The Austin Police Department is investigating an activist group that has given common graffiti a new political tone - targeting corporate franchises by tagging storefronts with their own logos.
Store owners of the Gap and Tower Records on Guadalupe Street found their logos Monday morning spray painted on the columns outside, along with a sign that read "You have been selected for ReTag �?| contact your corporate office for details."
ReTag is a local group of people who take part in a form of activism called culture jamming. According to the online magazine Adbusters, which was inspired by the idea, "culture jammers" are a "global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age."
Laura Albrecht, spokeswoman for APD, said police are investigating the cases and have yet to establish a motive.
A member of ReTag, who wished to remain anonymous, said the group's actions were intended to "promote intelligent discussion."
"At a certain point, market saturation becomes redundant. The McDonald arch is the same as the crucifix," he said. "In a sense, we turn their own logo on them. They call it vandalism, but it's their own logo they have to clean up."
He added that the term "culture jamming" was coined in the 1980s by a radio show known as NegativLand. He denied involvement in other acts of vandalism that occurred at both stores, including a Monday morning incident in which feces were spread over the Gap's front door with a note reading "Fall into the crap."
"We're not vandals," he said. "We like to think of our actions as art."
The acts have been met with a mixed reaction from employees and pedestrians alike.
"I always thought it was beautiful," said Bobby Helms, a frequenter of the drag. "But lately it's gotten out of hand."
Rosie Reynolds, a Tower Records employee, said "everybody here thought it was cool."
Gap owners expressed discontent over the vandalism but could not comment due to a strict non-press policy.
According to Section 28.08 of the Texas Penal Code, any act of vandalism including or exceeding $1,500 but less than $20,000 in damages would be considered a state jail felony.
Sophia Yousef, owner of Sophia's Beauty Parlor, said there needs to be more law enforcement on patrol.
"The police arrest them, but it doesn't work," Yousef said.