Yonkers firefighter, artist arrested in NYC over anti-war poster
Artist and Yonkers firefighter Jeff Campion shows his anti-war art at his Yonkers home. Peter Carr/The Journal News
YONKERS — Law enforcement friends of Yonkers firefighter Jeff Campion often joked that his crusade for world peace and the safety of children would one day land him in jail. It finally did.
Campion, 49, who is active in children's charities including Ronald McDonald House, was arrested in New York City for hanging a poster of a boy holding a grenade and the words "Give Peace a Chance."
"The grenade in the boy's hand was a metaphor," for the pain and suffering of children around the world, Campion said in a Wednesday interview.
Campion, an anti-war activist and artist, said he was arrested by two NYPD detectives who saw him hanging the poster in Manhattan.
Campion said he told them he was a Yonkers firefighter, but they were "very curt," put him on the ground and handcuffed him.
He was held in central booking for 14 hours until a friend in the NYPD got him out of jail, Campion said.
"I couldn't believe it," said the 27-year veteran of the Yonkers Fire Department.
An NYPD spokesman said Wednesday that at 9 p.m. April 14 in front of 520 W. 20th St. in Manhattan, Campion, of 92 Main St., Yonkers, was charged with making graffiti, possession of graffiti equipment and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, misdemeanors.
The spokesman said Campion had a gravity knife.
Campion said he carries the "utility knife" as a tool on and off the job. Campion added that he had a removable poster and was not painting on the building.
"I am absolutely responsible for all of my actions," Campion said. "I am not a graffiti vandal."
He is an artist with a studio in Yonkers and describes himself as "completely anti-war." He calls his campaign for peace "an army of one."
Campion said his message in the poster was simply one for world peace on behalf of the safety of children.
Firefighters and Yonkers police officers who know Campion quickly defended him Wednesday.
Barry B. McGoey, president of the Yonkers firefighters union, said Campion was a good firefighter who worked tirelessly in his spare time for children with cancer. McGoey said he was unaware of the arrest until told by a reporter and could not comment on that.
"He is a kid that gives all of his time off duty to charity," said Yonkers Fire Commissioner Anthony Pagano, whose voice cracked as he discussed Campion. "He is the best. I can't believe it. I can't believe it was done maliciously. I am in shock. He is one of my best guys."
Pagano said he was unaware of the arrest and would investigate the case, but added that the firefighter probably would not be disciplined harshly, unless he was convicted of a crime.
"I would be shocked if this was something being done maliciously," Pagano said.
Yonkers police Detective Keith Olson, president of the Yonkers PBA, said Campion often worked with his union on a variety of charities.
"This is a good man," Olson said.