CityWatch, July 17, 2012
Vol 10 Issue 57
HOW LA’S DOWNTOWN ARTWALK BECAME A CRIME SCENE - When Lance Armstrong
came to Los Angeles for a bike ride with 700 of his closest friends, the
streets ran yellow with chalked messages of hope and encouragement.
Mayor Villaraigosa and then City Council President Eric Garcetti stood
in the middle of a heavily chalked Sunset Boulevard to welcome Lance to
Hollywood and then the LAPD arrived, not to arrest the chalkers, but to
escort the cyclists down Sunset and up Vine to the Ricardo Montalban
Waiting inside were Ben Stiller, Ben Harper, Shepard Fairey,
LiveStrong CEO Doug Ulman and Nike CEO Mark Parker. It was a night that
celebrated the power of Art, Culture, and Sports in changing the world.
the hundreds of people who couldn’t get inside the Theatre for the
program, the streets were their canvas and they spent the evening
leaving their mark with yellow chalk provided by LiveStrong.
LAPD never objected. In fact their supportive presence lent an air of
legitimacy to the activity, after all, it was just chalk.
month later, Jesus Castillo was riding his bike home from work when he
was run down from behind by a drunk driver who pinned him against a
parked car, backed up, and then drove away leaving Jesus to die on
Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park.
Cyclists descended on the scene
with a Ghost Bike and boxes of chalk, memorializing the tragic incident
with a die-in ceremony and with chalked messages that filled Glendale
The LAPD were there in force, standing by as the press covered the event, under the watchful eye of Eric Garcetti’s Deputy.
The streets were yellow, the LAPD were mellow, and eventually everyone rode off into the night.
the streets is one of the most non-invasive mechanisms of communication
available to the masses, it’s quiet, cheap, temporary, and it’s
actually quite fun.
Doubters only have to look at events such as
Park(ing)Day LA, ArtCycle, and the Olive Festival where children are
thrilled to fill the streets with chalked artwork and adults marvel at
the skills of the internationally recognized chalk artists who come from
around the world to ply their trade, street chalking.
It’s against this backdrop that the LAPD’s actions of last week must be examined.
to reports, OccupyLA protesters took up arms, in this case pastel chalk
wrapped in paper with notes explaining their position, and the seeds of
discontent were sown on the streets of Los Angeles during Downtown LA’s
monthly Art Walk.
The LAPD responded, there was an acceleration
of tension, a tactical alert was called, and the LAPD arrived from all
over the city armed with less-than-lethal weapons which they unleashed
on the crowd.
The LAPD Commander on the scene gave the command
and LAPD officers fired rubber bullets, bean bags, and tear gas at the
Art Walk crowd, many of whom claim they were caught in the midst of an
action that came with no warning and no opportunity to evacuate.
the debate over how a non-violent pastel chalk protest turned into a
violent melee continues, a petition is circulating calling for an
investigation into the LAPD’s heavy-handed handling of the incident.
the heart of the matter is this simple question. How did the LAPD allow
itself to be so easily goaded into less-than-lethal violence in the
middle of a crowded public event?
When participants in an
advertised Chalk Walk during a crowded Art Walk can so easily draw a
violent response from the LAPD, it’s time to evaluate the performance of
the professional peace officers responsible for the largest city in the
most populated state in the most powerful country in the world.
As one chalker wrote: “Thanks for tainting the justice system.”
We really do deserve better!