Homeless chalkers demand recognition

October 14, 2012

Los Angeles—On June 28, 75 people from the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN)—a Skid Row organization that agitates for the homeless—and Occupy LA demonstrated outside the downtown Sheraton Hotel where the Central City Association (CCA) was holding a conference. They chanted: “CCA, you won’t push us away!” and held a banner: “If you’re on Main Street, it’s progress. If we’re on Main Street, it’s criminal!

At one point, some protesters started to chalk messages on the sidewalk as CCA security guards took notes and photographed the protestors. Twenty minutes later, three police cars arrived and the police arrested, booked and jailed the chalkers. The fine for misdemeanor vandalism can be as high as $20,000. Police had arrested and jailed other youths for chalking on sidewalks at previous demonstrations.

Two weeks later, 11 Occupy LA chalkers were physically tackled and arrested at the monthly evening LA Art Walk. Art Walk attracts thousands of youths of all races from all over LA. It occurs on Main Street and Spring Street which divides Skid Row from the affluent downtown business area.

As protests against the police grew, riot squads were called in and several hundred Art Walkers joined the protesters in opposing the police making arrests. They were slowly pushed out of the Art Walk zone, which was televised live.

The following month’s Art Walk on Aug. 9 got a lot of publicity. Occupy Oakland, Code Pink, and others announced they would be in LA to help chalk Art Walk. The police captain on the Skid Row Division declared that chalking “is a violation of the law, it’s vandalism and we’re going to make arrests.” The Art Walk CEO told the Occupiers to go chalk somewhere else.

Occupy LA and their supporters decided to remain at Pershing Square, three blocks from the Art Walk zone. They chalked many messages covered live by television news. None of these chalkers were arrested.

The previously arrested chalkers had no charges filed on their court date. The arrests, jail time and bail was nothing but police harassment. It’s an example of a Skid Row police state.

An LA CAN statement said in part: “LA CAN and others are reclaiming public space and dialogue in the ‘New Downtown’ to make it clear that the CCA (and their big business developer members) is not the only voice in downtown LA. Instead of continually calling for more police that can do nothing to end homelessness or poverty, the CCA should advocate for and invest in solutions that serve everyone and uplift all of us in downtown…We can all share downtown, but not if CCA’s policies are solely intended to remove, ignore, and criminalize us.

In the 1920s men, women, and children were sitting and sleeping on the sidewalks of Manhattan. Skid Rows, ghettos, barrios and homelessness are a part of U.S. capitalist society that has to end.


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