FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2012
CHALK WALK 2: OCCUPY LA OCCUPIES THE DOWNTOWN LA ART WALK WITH A TWIST
Members of Occupy LA Plan to Have a Peaceful Event in Pershing Square the Night of DTLA Art Walk
LOS ANGELES – Members of Occupy Los Angeles plan to peacefully occupy this week’s Downtown LA Art Walk from Pershing Square where they hope to create a “community space” with the theme: A Better World is Possible. Participants hope the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) can stay peaceful this month after last month’s near riot caused in part by excessive police force.
On July 12, 2012, Occupiers planned to have a peaceful event of public outreach and awareness called Chalk Walk at the DTLA Art Walk, after 12 LAPD arrests of Occupiers for water-soluble chalk on public sidewalks. These 12 arrests occurred the six weeks prior to the Chalk Walk event and began only after the group started to target the Central City Association, a local lobbying group.
This month Occupiers take a different approach by setting up an open community art and music space in Pershing Square with a community potluck and a “Really Really Free” Market.
Occupiers also plans to have a portion of the evening dedicated to the victims of LAPD violence at last month’s event including those arrested for chalking, those injured by police projectiles and other law enforcement weaponries, small businesses and artists who had to shut down early, and residents and patrons who the LAPD kept from entering or existing buildings until early the next morning.
This Thursday, Occupiers will also provide some legal training with lawyers and legal observers to help protect activists during public demonstrations. The group will also have people designated to help deescalate situations, should they arise.
“This is a non-violent, peaceful family event” states a Facebook event page for the action, “we plan on confining it to Pershing Square and we hope the city can allow us this day to celebrate art and community, unobstructed.”
The group even hopes to have a “Brooms and Buckets Brigade” to help clean up after the festivities.
On July 25, 2012, Occupy LA passed a proposal to Chalkupy the World. This proposal acts as an official statement, to other Occupy and non-occupy groups, to request they do community-organized solidarity actions around the world. So far, the International Council in London, the people from the Spanish Indignatos, and members of Occupy Oregon have offered to get the word out worldwide.
In LA, the police have literally crack down on chalking on sidewalks, however the Occupy group points out that the City allowed the DTLA Art Walk to do its own graffiti on the sidewalks just three months earlier.
Chalk Walk activists accuse Joe Moller, the Downtown Art Walk Executive Director, of allowing Street King, an energy drink company that sponsored the April 2012’s event, to spray paint their logo on the public sidewalk within and around the DTLA Art Walk area. When residents complained about the commercial abuse of public space, Moller said the logos were temporary. Yet the logos can still be seen on the sidewalks of Little Tokyo and on Winston Street.
“When Joe Moller spray painted the sidewalks there was no riot cops or rubber bullets,” said an organizer, “go figure.”
Occupiers have accused the LAPD of excessive show and use of force at last month’s DTLA Art Walk where at least 17 arrests occurred with at least half a dozen injuries. Participants say the LAPD beat some peaceful people and shot others with “less-lethal” projectiles. Some victims were hit in the face with “stinger balls”, one victim had 4 separate impact wounds from rubber bullets, and other participants were pepper sprayed and possibly pepper gassed.
On the very same day as the last DTLA Art Walk, the LA Times wrote an article about a July 11, 2012 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said Police could be held liable for shooting projectiles into a crowd to disperse peaceful people.
After the last DTLA Art Walk, Occupiers attended a LAPD Board of Commissioners meeting to register their complaints.
The following week some Occupiers returned to City Council Chambers (after the council returned from a two week recession) and they asked why the council took no action when the group appeared before them weeks earlier (before the recess) to address the issue of political repression via chalking arrests by LAPD.
The Tuesday after the last DTLA Art Walk, a small group of Occupiers began doing outreach in the community. The group handed out a press release from the original Chalk Walk and a briefing statement that they had read before last month’s action.
