Participants of Chalk Walk say the City has two Sets of Rules for them and others
LOS ANGELES – City Hall Park opened Thursday morning with the Mayor, Antonio Vallaraigosa, and LAPD Chief, Charlie Beck, who spoke to an invite-only crowd from the grass just west of the south steps at LA City Hall.
Each spoke from a podium with a microphone, two large speakers, and a genitor powering the amplification about 20 feet away from a new sign that specifically says “no generators or sound amplification”.
Member of the public, including Occupy Los Angeles participants, were kept out of the park until the Mayor and Chief finished speaking. However, they were able to take photos of the sign with the generator in the back ground and of the podium with microphone and speakers on the grass.
Some Occupiers accuse the Mayor, Chief, and City of double standards for Occupy Activists.
“The Mayor and Chief broke two of the rules before the park was even open to the public,” said one Occupier in attendance. “If we showed up with a generator and amplified sound, the city would send in hundreds of riot cops to shoot rubber bullets into our faces.”
Participants of Occupy LA also say the Mayor himself has contradictory standards for chalk as well. The Mayor told reporters that what activists did during July’s Downtown LA Artwalk was against the law and not protected by the Constitution.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said "vandalism has always been illegal" and defended the city's approach to Occupy L.A. "That’s not free speech, that’s criminal behavior,” the Mayor told news crews after Art Walk.
However, in 2009, the Mayor, City Councilmen, and other officials handed out boxes of yellow chalk to be used on Sunset Blvd to promote cyclist Lance Armstrong’s Hope Rides Again art campaign sponsored by Nike. The boxes specifically encourage people to use the chalk on “sidewalks, driveways, and any blank canvas.”
From photos, it appears that many did just that, even in the streets with traffic.
The City even allowed Iconic artist, Shepard Fairey, to draw on the “blank canvass” on the side of a building. Occupiers say the Mayor himself promoted activity he now calls “criminal behavior”. Activists say LAPD has made multiple arrests for chalking but only when Occupiers take part.
The Occupy LA chalking arrests began at the end of May when some Occupiers decided to start camping nightly from 9pm to 6am outside of the Central City Association’s offices and protesting the local lobbying group’s events.
LAPD had made a dozen Occupy-related chalking arrests before what they call “Chalk Walk”.
Some occupiers accuse the Central City Association (CCA) for playing a role in the chalking arrests since Occupy LA has always had chalk at their events but chalking arrests only started happening after the CCA encampment began.
Some Occupy activists say the Mayor endorses Ciclavia, a bi-annual event which closes down more 10 miles of roads to vehicles to make the streets safe for people to walk, skate, play, ride, and write on.
Activists say chalk has occurred at Ciclavia with no arrests or riot gear. They also say that on June 30th, at an Anti-Walmart protest in Chinatown, protesters chalked on the streets again with no arrests or riot gear at that event either.
Chalk Walkers say the Venice Boardwalk is covered in advertised chalk art from Pepsi Cola Company and others.
Furthermore, the week before Chalk Walk, the LA Times featured an article about the Weingart Center’s chalk-art campaign to raise money via text messaged donations for homeless in downtown. Yet again this event had no arrests or riot gear.
Additionally, the City’s own Parking Enforcers use chalk on private property when they mark tires of vehicles they wish to monitor for time restrains. However, it is illegal to remove that chalk from those tires in certain circumstances.
The City may argue that those non-occupy related events had permits.
Yet Occupiers say the City fails to acknowledge the Constitutional ruling of chalk as Free Speech by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in MacKinney v. Neilsen 1995, which specifically states: “No reasonable person can think chalk could damage a sidewalk.”
“It seems like the city will only allow chalk on sidewalks if someone pays to get a permit,” said one Chalk Walker, “It’s called Free Speech for a reason, it’s supposed to be free for all people, not commodified for corporate sponsors and monied interests.”
Chalk Walkers even question whether the City of Los Angeles even has a permit specifically allowing chalking.
# # #
*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.