Who, Why, Where, When and What the HEK?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 05/28/2008 - 10:59.

HEK tag on Huntington Billboard

One fascinating thing about REALNEO is the interconnection it enables - in July 2007 I posted an article about some tagging in my new neighborhood of the time, at W. 45th and Detroit, by HEK. Since then, HEK tags have spread to every corner of the community, and I've never seen an explanation Who, Why, Where, When and What the HEK? Well, today I received an email from a stranger who found my posting through a Google search and has some very personal concerns about HEK, beyond vandalism.

The stranger asked for anonymity and confidentiality so I won't share any details of the message I received, other than it indicates HEK is a person they know, and dangerous, and wonders if there is a connection with a large organized crime gang like the Hell's Angels. I've asked a few people in various HEK-tagged neighborhoods, who know the inner workings and gangs of their neighborhoods, and I haven't found anyone else who knows anything about HEK.

Anyone out there have a clue? HEK, want to speak up here?


HEKHuntingtonTag.JPG44.33 KB

Who is HEK?!

I just received an email I'll keep anonymous, which contains a picture that is claimed to be HEK. Since I don't have a way to verify if the picture is correct and I am not the source and do not know if the source is correct, I will not post that... but here is the message I received... and the profile fits what I have observed...

Not organized crime. This is his picture. His crew is BAK and they are notorious for poor craftsmanship. The most irksome thing about him is that he forces poor people to look his slop. Apparently he resides in your old neck of the woods .... Shaker Hts.

People have publicly ridiculed him for years and he seems to enjoy it. Something to consider if you are thinking about writing more.

Disrupt IT


31 States have “Shield Laws” that protect from legally forced disclosure a reporter’s notes and/or confidential sources.    Ohio has such a law which is discussed here in the Cincinnati Enquirer /Chiquita Brands International  case in 1998.  A punch list of shield law issues – and what to do if  your notes or sources are requested from authorities - can be found here (specifically for California).


However, since even with a shield law a reporter’s notes and emails can be subpoenaed by prosecutors – and the reporter must then raise as a defense the right to confidentiality – it may be a time saver and a wise exercise of discretion for a reporter to anticipate the prosecutor and  only ask questions of  confidential  sources the answers to which questions will not be of interest to prosecutors.  


For example:   HEK has climbed up on a number of structures which didn’t belong to her/him.  That constitutes a trespass.  I don’t need to know who HEK is to know that there has been a trespass.  

On the other hand,  what I don’t know, and would be interested in knowing, is WHY the HEK likes to climb up on water towers and billboards.   Climbing up there on the QT is very strenuous and dangerous  – especially if you get a lacquer buzz before you come back down. 


Carl Pope gave public discussions on why he liked to put messages on public billboards.   


So the question I ask of the realneo audience – and it doesn’t matter at all whether or not you know HEK – is WHY THE HEK?     Is it a personal psych trip, a political statement, a shot at anarchy, or all/none/some/something else of the above?   Maybe HEK has acute insomnia?   Is the lack of a clear message the message?   Is the hijacked public medium the message?  Idiosyncrasy the message?

taggers HEK and MAK caught

"The other news is that two graffiti taggers were recently caught by the Cleveland Police on May 30th at 3:00 am, at a gas station at E.55th and Superior."

"22 year-old Mathew Eastburn of South Euclid, AKA 'HEK', and 23 year-old Mark Skapin of Cleveland, AKA 'MAK' have been spray painting and marking their tags all over the Cleveland area."

-- Court Watch Updates - Armed Robbers Sentenced - Taggers Arrested on the Tremont Leaders email list


Do we have any more pictures of their handiwork? Is there any talent there?


The HEK genre stuff wasn't of much quality artistically or interest politically, but HEK seemed to outdo everyone else in energy and quantity.  There must have been lot's of late nights high up on the sides of buildings and billboards.   

But the Cleveland Police can't be trusted to get much right.  So let's see what develops with these fellows' defense.  3:00 am with spray cans (if that was the case) wouldn’t look too good though.

