authorities have reportedly used tear gas to try to evict hundreds of refugees so they can raze part of the camp, per the Guardian. The mural is high tech, too, in what the paper says is a first for Banksy's street displays: Viewers who scan the QR code in one of the corners will be taken to a video that seems to show refugees in the camp being bombarded with rubber bullets and tear gas in an early January raid, per the BBC.

The mural, which showed up on the side of what the BBC calls a "large complex" on Saturday, isn't Banksy's first artistic protest against the European refugee crisis: He's also behind the Steve-Jobs-as-Syrian-refugee mural that recently showed up in Calais, as well as a re-creation of the 19th-century painting The Raft of the Medusa, showing survivors on a raft trying to flag down a luxury yacht, per the Guardian. A Calais police rep told the paper last week "it's not in our interest to use tear gas unless it's absolutely necessary to restore public order, and it is never used in the camp itself," but skepticism remains. The director of the property group in charge of the building where the mural appears tells the BBC the company is "discussing future plans for the artwork"; others are simply raving about the beauty and importance of such a piece. "To see interesting art, you don't have to go to a gallery; you just have to walk the streets," Suzanne Moore writes for the Guardian. "Street art reminds us both of what we have to fight for, and what we have lost." (And then there's Dismaland.)