[Hpn] Vandals Don't Use Chalk

Becky Johnson Becky_Johnson@sbcglobal.net
Sun, 7 Jul 2002 13:32:14 -0700


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>From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

Note to reader: Police Chief Belcher's statement " it is not up to him =
to interpret the law, just to enforce it." is interesting in that the =
ordinance has been on the books unchanged for decades, does not mention =
chalk in its text, and has never been used against chalk-writing until =
about two years ago when police began to use it against political =
activists writing political messages.  Police simply do not cite =
children for hopscotch or pictures, nor should they.  As to damages, =
steamcleaning is required to remove gum, stuck on food, dirt, cigarette =
butts, and spit which DO constitute a health and safety hazard.  Chalk =
writing will wear away on its own, or any application of water will =
remove it quickly.  It certainly can be removed during the regular =
sidewalk maintenance.  It is a matter of aesthetics, and some believe =
the colorful chalk writing improves the look of the dirty, grey =
sidewalk.

--- Becky Johnson of HUFF
    Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom
    Santa Cruz, Ca.
    (831) 423-HUFF


July 7, 2002=20



Chalk up another downtown controversy
By JASON SCHULTZ
Sentinel staff writer=20
SANTA CRUZ - A minor city law has started a major controversy over what =
constitutes defacing public property and what constitutes free speech.=20

In the past month, at least three people have been arrested on vandalism =
charges for writing in chalk on the Pacific Avenue sidewalk. Police say =
they are not trying to hassle people, but that their warnings and =
citations are being ignored.=20

"We give lots and lots of warnings," police Chief Steve Belcher said =
"Most people stop but some keep going."=20

A city ordinance, MC 9.20.010, makes it an infraction to deface public =
sidewalks.=20

Nathan Kennedy said late last month that he set out to protest the law =
by writing in chalk on the sidewalk in front of Borders bookstore at =
Pacific and Soquel avenues. Police warned him not to do it again and =
washed the chalk away, Kennedy said.=20

But Kennedy did it again and received a citation, then did it again and =
received another, and another, until he had been cited for chalking on =
the sidewalk four times in 24 hours. At that point, police arrested him =
on suspicion of misdemeanor vandalism. He has pleaded innocent.=20

Last week, Becky Johnson, an activist for the homeless, said she and =
artist Tim Rinker were getting signatures for a petition in front of the =
O'Neill surf shop on Pacific Avenue when Rinker began writing "Vandals =
don't use chalk" on the sidewalk.=20

Johnson drew a peace symbol along with the words, "Sleeping is not a =
crime." Johnson said the two were later cited by police. When they =
expressed their right to be immediately heard by a magistrate, they were =
arrested and brought before Judge Kathleen Akao, who ruled they should =
face charges.=20

At a hearing Wednesday, Johnson said, Court Commissioner Irwin Joseph =
said he thought what Johnson and Rinker were doing was an act of civil =
disobedience, and he scheduled a Sept. 13 hearing to determine if the =
police citations for violating the city ordinance violated their First =
Amendment right to free speech.=20

Johnson said the city asked the court to issue an injunction stopping =
her from writing on the sidewalk in chalk, but Joseph declined.=20

Johnson said as far as she is concerned, it was not even an act of civil =
disobedience, and she was committing a lawful act. She said she doesn't =
understand how writing on a sidewalk in chalk, which washes away, can be =
considered defacing public property.=20

Belcher said it is not that simple. He said it costs the city about $150 =
to clean up Kennedy's chalking because a power washer was used to clean =
the whole area. He said the concrete on the sidewalk is porous, making =
it difficult to clean.=20

"It becomes a real eyesore," he said.=20

Lt. Patty Sapone said Johnson and Rinker's chalk work covered most of =
the sidewalk in the area around the surf shop, and was difficult to =
clean. She said what they wrote was not offensive and would have been =
protected speech if they had said it or distributed their comments on a =
flier. But because somebody has to clean the sidewalks, it changes the =
situation.=20

Belcher said that it is not up to him to interpret the law, just to =
enforce it.=20

"If a law is on the books, I've taken an oath to enforce it," Belcher =
said. "They want to cry 'free speech,' but they can write anything they =
want on a piece of paper. They are making a conscious decision to =
violate the law."=20

