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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.


Occupy LA asks for an investigation into ArtWalk arrests

Occupy L.A.

Rina Palta / KPCC

Members of Occupy L.A. gather outside the Police Administration Building in Downtown L.A. after addressing the Police Commission.

A core group of Occupy L.A. members visited the Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday to express discontent with police actions at last Thurday's ArtWalk, where 17 were arrested on charges ranging from vandalism to assault on a police officer.

Accounts of what exactly happened that night vary: police say members of Occupy L.A., protesting the recent crackdown on chalking private property at Hope St. and Wilshire Blvd, refused to clear a busy sidewalk at ArtWalk, forcing pedestrians into the street. When chalkers repeatedly refused to clear the area after numerous warnings, police say, they moved in to make arrests and were pelted with bottles and rocks. Police called for backup, including less lethal crowd dispersal weapons like rubber bullets, and officers and ArtWalkers alike were wounded in the melee.