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One more statistic: At least one art purchase was made by a cop. Phoenix Police Officer A.C. Myers bought a $40 photograph of himself in riot gear that Holga's Ian Wender snapped at an anti-war protest in downtown Phoenix in 2003.

"He saw it over my shoulder when he was standing outside my apartment and I opened the door," says Wender. "Maybe all these cops aren't such a bad thing after all."


If the police presence in Evans-Churchill that hot August night had a palpable air of Prohibition, then Grand Avenue had an almost Dionysian flair, with pedestrians openly flaunting 40-ounce bottles of Miller Lite and Milwaukee's Best as they moved between art spaces.

"Dude, hold up, I gotta gets me some Sparks," calls one gangly, mop-topped kid in a black "I Surfed the Tsunami 2004" tee shirt before ducking into Hermano's Liquor & Market on Grand, near 13th Avenue. As his buds wait on the sidewalk outside the double drive-through liquor store located near the Cone Gallery, they puff on Bronco Ultra Lights and discuss where they're heading after peeping the punk-rock showcase of local pink-haired songstress Niki Kwik, who's playing at Four White Walls a couple blocks away.

After a few minutes, their amigo returns and pops open a 16-ounce can of the malt liquor energy drink wrapped in a brown paper bag, taking a huge sip. "Fuck yeah, now I'm ready to drop it like it's hot."

Down at The Red Door, a fanciful gallery run by Indigo Verton, a comely bartender named Melissa (who declines to give her last name) is serving up glasses of red and white Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's to art connoisseurs. There's also homemade toasted almond ice cream in Dixie cups and the urban surrealism of graffiti artists Mac Cape, Fyse, and Joerael Elliott. Melissa's no dummy; she's checking IDs to keep the vino away from the underage crowd. And Verton bought real wine glasses for the night.

"It's a nice and pleasant thing to offer guests," she says. "Offering wine usually gets people staying the five or seven minutes it takes to finish their wine, and they get to appreciate the art and maybe stop and talk to us instead of making a horseshoe through the gallery. It's better than having a keg at the door, that's for sure."

Verton keeps an eye out all evening, expecting a troop of badged bureaucrats to darken her doorstep, as word of what is going down along Roosevelt Row spreads to the west end of the downtown arts scene as numerous partygoers fled Evans-Churchill. But the police never come.


After First Friday officially wraps, the night is far from over. Hepcats convene inside their usual post-art-walk hangout at the Bikini Lounge at 15th Avenue and Grand, hashing the details of what just occurred. One dreadlocked and tattooed customer compares the situation to the Beastie Boys' legendary video for "Sabotage," with cops screaming around in cars busting into buildings as a part of some preplanned operation.

And thus begins the spin.

Within hours of galleries closing for the night, word of the crackdown began to spread across the Internet. The next morning, the Arizona Republic had no word of anything but peace, but before most partygoers had rolled out of bed and sipped the first latte of the day, Greg Esser had sent out an e-mail headed "August First Friday: Was it the storm or the stormtroopers?"

Esser says he was referring to Star Wars, not Nazis. Either way, he -- along with Alwun House co-owner Kim Moody, artist/Grand Avenue property owner Beatrice Moore and artist/musician Bruce Gabriel -- woke up city officials. Mailing lists and message boards around the Valley were mobbed with creative ideas for protests, like decorating galleries to look like crack houses. Some artists threatened to go on "strike."

On the afternoon of August 6, a group of gallery owners and art activists held an impromptu confab in the cramped side room of MADE Art Boutique. It seemed more like a council of war, as a gathering containing pacifists like JRC (his legal name) and Stephanie Carrico of the Trunk Space and Michael 23 of Thought Crime were employing militaristic phrases like "organized front" and "going to war."

The smarter artists figured out how to make the night's events work for them.

On Sunday, August 7, Esser fired off an e-mail to Mayor Phil Gordon and City Manager Frank Fairbanks, which he copied to four city bureaucrats. While clearly upset about the city presence two nights before, Esser had another, more personal motivation: problems with the city's Development Services department.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.