The right to use chalk as an expression of free speech is currently upheld by the 9th circuit court decision of Mackinney vs. Neilson (1995) that states, “No chalk would damage a sidewalk.”
However, 17 Occupy LA protesters were recently arrested for chalking the sidewalk during an Artwalk in downtown LA. Some people are outraged at the Occupiers and some people are outraged at the police for an abuse of force. I have included 2 news articles below that I think give both sides a fair hearing, and unfolding of the events. The devil lies in the details of how these things unfold— and more often than not, the details of how protests emerge and unfold on the ground are often left out of the media most people consume. The details don’t fit in a 30 second sound-byte, they don’t make for good headlines. But the details of police escalation tactics against protesters will have a lasting effect on the future of dissent in this nation. I hope you’re paying attention.
KPCC: “Occupy LA acks for an investigation into Artwalk arrests”:
Or from the LA Times.
“Chalk draws Occupy L.A., LAPD into conflict over wider struggle”:
I like the LA times piece because it addresses the underlying struggle that has emerged across the nation between police and peaceful protesters since most OWS encampments have been cleared. It’s a dynamic that will shape the future of our society, and the future of dissent and peaceful protest in America. It might not be as sexy and eye catching as large occupy encampments, nor has it been making major headlines. It seems most people have stopped paying attention. Many think the Occupy Movement has gone away, or that it is over; which is a common assumption that is made, since the most visible aspects of OWS have been forcibly removed (with many court cases, and legal battles still pending on the legality of the evictions).
However, the movement has not gone away, and there are still many protests across the nation. May 1st or “Mayday” OWS protests drew thousands of protesters in numerous cities across the nation (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/occupy-wall-street-may-day-new-york-nypd-arrests-photos_n_1469113.html)
Occupy San Diego held a protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) on July 7th that drew several hundred, and inevitably several people were arrested under various charges.
While these events no longer seem to glean ‘media sex appeal’ they occur quite frequently. The dynamic emerging between peaceful protesters and police across the country is quite hostile, and continues to involve the same excessive displays of force against occupiers that were seen in the fall when the encampments were cleared, as the above LA Times article points out. Remember Mayor Bloomberg’s no fly zone, and frozen zone during the clearing of Zucotti Park, and the UC Davis pepper spray incident.
I believe constructive, peaceful dissent is one of the most patriotic activities a citizen can engage in. The ways of expressing such dissent are as multifarious as the citizens this nation contains. But when the ability to express dissent is continually met with excessive force, it dissuades individuals from expressing their critiques about society. And without critiques, our society cannot grow or change for the better.
The future of dissent in this nation hinges on the police reaction to these small protests, these scuffles, and the court cases that will inevitably follow.
One’s opinions or support for OWS are irrelevant for this discussion. It matters not if you support this cause. What matters is how your tax dollars are being spent, and the behavior of law enforcement agencies that receive them. If OWS protesters can be harassed, suppressed, and met with an overabundance of force, your cause and endeavors in free speech can too.
In a nation that bemoans the virtues of free speech, and the first amendment, it concerns me that no one seems to be paying attention anymore.