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Right-wing street artist Sabo was questioned Wednesday at his Los Angeles apartment by two Secret Service agents who said federal authorities were concerned about a series of tweets the artist recently posted.
The agents also questioned Sabo, a Marine Corps veteran, about his possession of firearms, including what the artist said was a recently purchased M-4 assault rifle. One of the agents had stopped by the artist’s apartment on Tuesday to leave his card and a request for an interview.
True to his provocative style, Sabo had prepared for the encounter by plastering his apartment walls with posters bearing the name Oswald. The agents, who conducted their interview through the apartment’s windows, snapped pictures of the interior including the rifle against the wall.
During the course of the conservation, which The Hollywood Reporter witnessed, the artist shared his dislike for President Barack Obama, expressing the hope that the president would die in a plane crash. He denied, however, advocating for any act of violence against the chief executive and repeatedly cited his right to free expression.
The artist made headlines earlier this month, before Obama’s fundraiser at Gwyneth Paltrow‘s house, by plastering the actress’ Brentwood neighborhood with “Obama Drone” posters. Ahead of a visit by Hillary Clinton to Brentwood a week later, the artist hung posters depicting Wizard of Oz flying monkeys holding “Hillary 2016” signs.
Sabo acknowledged to the agents that he posted a tweet, via his @unsavoryagents account, about Obama’s visit to Paltrow’s. He stated:
IT REALLY WOULD BE A CRYING SHAME IF SOMEONE CALLED TO REPORT A MAN WITH A RIFLE IN THE AREA ON THIS NIGHT. pic.twitter.com/lpgsYNAkHQ
— unsavoryagents (@unsavoryagents) October 3, 2014
Another tweet that caught the agents’ attention:
DEAR GOD! I PRAY YOU MAKE ZOMBIES REAL AND THE FIRST ONE I HOPE REANIMATES IS OSWALD. 🙂 – THANK YOU GOD.
— unsavoryagents (@unsavoryagents) August 12, 2014
One of the agents told Sabo during the interview: “You really need to think about some of this stuff you’re tweeting. It really could be construed in many different ways.”
Sabo responded: “I realize we have a f—head in the White House. And the constitution no longer means shit. As far as I’m concerned, this is a First Amendment issue.”
Both agents responded that the First Amendment does protect free speech — to a point.
“When your language starts getting into areas where you’re advocating violence, that’s where we start to get into a gray area,” one of the agents told the artist. “The First Amendment doesn’t cover that … So your tweet was politically motivated — you didn’t actually intend to any violence against the president?”
Sabo: “Obviously not. The guy is a jackass. I hope his plane crashes. I don’t want any violence. I’m not going to do any violence to him.”
The artist has subsequently tweeted:
IF YOU ARE ON TWITTER AND YOU HAVE A POLITICAL OPINION THAT IS NOT LEFTIST, BE SCARED, BE VERY SCARED. OBAMA’S SECRET SERVICE IS WATCHING.
— unsavoryagents (@unsavoryagents) October 29, 2014
He also posted a YouTube video of the encounter.