Belcher said the chalkers and other people downtown who have been =
clashing with merchants who want them away from their stores are =
following a pattern. He said the activists are protesting simple =
warnings and citations from police, creating confrontations with =
officers.=20

Johnson called that police spin, saying officers are harassing homeless =
and young people in an effort to run them off the block.=20

Stacy McIntyre, manager of O'Neill surf shop, said, her store spent $275 =
to clean the sidewalk the morning before the Johnson chalking incident. =
She said normally the store does not mind having people hang out in =
front, but in the past month the chalkings have escalated.=20

"Lately it's been a problem," she said, theorizing that recent City =
Council meetings aimed at ending downtown tensions between aggressive =
panhandlers and merchants is actually stirring things up. On Friday =
morning, the phrase "Chalk Crime Scene" could be seen in front of the =
store.=20

Borders manager Dave Sauley said he knew nothing about the chalking =
incidents, and it didn't bother him if people wrote on the sidewalk. But =
another store employee, who asked that his name not be used, said he saw =
the Kennedy incident and thought police exercised great patience before =
arresting the man. He said officers washed the chalk away, and that =
Kennedy was back in less than an hour writing on the sidewalk again.=20

"Sure they have a right to free speech, but what about the tourists?" =
the employee said. "Don't they have a right to shop in a clean =
environment? It comes down to my rights vs. your rights, and who is =
right."=20

Contact Jason Schultz at jschultz@santa-cruz.com.=20




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<DIV><FONT size=3D2><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>From the Santa Cruz=20
Sentinel:</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Note to reader: Police Chief Belcher's=20
statement&nbsp;" it is not up to him to interpret the law, just to =
enforce it."=20
is interesting in that the ordinance has been on the books unchanged for =

decades, does not mention chalk in its text, and has never been used =
against=20
chalk-writing until about two years ago when&nbsp;police began to use it =
against=20
political activists writing political messages.&nbsp; Police simply do =
not cite=20
children for hopscotch or pictures, nor should they.&nbsp; As to =
damages,=20
steamcleaning is required to remove gum, stuck on food, dirt, cigarette =
butts,=20
and spit which DO constitute a health and safety hazard.&nbsp; Chalk =
writing=20
will wear away on its own, or any application of water will remove it=20
quickly.&nbsp; It certainly can be removed during the regular sidewalk=20
maintenance.&nbsp; It is a matter of aesthetics, and some believe the =
colorful=20
chalk writing improves the look of the dirty, grey =
sidewalk.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>--- Becky Johnson of HUFF</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Homeless United for =
Friendship=20
&amp; Freedom</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Santa Cruz, =
Ca.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; (831) =
423-HUFF</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><FONT face=3D"Verdana, Arial, =
Helvetica, sans-serif"=20
size=3D2>July 7, 2002 <BR></DIV><BR><!-- tablestart --><!-- tableend =
--><B>
<H2>Chalk up another downtown controversy</H2>
<DIV><B></B><B>By JASON SCHULTZ</B><BR></B>Sentinel staff writer </DIV>
<P>SANTA CRUZ &#8212; A minor city law has started a major controversy =
over what=20
constitutes defacing public property and what constitutes free speech.=20
<P>In the past month, at least three people have been arrested on =
vandalism=20
charges for writing in chalk on the Pacific Avenue sidewalk. Police say =
they are=20
not trying to hassle people, but that their warnings and citations are =
being=20
ignored.=20
<P>"We give lots and lots of warnings," police Chief Steve Belcher said =
"Most=20
people stop but some keep going."=20
<P>A city ordinance, MC 9.20.010, makes it an infraction to deface =
public=20
sidewalks.=20
<P>Nathan Kennedy said late last month that he set out to protest the =
law by=20
writing in chalk on the sidewalk in front of Borders bookstore at =
Pacific and=20
Soquel avenues. Police warned him not to do it again and washed the =
chalk away,=20
Kennedy said.=20
<P>But Kennedy did it again and received a citation, then did it again =
and=20
received another, and another, until he had been cited for chalking on =
the=20
sidewalk four times in 24 hours. At that point, police arrested him on =
suspicion=20
of misdemeanor vandalism. He has pleaded innocent.=20
<P>Last week, Becky Johnson, an activist for the homeless, said she and =
artist=20
Tim Rinker were getting signatures for a petition in front of the =
O&#8217;Neill surf=20
shop on Pacific Avenue when Rinker began writing "Vandals don&#8217;t =
use chalk" on=20
the sidewalk.=20
<P>Johnson drew a peace symbol along with the words, "Sleeping is not a =
crime."=20
Johnson said the two were later cited by police. When they expressed =
their right=20
to be immediately heard by a magistrate, they were arrested and brought =
before=20
Judge Kathleen Akao, who ruled they should face charges.=20
<P>At a hearing Wednesday, Johnson said, Court Commissioner Irwin Joseph =
said he=20
thought what Johnson and Rinker were doing was an act of civil =
disobedience, and=20
he scheduled a Sept. 13 hearing to determine if the police citations for =

