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'Barrel monster': Is it a crime, or is it art?

Even the owner of the purloined orange traffic barrels urges the D.A. not to prosecute.

A May 31 handout photo released by Joseph Carnevale shows a sculpture made of traffic barrels by Carnevale in Raleigh, N.C.. Carnevale says he didn't have a grandiose point to make when he chopped up orange-and-white traffic barrels and turned them into a massive statue of a hitchhiking roadside monster. But the North Carolina college student has become a celebrity artist of sorts since city police charged him with possession of stolen goods.

Courtesy of Joseph Carnevale/AP

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Only months after the arrest of Shepard Fairey, the Obama "Hope" poster artist who's battling the Associated Press over copyright issues, another guerilla artist is facing charges – this time for creating a hitchhiking "monster" out of stolen orange traffic barrels.

A worldwide outpouring of support for the soft-spoken and billy-goateed Joe Carnevale – whose very last name hints at anti-authoritarian whimsy – has put pressure on a district attorney in Raleigh, N.C. to drop larceny charges.

With more than 3,000 people from as far away as Korea and Brazil joining a Facebook group calling for charges to be thrown out, Mr. Carnevale's monster stunt touches on the growing legitimacy and celebrity of guerrilla artists. In many ways, sympathy for Carnevale stems from a cultural resistance to authority and the celebration of harmless fun in the face of overly serious prosecutors.

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