Occupiers and Artwalk Attendees Blame LAPD for Excessive Force
LOS ANGELES – Thursday night, Members of Occupy Los Angeles say LAPD used excessive force and caused the most damage of what the media have dubbed Artwalk Melee. The Occupiers planned an event with the goal of “having fun, staying safe, and reaching out”. In a briefing before what they call “Chalk Walk”, activists announced they were hoping there would be no arrests during Artwalk.
Within minutes of Occupiers turning onto Spring Street from 5th Street, LAPD made their first arrest of the evening, Taylor Harrison, one of the only known occupy activists arrested amongst over a dozen arrests. .
Shortly after LAPD detained Harrison, LAPD began pushing Occupiers who were standing on the sidewalk. Police pushed activists into garbage cans, parked cars, and into the street, then yelled at them for being in the streets.
Occupiers planned to hand out “Free Chalk for Free Speech”. Demonstrators came up with this plan in response to 12 prior arrests of Occupiers for chalking in the last 6 weeks.
The first chalk Occupy chalk arrests happened in conjunction to protests outside of the Central City Association (CCA), a downtown lobby groups, that lobbies against an LA City Council Resolution called “First Amendment Rights / Occupy Los Angeles / Responsible Banking Ordinance” back on October 12, 2011.
Carol Schatz, the CEO of CCA was 1 of 4 speakers who spoke out against the non-binding resolution. All four people who spoke against the resolution were paid lobbyists. While dozen spoke in favor of it who were not paid to speak.
The Responsible Banking Ordinance had sat in committee for over 2 years with no movement. The Occupy LA Resolution was the catalyst for jump starting the dying ordinance. The City Council eventually passed the Responsible Banking ordinance that just we into effect July 1st.
CCA members had lobbied against it up until it passed through council with an unanimous vote.
Occupiers feel the business lobbying group is using private and public law enforcement to repress their dissent against the way local lobbyists influence politics in Los Angeles and California.
Member of Occupy LA have a nightly encampment outside of Central City Association’s office at 626 Wilshire Blvd in protest of CCA’s lobbying efforts against small businesses, employees, low-income and families of color, along with the homeless downtown.
Occupiers say police went too far this time.
Most of the arrests were people attending the artwalk and not associated with Occupy LA. In addition, most of the arrests were for chalking which the LAPD call vandalism.
Occupiers claim the LAPD started the violence and say if they were allowed to chalk, that none of the subsequent actions would have happened.
“The police provoked us,” said an unnamed Occupier, “We were all being peaceful and the police started the violence by using excessive force on arrestees and attendees”.
Before the cops in riot gear came out, there was a group of people including children playing hopscotch on the sidewalk on Spring Street between 5th and 6th Streets. There are reports that police were violent with some of the chalk arrests, shortly after 9pm.
“They arrested a woman for chalking,” Karolina Szymanska, an occupy activist,“They took her from the back and as they were handcuffing her they slammed her to the ground face first. She was a small woman there was no reason to use such force.”
LAPD had made at least 7 arrests by 9pm. By 10pm there were hundreds of LAPD officers in riot gear. They had to call in officers from the Olympic Division.
At least three people were shot with “stinger balls”. Two young men were shot in the torso and bleeding from the impact. Another young guy was shot in the face as he was walking into a 7/11 store.
“The LAPD shot indiscriminately into the crowd at close range,” said Szymanska, “I was trying to talk to the media and as we were talking a projectile was shot in between us”.
In a letter dated June 4, Carol Sobel, a Civil Rights lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, explained to the Special Assistant for Constitutional Policing for the LAPD that the 9th Circuit unanimously held that “no chalk would damage a sidewalk” in MacKinney v. Nielsen from 1995.
“Given that this decision is now 18 years old, there is no excuse for these arrests,” states Sobel in the letter.
Occupiers say LA’s current graffiti laws do not reflect the Constitutional ruling yet. Activists point out that elected officials and police officers are sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution. However, many Occupiers feel individuals of these entities systematically repress their Rights.
Occupiers say that personnel within LAPD do not even seem to understand the law the same.
Huffington Post reported that LAPD Officer Karen Rayner said chalking is not vandalism because it’s not permanent, but I don’t really know.
Occupiers say LAPD have made criminals out of peaceful people with such petty arrests.
To avoid prosecution, the City required dozens of Occupy LA arrestees to take a First-Amendment-Rights class administered through the City Attorney’s office. Now, Occupy LA says it is the City that needs a lesson in the First Amendment.
The City of Orlando recently spent $200,000 defending one chalk-art arrest of an Occupier in Florida. The city lost that case and activists say that the City of Los Angeles could waste millions of dollars defending the chalking arrests of a dozen peaceful people.
Occupiers believe the LAPD selectively enforces the graffiti laws against them while the City’s own Parking Enforcement officers use chalk on the tires of vehicles they wish to monitor for time restrictions.
The activists also say that the police did not arrest any protesters at an anti-Walmart demonstration, two weeks ago, in downtown organized by Labor unions and other community groups. From photos of the event, it clearly had plenty of chalk art written on the pavement surrounding the activities.
Activists argue the chalk comes in packaging marketed for sidewalk use and that the water-soluble chalk does not cause damage.
Members of Occupy LA allege that City Officials violate Title 42 Chapter 21, subsection 1, section 1983 for Federal law and California Civil Code 52.1. They say LAPD officers— under the color of law— interfere with their exercise and enjoyment of their Rights by threats, intimidation, and coercion and subjects them to deprivation of their rights.
Occupiers say Courtroom witnesses have been threatened with arrest; Occupiers have been arrested for chalk art; and say they say they are victims of police misconduct.
Over six months after Envoys of the United Nations wrote a letter to the Obama Administration, the U.S. government has yet to response to requests regarding local repression of the Occupy movement.
Members of Occupy LA plan to push the issue with local and federal governments after alleged increase of Rights violations by LAPD.