Chalktivists in LA Refuse to Allow the Police State Deter Them from ‘Assembling and Seeking Justice’ for Their Community

Posted on August 3, 2012


On the evening of July 12, 2012, some Occupy Los Angeles participants met at DTLA Art Walk, a monthly art-walk in Downtown Los Angeles. The Occupiers met with the intent to raise awareness of the unlawful arrests of activists that had been protesting a local lobbing group, Central City Association (CCA). Many of the arrests were in response to the activists chalking outside of the CCA offices to bring attention to the corporation’s ongoing gentrification and domination of the downtown area.

The July 12 gathering at DTLA Art Walk was planned to be informative, peaceful, and kid-friendly. As the “chalktivists” informed passers-by of the unlawful arrests through their artwork, they also passed out chalk so that members of the community could take the opportunity to express their grievances of injustice and messages of support and solidarity for the arrested activists.

While the event was in full-swing, with local residents strolling the streets, Los Angeles Police showed up in riot gear to bust up the chalking. Yes – they actually showed up to an art-walk in riot gear to arrest people for chalking. As police began to churn out orders and make arrests, the art-walk was completely disrupted and patrons inside the neighborhood’s businesses were not able to leave; they watched from the windows as arrests were made.

Although people were confused by the police response, at first things stayed relatively calm. Then police formed a line in front of remaining chalkers, insisting that the chalk be immediately removed (although it was reported to have been raining at the time); in response, the Occupiers formed a chain and began chanting.

In an effort to diffuse the situation, a patron walked into the middle of police and Occupiers and drew a simple, smiling, stick figure. In an instant, she was tackled to the ground by police. Her boyfriend attempted to come to her aid, but he was thrown of the way. For a simple stick figure drawing, the patron was grabbed, flipped over, dropped face down onto the asphalt, pinned to the ground with a knee in her back, and arrested.

Art-walk attendees and other patrons present were astounded and furious at the police’s excessive actions in response to a peaceful chalk art demonstration and flooded into the streets. The police upped the violent force and fired into the crowd with tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and foam grenades, resulting in chaos, several more arrests, and numerous injuries.

Participants of Occupy Los Angeles have been researching legal avenues and attending meetings with local ‘officials’. They say that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals “previously ruled in the favor of chalk as a form of constitutionally protected Freedom of Expression”, and based on case-law, LA “chalktivists” injured by police while peacefully assembling the art-walk may be able to hold police liable for their injuries.

In response the the events of that night, and the LAPD’s violent attack on free speech and peaceful assembly, Occupy Los Angeles, by General Assembly consensus, issued a call for a global “day of direct action for rights against state violence” and “solidarity for protesters and communities that experience state violence, censorship, and repression throughout the World.” Chalkupy the World will take place on August 9, largely centered around the theme, “A Better World is Possible”.

An excerpt from the Occupy LA consensus statement says, “[LAPD] shot the crowd with the near lethal force of rubber bullets and foam grenades to incite fear and panic so that their violent intervention would appear justified;” “More than that, these acts of terror by the police state will not deter us from assembling and seeking justice for our communities.”

From Occupy LA: “On August 9th, Occupy Los Angeles calls for you to fill your squares and take your streets and sidewalks with chalk. Call to all people everywhere to show that dissent is as simple as writing your grievances on the sidewalk, as accessible as hopscotch in the streets- reclaiming public space and engaging in public dialogue and expression. Join us (if you’re close enough) for a day of solidarity and fun to celebrate the human spirit and chalk for our collective liberation. Together we will remake the art of public life in our alley ways, on the doorsteps of banks whose only allegiance is to profit, and in the streets built by our labor.

NOTE: Be aware that your actions make evoke a police response and it is important all participants are familiar with local private and public property laws so that they can assess their own level of risk and make informed decisions.”

-Selena Braden



*Written on August 1, 2012



Sources: Chalkwalk Turns Ugly, by RFTFL, 07/14/2012 (from on 07/30/2012); LAPD PUSH, SHOOT, KICK MAN IN FACE, ARREST HIM AT ARTWALK, Submitted by OLA Web Team, 07/15/2012 (from on 07/30/2012); CHALKERS SAYS LAPD OFFICERS MAY BE LIABLE FOR ARTWALK INJURIES, Submitted by Herbalicious, 07/25/2012 (from on 07/30/2012); OCCUPY LA DECIDES TO CHALKUPY THE WORLD, Submitted by Herbalicious, 07/27/2012 (from on 07/30/2012); #A9 Call for Global Day of Action – Chalkupy the World, Submitted by Lyssa Strata, 07/28/2012 (from on 07/30/2012).

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