Some of those organizers went on to organize a Downtown LA Community Town Hall, that was not an official Occupy LA event, to listen to the community’s concerns and hopes for the future. Over seventy participants discussed Free Expression at Art Walk, Occupies presence at Art Walk, and the police brutality from the month before.
In a letter dated June 4, 2012, Carol Sobel, a Civil Rights attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, explained to the Special Assistant of Constitutional Policing for the LAPD that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 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.
Participants of Occupy LA say the LAPD told them they made chalking arrest under California Penal Code 594. Activists argue that the police would have to prove probable cause that the participants “maliciously” defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material, damaged, or destroyed real or personal property not belonging to the arrestee to qualify under that penal code.
“The police and prosecutors will have to prove that chalk on a side walk constitutes malice, evil, or immoral activity,” states one Chalk Walk organizer and Occupy participant, “The malicious nature of washable chalk will just have to be challenged in court.”
Furthermore, activists say that one common definition of “inscribed” includes permanent marking, not a washable coloration.
Occupiers point out that the City Attorney has thus far declined to prosecute any of the chalking arrest.
Members of Occupy LA allege that City Officials violate Title 42 Chapter 21, subsection 1, section 1983 of Federal law and California Civil Code 52.1. They say LAPD officers— under the color of law— interfere with the exercise and enjoyment of their Rights by threats, intimidation, and coercion and subject them to deprivation of their rights with these chalking arrests.
Video evidence of July’s DTLA Art Walk clearly shows participants reading California Civil Code 52.1 to LAPD officers.
To avoid prosecution, for other petty crimes including failure to disperse from City Hall Park, the City required dozens of Occupy LA arrestees to take a First-Amendment-Rights class administered through the City Attorney’s office. Now, members of Occupy LA says it is the City that needs a lesson in the Rights secured by First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
The City of Orlando recently spent $200,000 defending chalking arrests 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 20 or so chalking arrests in the last two months.
Occupiers believe the LAPD selectively enforces the graffiti laws against them while the City’s own Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa handed out boxes of yellow chalk in 2009 when cyclist Lance Armstrong rode through Hollywood as part of a Nike Sponsored event. The boxes of chalk, the Mayor and others handed out, specifically encouraged the public to write statements of support on “sidewalks, driveways, and any blank canvas.” Photos from the event show people, in traffic, on Sunset Blvd drawing in the streets at night.
The Mayor told reporters after last month’s DTLA Art Walk that he considers the activities of the chalkers “criminal behavior” and not a form of Free Speech. Occupiers also say that the Mayor’s double standards extend beyond chalk. A week after the last Art Walk, City Hall Park reopened and Occupiers say the Mayor broke 3 of the new park rules during his opening ceremonies.
Some have said the Mayor got a permit for amplified sounds, a generator, and to be on the “landscaped” portion of the park but critics question if the Mayor really got a permit before the violations occurred.
In addition, chalk activists say LA Parking Enforcement officers use chalk on the tires of vehicles they wish to monitor for time restrictions and the LAPD might use chalk to outline the bodies of corpses in investigations.
The activists also say that the police did not arrest any participants at an anti-Walmart protest, in July, in Chinatown, organized by Labor unions and other community groups. From photos of the event, it clearly had plenty of chalk art written on the streets surrounding the activities. In addition, the bi-annual out-in-the-streets event, Ciclavia often has chalk drawings in the street as well.
Over six months after Envoys of the United Nations wrote a letter to the U.S. government, the government has yet to response to requests to answer questions regarding local repression by law enforcement of the Occupy movement. Members of Occupy LA plan to push the issue with local and federal governments after alleged increases of Rights violations by LAPD.
Occupiers feel LAPD has targeted them in attempt to silence their dissent and stop their actions. Courtroom witnesses have been threatened with arrest.
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*PLEASE NOTE: This was written by an individual participant in Occupy LA but it is not an official statement. All official statements have to have consensus from Occupy LA's General Assembly.