FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LAPD USE EXCESSIVE FORCE ON OCCUPIERS AT DOWNTOWN ARTWALK
Artwalk Attendees Caught in the Crossfire of LAPD against Occupiers
LOS ANGELES – Members of Occupy Los Angeles took part in this week’s Downtown LA Art Walk with “Free Chalk for Free Speech” after 12 LAPD arrests of Occupiers for chalking on the public sidewalks in the last 5-6 weeks. LAPD made 17 arrests Thursday night. Most of the arrests were people attending the artwalk and not associated with Occupy LA. In addition, most of the arrests were for chalking.
Sometime after 7pm, LAPD made their first arrest and began pushing occupiers with batons and yelling for them to move. Cops pushed activists into the street while others officers yelled for the people to get out of the street.
“The police provoked us,” said an unnamed Occupier, “I was pushed by cops into a garbage can, a parked car, and eventually into the street, where I was ordered back onto the crowded sidewalk I had just been pushed from.”
Occupiers feel LAPD has targeted them in attempt to silence their dissent and stop their actions.
Before the cops in riot gear came out, there was a group of people including children playing hopscotch on the sidewalk on Spring Street between 5th and 6th Streets. There are reports that police were violent with some of the chalk arrests, shortly after 9pm.
“They arrested a woman for chalking at stick figure,” says Karolina Szymanska, “They took her from the back and as they were handcuffing her they slammed her to the ground. She was a small woman there was no reason to use such force.”
In a photo, there are two cops on top of top of the woman with at least 8 officers surrounding her while facing a crowd. This is the incident that led the crowd to respondviscerally to the injustices perpetrated by the LAPD.
Occupiers claim the LAPD started the violence and say if they were allowed to chalk, that none of the subsequent actions would have happened.
LAPD had made at least 7 arrests by 9pm. By 10pm there were hundreds of LAPD officers in riot gear. At least four people were shot with “stinger balls”. One young man was shot in the chest and bleeding from the impact. Another guy was shot in the face.
“The LAPD shot indiscriminately into the crowd at close range,” said another witness said, “I was trying to talk to the media and as we were talking a projectile was shot in between us”.
In a letter dated June 4, Carol Sobel, a Civil Rights lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, explained to the Special Assistant for Constitutional Policing for the LAPD that the 9th Circuit unanimously held that “no chalk would damage a sidewalk” in MacKinney v. Nielsen from 1995.
“Given that this decision is now 18 years old, there is no excuse for these arrests,” states Sobel in the letter.
Occupiers say LA’s current graffiti laws do not reflect the Constitutional ruling yet. Activist point out that elected officials and police officers are sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution. However, many Occupiers feel individuals of these entities systematically repress their Rights.
The City of Orlando recently spent $200,000 defending a chalk-art arrest of an Occupier in Florida. The city lost that case and activists say that the City of Los Angeles could waste millions of dollars defending the chalking arrests.
Occupiers believe the LAPD selectively enforces the graffiti laws against them while the City’s own Parking Enforcement officers use chalk on the tires of vehicles they wish to monitor for time restrictions.
The activist also say, that the police did not arrest any activists at an anti-Walmart protest, two weeks ago, in downtown organized by Labor unions and other community groups. From photos of the event, it clearly had plenty of chalk art written on the pavement surrounding the activities.
Activists argue the chalk comes in packaging marketed for sidewalk use and that the water-soluble chalk does not cause damage or leave a mark.
Members of Occupy LA allege that City Officials violate Title 42 Chapter 21, subsection 1, section 1983 for Federal law and California Civil Code 52.1. They say LAPD officers— under the color of law— interfere with their exercise and enjoyment of their Rights by threats, intimidation, and coercion and subjects them to deprivation of their rights.
To avoid prosecution, the City required dozens of Occupy LA arrestees to take a First-Amendment-Rights class administered through the City Attorney’s office. Now, Occupy LA says it is the City that needs a lesson in the First Amendment.
Occupiers say Courtroom witnesses have been threatened with arrest; Occupiers have been arrested for chalk art; and they say are victims of police misconduct.
Over six months after Envoys of the United Nations wrote a letter to the Obama Administration, the U.S. government has yet to response to requests regarding local repression of the Occupy movement. Members of Occupy LA plan to push the issue with local and federal governments after alleged increase of Rights violations by LAPD.
*PLEASE NOTE: This was written by an individual participant in Occupy LA but is not an official statement. All official statements have to have consensus from Occupy LA's general assembly.