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Ask a lawyer: Is chalking illegal?

Eric Zassenhaus/KPCC

Los Angeles police officers and Occupy LA protesters clashed at ArtWalk on July 12, leading to 17 arrests and four injuries.

On July 12, 17 people were arrested during a scuffle between protesters and police at Dowtown L.A.'s ArtWalk. The protest spurred from a recent police crackdown on chalking by members of the Occupy L.A. movement outside the offices of the Central City Association at Hope St. and Wilshire Blvd.

At this week's meeting of L.A.'s Police Commission, a core group of Occupiers showed up to lodge complaints against the crackdown — what they described as police acting aggressively towards an innocuous and widespread activity, writing with sidewalk chalk. Several speakers pointed out that kids in the city often chalk sidewalks, and adults, too.

The first big question is if, in fact, chalking is illegal. UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh, who specializes in the First Amendment, says that according to California law, it is.