As has been said: innocent until proven to be HEK. 

Norm, it could be important to interview these fellows -  are they in jail or out on bond?

so what do you know about the police, anyway?

you're speaking as though you have some familiarity with the CPD...and defense...

the real MAK-oy?

The trial of graffiti taggers, HEK and MAK, begins on Tuesday, December 2nd - 9 am in the court room of Judge Eileen A. Gallagher. Residents and business people are invited to join with others from around the City in this Court Watch activity.

-- Tremont Leaders: Court Watch - Graffiti Taggers HEK & MAK


I stopped by Court Room 23A of Judge Eileen A. Gallagher this morning to inquire on the status of the HEK and MAK trial which was scheduled to begin last Tuesday. The Sheriff patrolling the hall told me that there were a lot of disappointed press on Tuesday who had come to the Court to catch a glimpse of the graffiti defendants - while the case was continued. Case Number 512081 has been re-scheduled to January 27, 2009. You can telephone J. Gallagher's scheduler Sheila Downs (216-348-4006) if you would like to confirm the January date is still "on".

The Court Watch activity which I have witnessed in other past graffiti cases is a bit like a posse/lynch mob. It may be in the interest of our civic space to balance the Court Watchers - especially with creative (e.g. - order public service message design and bill board painting) if there is a conviction.

court watching

I'm glad you stopped by; I was curious how/whether things were shaping.

There should be a Court Watch category on the Citizen Hauser calendar that Martha suggested.

Maybe better yet, the Cleveland Community Relations Board's Court Watch program could use its own calendar+discussion site to keep folks informed of important cases.

Isn't HEK an East Cleveland gang?

I just think some graffiti artists/taggers like to write it


  Taggers are juvenile delinquents.  Some people like to think of them as misunderstood artists.  They are messed up kids.  They need help, not encouragement.

Main Entry:
van·dal·ism Listen to the pronunciation of vandalism
: willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property


Graffiti is the human equivalent of scent marking (urine/feces/other) by animals to stake territory - usually public places, frequently at crossroads or boundaries (or in restrooms!)


Not so attractive when you compare it to peeing on a fire hydrant.... tells "who, where" with the "why and what" understood. Btw  -  adult ridicule or disapproval -  either one indicates that you're at least being noticed, which is better than being ignored (especially if you're young and unsure of your status.)


Now speaking of smells and fire hydrants ...I find those flashing, flickering huge electronic billboards on the sides of the Browns Stadium  (urine/feces/other).   Ohio Lottery, Budweiser, MBNA, etc.   

Those annoying marques are, as you point out, at crossroads (the shoreway) and rudely impose themselves on every passerby.

So how is it that they aren't grafitti too?  But whose being prosecuted....

Scent marking

  MM and I are of the same opinion on graffiti/tagging.  If it involves private property and the owner's permission has not been sought, then it constitutes a crime.  The grey area would be public structures.  Does defacing a bridge constitute a crime?  I still say that it does and it still amounts to scent marking.

Jeff, we could go on and on about ordinances and the legalities of billboards and how communities can protect themselves against offensive billboard/signage content and offensive imagery.

My own personal opinion--society is better off without graffiti and without billboards and over the top signage.

(*Susan--you will have to go after Jeff and after me on grammar usage--"whose?" :)

Who's sure whose stadium it really is?

whose is like mine  - it means belongs to:  "whose use of language is correct? = the use of which person is correct?   Whose bike, whose idea is it? Also hers, yours, his.


who's is abbreviation for who is.   As in "who's [who is] using language correctly." The apostrophe is standing in for a missing letter or word, in the case. Who's riding the bike? Who's getting my point? 

Wouldn't damaging or defacing public property (which our tax dollars then repair) be wrong? [And don't we own the stadium after all the taxes we've poured into it?]  


Whereas painting your own house an ugly color or letting your lawn become a meadow (attractive to some but neglect to others) is what local governments struggle with - it relates to personal taste. Taste - is what I have, but my neighbors lack.