Chalk Walk Protesters Rebuff Villaraigosa

chalk walk kidAfter last Thursday night’s Downtown LA Art Walk melee, the City blames Chalk Walk organizers for the mini riot and Chalk Walk participants blame the City for excessive show of force, violence, abuse of power, and selective enforcement.

Los Angeles City Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, told reporters that what Chalk Walkers did was against the law and not protected by the Constitution.

“That’s not free speech, that’s criminal behavior,” the Mayor told news crews after Art Walk.

Now, participants of Chalk Walk accuse the mayor of similar “criminal behavior”.

As Stephen Box pointed out, on March 7, 2009, rhe Mayor, City Councilmen, and other officials handed out  boxes of yellow chalk to be used on the streets and sidewalks of Sunset Blvd to welcome cyclist Lance Armstrong into town to raise funds for Armstrong’s Hope Rides Again art campaign sponsored by Nike.

99 percent

The City allowed iconic artist, Shepard Fairey, to use yellow chalk on the side of a building to draw an image for the event.  Fairey later donated $15,000 to Occupy LA after he used a picture of one of the participants of Occupy LA to create the Time Magazine cover for Person of the Year 2011, the Activist.
Apparently, the city believes their chalking event is legal because they had a permit. However, the box the chalk comes in seems to encourage what the Mayor calls criminal behavior.

The bright yellow box of chalk they handed out for Armstrong specifically says, “Show your commitment to the cause by filling sidewalksdriveways, and any blank canvas with your statement of intent, encouragement and inspiration.” Presumably, the box suggests that people do such things without permits.

From online photos, it appears at least one participant in the chalking for Armstrong took liberties forFreedom of Expression against the Mayor by writing “The Mayor is a Fool”.

Chalk Walkers also say the Mayor endorses Ciclavia which shuts down the streets for people to walk, bike, and chalk in the streets without worrying about cars.  The city allows chalk art in the streets for this event.

Chalk Walkers say the Venice Boardwalk is covered in advertised chalk art from Pepsi and others.

In addition, there was an anti-walmart permitted protest in Chinatown several weeks ago. Photos from the event show chalk written all over the streets.

Participants of Occupy LA that attended the walmart protest –which union and non-profits organized – said that action had no arrests and no riot gear.

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.

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 one’s own tires in certain circumstances.

Again, the City will argue that these events have permits yet they fail 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.

“Chalkvists”, activists who use chalk for their activism, say the intimidation, arrests, and violence from Thursday was not simply about chalk but about political repressing their movement since they have now focused in Central City Association, a business lobbying organization, which activists say has displaced small business owners, minorities, and homeless from down town for decades and lobbied against the 99%’s interest in favor of the 1%.

LAPD had made a dozen arrests of activists before Thursday and activists were their outreach to the community regarding the repression.

Cheryl Aichele
Occupy LA

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.

Posted: Thursday, 19 July 2012



  1. Joe29 says

    Cheryl Alchele,

    Comparing the Occupy Art Walk crashers to the March 7, 2009, Lance Armstrong Livestrong Charity Event is like comparing apples to oranges. The Lance Armstrong event was a City permitted event designed for the purpose of raising money for cancer research. The people drawing with chalk at this event had the approval of the City and the property owners.

    The Occupy “movement’ crashed the Art Walk and without the approval of the property owners or the City, began to deface private and public property with chalk. This is a violation of Penal Code section 594 regarding defacement and vandalism. What makes this different from the Livestrong Charity Event, this was a City permitted event to raise money for charity and the chalking that occurred at this event occurred with the consent and approval of the City and private property owners. The point being that without approval of the property owner, whether it be private or public, one cannot deface property that is not your own. This is vandalism.

    Occupy has no agenda and no focus and its pathetic excuses for damaging local businesses, struggling farmer’s markets and struggling artists is criminal. Also, your excuses for Occupy’s pathetic attempt to draw attention to itself by crashing the popular Art Walk is pathetic.

    And by the way, who gave you the right to be the “unofficial leader” of Occupy L.A.; a blonde, unemployed, Anglo, marijuana advocate from the granola crunching capital and the whitest major city in the U.S., Portland, Oregon? Is it your intent to destroy minority owned businesses in DTLA? In short, go home, L.A. doesn’t need you!

  2. S.A. Artist says

    Unofficial response from Occupy Santa Ana = keep up the good work Cheryl A.
    keep truth from being squashed by money. 

  3. Joe Maizlish says

    Aside from questions of legality there are some simple matters: 1. proportionality (what is an appropriate response to this level of violation — if it is a violation), 2. objective (if there is an intention to support events like artwalk, why make a mess of the event by using force to interferie with what is, after all, artspeech), and 3. prioritization of the use of law enforcement (really, is this the best to do with officers’ time?). 

    Joe Maizlish
    Los Angeles

  4. says

    It seems that any expression of dissent has become intolerable.  Writing a few slogans with chalk is intolerable.  Meanwhile Billionaires flood the airwaves with noise for the election.

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