On Thursday night, Occupy Los Angeles will pick up its chalk and write all over Pershing Square. Guests are coming in from Oakland and elsewhere, and talk is that Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan will be in the house. No doubt, LAPD show up again too, once again meeting chalk with sometimes-not-lethal projectiles, and people will be wounded and arrested for insisting on their right to free speech in this most innocuous of media. You and I both know that's your plan.
You and I both know what happened four weeks ago, when OLA took its chalk to the monthly downtown Art Walk, and you and Chief Charlie let loose hundreds of cops with sometimes-lethal weapons to bring down people chalking in the streets. There were weapons fired, people injured, and nineteen arrests of people brazenly deciding to defy orders and write in chalk on downtown streets. All but one or two were art patrons, not members of Occupy Los Angeles, who exercised their right to draw stick figures and “I <3 the Police.” And even though this time the Occupy chalkers have moved their event blocks way from the visitors to Art Walk, no doubt Chief Charlie will arrive with guns blazing.
Before all that goes down, here's an article with an interesting twist: why Our Fair City might be really happy to shut down Art Walk and (bonus!) get to blame Occupy Los Angeles for its demise. According to the LA Weekly, the local restaurateurs are complaining about food trucks at Art Walk, and the whole thing is getting legally messy and expensive.
You know that City Hall sent a message to the press today, in preparation for Thursday's brouhaha, with another little flurry about how Occupy Los Angeles cost the City millions and millions of dollars, even though you and I know nearly all of that expense was the City's over-reaction. Fourteen hundred cops to remove, what, three or four hundred protesters who sat down and waited to be arrested? That was a sweet Christmas bonus from our otherwise broke City. And a million dollars to replace less than two acres of lawn? Whoever authorized that one was on some killer shit—I would have learned how to landscape and done it personally for a tenth of that. And speaking of drugs, who came up with an ordinance months after you tore down Occupy LA to keep people from pitching tents on public property? Was there some mass influx of urban campers into Los Angeles? No, this is all retaliation for snubbing the Democrats.
Way back in October, the City Council and LAPD were wooing OLA with we-love-you resolutions and gifts of rain gear and tents and food. And then there was your proposal: an office and a garden patch and god knows what else. OLA said no, it wasn't going to be the Tea Party of the Democratic Party, and the courtship was over. The brutality began, and you and Chief Charlie have been escalating it since.
How many arrests have there been for petty infractions? How much jail time for nothing, or for offenses that could have been cite and release? How many times have I witnessed the cops pick off one straggler in an Occupy march, tackle them to the ground, and throw them into a cruiser, or cry “assault” because some occupier bumped into a cop who'd gotten too close? A couple of months ago, Chief Charlie was hauling people to jail for chalking anti-CCA, anti-capitalist messages on the sidewalk outside the Central City Association offices at 626 Wilshire Blvd. That led to OLA looking for a safe place to chalk, or at least a place where a few arrests for chalking might be exposed and called out by art patrons. Instead, you sent in the Marines. OK, ex-Marines. All this at taxpayer expense because OLA wouldn't go to bed with the Democrats.
Last Friday, some members of Occupy Los Angeles helped organize a town hall meeting with downtown residents and business people to diffuse tensions. Last Saturday, less than 24 hours later, ten or twelve cops showed up at Pershing Square to take away one person for chalking. One person who was sitting quietly in the police car for half an hour while a dozen of your officers milled around and picked up pieces of chalk with latex gloves and dropped them into a paper bag.
This Thursday, you could shut the streets down and let people chalk until they drop. The clean up would be a lot cheaper than another tactical alert, and there's still that little budget problem you need to deal with, isn't there? Or you could go on cutting City services to keep all the on-duty police on the clock past their shift in a tactical alert to prevent a citywide outbreak of criminal chalking.
But you could admit you've overreacted, that your own City Attorney can't figure out how to prosecute the arrestees, and that free expression is better for the City and for democracy than police suppression of speech. You could say that Occupy Los Angeles isn't a threat to public safety, that occupiers have the right to free expression, that this isn't China, and that you don't want to go into the Democratic National Convention with the notoriety of mass arrests and persecution of chalkers in Our Fair City.
Just sayin', Tony. It's on you. Continue scapegoating Occupy Los Angeles to get a new lawn and police overtime and to make downtown restaurateurs and the CCA happy, or walk into the DNC and your future as the Mayor Who Allowed Chalking.
Talk to you later. I'm gotta go pick up some chalk.