Revolution #275, July 22, 2012
Letter from a Reader:
Los Angeles Police Continue Their Brutal Suppression of Occupy Los Angeles
In a vicious and brutal show of force against Occupy LA, the Los Angeles police shot rubber bullets and arrested over a dozen people last Thursday night (7/12), as the occupiers were writing and drawing on the ground with chalk at the monthly downtown Art Walk. In the month leading up to Thursday night, the LAPD had been arresting OLA people for writing with chalk on the sidewalk, calling it “vandalism.” In response to those arrests, the occupiers called for people to go to the Art Walk where they would “non-confrontationally distribute vast amounts of ‘free chalk for free speech’ on the sidewalks of Art Walk to raise awareness about political repression, raise funds, and do outreach.”
This small and peaceful project was physically and politically attacked and criminalized by the Los Angeles Police Department and the mayor. There was a heavy police presence at the Art Walk from early in the evening. Occupiers among the thousands crowding the area handed out chalk, and people took it up. Sidewalks and walls of vacant buildings blossomed with colorful slogans, names, sayings, doodles, pictures and more. The confrontation began when police vamped on a young woman who was chalking and beat her down in front of hundreds of people, some of whom stepped up to help her. Then it was on.
The LAPD called a citywide tactical alert and sent hundreds of baton-wielding cops in riot gear into the area to push people back and clear the streets. Rubber bullets were fired; people were injured;15 people were arrested. People were outraged that this force and violence was arrayed against chalking. Occupy LA argues that chalking is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. The LA Times quoted a police captain who said chalking is “vandalism.” LA Mayor Antonio Villagrosa said, “That’s not free speech, that’s criminal behavior.”
One commentator asked, “Do they arrest people for hopscotch?” referring to the fact that children chalk the sidewalks so they can play hopscotch.
The reality is that the LAPD and the mayor are criminalizing dissent. These arrests are illegitimate and people need to stand up and oppose the repression against Occupy Los Angeles by the LAPD and LA City Hall.
Over the weekend chalking spread among other occupiers as one response to the outrageous police attack at the LA Art Walk.
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