Artist who changed Hollywood sign to 'Hollyweed' surrenders to authorities

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

On Monday, the person responsible for changing the Hollywood sign in California to read "Hollyweed" as a new year's prank turned himself in to local authorities. 30-year-old artist Zachary Cole Fernandez surrendered himself, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said.

The Hollywood sign as it normally appears.
Image: Oreos.

According to LAPD, Fernandez went to the police station accompanied by his lawyer, where he confessed to have changed the sign and was bailed out shortly thereafter for US$1000. LAPD charged Fernandez with trespassing; earlier reports indicated vandalism charges were ruled out as he used black and white tarps to alter the letter "O" to read lowercase "e". The sign was not physically damaged.

A court hearing is scheduled for February 15. Fernandez said this act was an art project, and claimed he faces up to six months in prison if convicted. It took Fernandez two hours to alter the sign. Regarding conviction, he said, "I'm a person of integrity. If I do something wrong, I will own up to it."

Exactly 41 years ago, on the same date in 1976, then-university student Daniel Finegood modified the sign to read "Hollyweed" for an art class assignment. Finegood returned to change the sign again in 1990, spelling out "Oil War" to protest against the First Persian Gulf War. Fernandez, on Tuesday, said his act was to "bring light and positivity and happiness". He said he was inspired by Finegood's modification to the sign.

City Councilman David Ryu said in a statement. "Pranks of this nature deplete the resources of our valuable public safety personnel".

The term "weed" is an English slang term for cannabis, a banned drug in many countries. On November 9, a ballot for legalising recreational use of cannabis in California for the age group of 21 and above was passed. The law legalising recreational cannabis is due to come into effect in 2018.

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