violating the city ordinance violated their First Amendment right to =
free=20
speech.=20
<P>Johnson said the city asked the court to issue an injunction stopping =
her=20
from writing on the sidewalk in chalk, but Joseph declined.=20
<P>Johnson said as far as she is concerned, it was not even an act of =
civil=20
disobedience, and she was committing a lawful act. She said she =
doesn&#8217;t=20
understand how writing on a sidewalk in chalk, which washes away, can be =

considered defacing public property.=20
<P>Belcher said it is not that simple. He said it costs the city about =
$150 to=20
clean up Kennedy&#8217;s chalking because a power washer was used to =
clean the whole=20
area. He said the concrete on the sidewalk is porous, making it =
difficult to=20
clean.=20
<P>"It becomes a real eyesore," he said.=20
<P>Lt. Patty Sapone said Johnson and Rinker&#8217;s chalk work covered =
most of the=20
sidewalk in the area around the surf shop, and was difficult to clean. =
She said=20
what they wrote was not offensive and would have been protected speech =
if they=20
had said it or distributed their comments on a flier. But because =
somebody has=20
to clean the sidewalks, it changes the situation.=20
<P>Belcher said that it is not up to him to interpret the law, just to =
enforce=20
it.=20
<P>"If a law is on the books, I&#8217;ve taken an oath to enforce it," =
Belcher said.=20
"They want to cry &#8216;free speech,&#8217; but they can write anything =
they want on a=20
piece of paper. They are making a conscious decision to violate the =
law."=20
<P>Belcher said the chalkers and other people downtown who have been =
clashing=20
with merchants who want them away from their stores are following a =
pattern. He=20
said the activists are protesting simple warnings and citations from =
police,=20
creating confrontations with officers.=20
<P>Johnson called that police spin, saying officers are harassing =
homeless and=20
young people in an effort to run them off the block.=20
<P>Stacy McIntyre, manager of O&#8217;Neill surf shop, said, her store =
spent $275 to=20
clean the sidewalk the morning before the Johnson chalking incident. She =
said=20
normally the store does not mind having people hang out in front, but in =
the=20
past month the chalkings have escalated.=20
<P>"Lately it&#8217;s been a problem," she said, theorizing that recent =
City Council=20
meetings aimed at ending downtown tensions between aggressive =
panhandlers and=20
merchants is actually stirring things up. On Friday morning, the phrase =
"Chalk=20
Crime Scene" could be seen in front of the store.=20
<P>Borders manager Dave Sauley said he knew nothing about the chalking=20
incidents, and it didn&#8217;t bother him if people wrote on the =
sidewalk. But another=20
store employee, who asked that his name not be used, said he saw the =
Kennedy=20
incident and thought police exercised great patience before arresting =
the man.=20
He said officers washed the chalk away, and that Kennedy was back in =
less than=20
an hour writing on the sidewalk again.=20
<P>"Sure they have a right to free speech, but what about the tourists?" =
the=20
employee said. "Don&#8217;t they have a right to shop in a clean =
environment? It comes=20
down to my rights vs. your rights, and who is right."=20
<P><I>Contact Jason Schultz at <A=20
href=3D"mailto:jschultz@santa-cruz.com?subject=3DChalk up another =
downtown controversy">jschultz@santa-cruz.com</A>.=20

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