NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - When Domenic Esposito's youngest brother was in the throes of addiction, the family would find burnt spoons - the tale tell sign that he had been doing drugs - scattered around the house.
Esposito's heart broke each time they found one.
So the artist-turned-activist picked an oversized spoon with cooked opioid as a symbol of protest.
Esposito placed one of his four-feet tall, 10-feet long Burnt Opiod Spoons on Johnson & Johnson's front door Wednesday. It was etched with the pharmaceutical giant's logo.
The 800-pound spoon remained the 800-pound gorilla in the entranceway for about an hour as Esposito spoke with security personnel.
It wasn't until police showed up that he agreed to put it back on its dollies and move it to a nearby sidewalk.
It stayed there for New Brunswick motorists and passersby to see until early afternoon.
Esposito has left spoon sculptures such as this one near the headquarters of other big pharma companies such as Purdue and Rhodes - companies he says are responsible for the country's opioid epidemic.
"It's a crazy system," Esposito told TAPinto New Brunswick on Thursday. "We're setting up people who have this disease of addiction for failure. So the spoon was just a cry for help. Where is the government? The pharmaceutical companies who created this epidemic, why aren't people taking it to their doorsteps?"
Getting the spoons to their doorsteps isn't easy. The Boston-based artist hauls them in a motorcycle trailer hitched to his F250 Ford truck. It takes three people and two dollies to move one of them.
Esposito, however, is driven by what happened to his brother and others. He decided to take action after speaking at a fundraiser for the Archdiocese of Providence in Rhode Island almost four years ago.
After the event, he said. "all these people were coming up to me, saying their sister, their son, their daughter was having a similar issue. My reaction was, 'Look at all these people.' This was my own hometown and people are devastated. Nobody's talking about it. It's this huge stigma around it.'"
An artist by trade, Esposito got the idea to make a big spoon and place it in front of the entrances of big pharma offices.
In August, an Oklahoma judge ordered J&J to pay $572 million to fix the ravages the opioid epidemic has caused the Sooner state's residents.
Cleveland County (Oklahoma) District Judge Thad Balkman ruled that the supplying and dispensing of opioids led to abuse of the drugs and overdose deaths across the nation.
It was also seen as a warning shot for J&J, Rhodes, Purdue and the others since there are more than 1,500 cases aimed at drug makers, retail pharmacy chains and distributors waiting to be heard in courts across the United States.
According to a statement by the New Brunswick-based pharmaceutical giant, “Johnson & Johnson did not cause the opioid crisis in Oklahoma or elsewhere. The production distribution of these raw materials and active pharmaceutical ingredients is tightly regulated by the U.S. FDA and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and our subsidiaries complied with these laws and regulations."
Esposito is trying to keep pressure and attention on Johnson & Johnson and others one spoon drop, as he calls them, at a time.
When he did a drop at Purdue's offices in Stamford, Conn. in 2018, local authorities had to close down a street as city workers used a front-end loader to scoop up the sculpture.
The spoon sculptures have also been used to raise awareness. They have been welcomed at opioid conferences and summits at various universities in New England. He recently took one sculpture on a 10-state tour.
"I knew it was going to a little bit of media when we did the first one," Esposito said, "but, I underestimated the extent. This whole thing has picked up so much momentum. I have been overwhelmed with it."