I thought this was behind us. Another North Beach art gallery, open just four months, was vandalized recently. The historical home of San Francisco poets, artists, bohemians, City Lights bookstore, of Ginsberg’s Howl that they tried to suppress in the ’50s – can do better than this.

Remember 2004? The Iraq war polarized the country and North Beach wasn’t immune. Right after Abu Ghraib Capobianco Gallery on Powell near Filbert hung a painting of Iraqi prisoners tortured by American troops. The gallery was vandalized, eggs splattered the window, trash dumped high in the doorway. The owner got hundreds of emails and voicemails threatening her life and the lives of her two small children. She was spat upon. A man came to the door and when she opened it he punched her in the face and broke her nose. Dozens of North Beach residents protested the violence and supported free expression. But the painting was removed and the gallery closed.

Here we go again. Gallery 454 on Columbus hung a painting in the window last month and this gallery too was attacked. Saturday I blogged about the Abrams tank in the gallery that stopped me in my tracks. But it wasn’t the tank that was the target.

Oh are you offended?

Soon after the current exhibit, {Control} “Sex, Money, Power”, opened, Nick Flatt, the gallery curator and artist-in-residence, saw a crowd staring at his window as he approached to open the gallery that morning. He thought something was up with the tank but it was a painting of a sexy threesome hung inside that was vandal’s target. “As the father of a daughter I find that painting offensive,” was scrawled in lipstick on the display window.

I caught up with Nick today. He said the tank caused some furor but nothing like the painting. Pressure from neighbors forced him to move the painting to the back wall of the gallery behind the tank. He said, “We had to tone it down.”  Free expression chilled once again.

“We were going to post a sign in the window but didn’t.” The message – “Thank you for using vandalism to show us proper etiquette.”

Lucky for us Nick is unbowed. He’s currently working on a new piece that hangs as a work-in-progress. Stand up for freedom of expression. Stand up for the artists in the Village. Stop by to see the exhibit and check out Nick’s work on the painting near the front window. He thinks it will be done in a few weeks. I saw his sketch. I can’t wait!