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Chalking a "ticky tack" violation says law professor and former public defender

By Omar Shamout
Published: Friday, July 13, 2012, at 04:33PM

Occupy LA and others technically broke the law last night by writing with chalk on public and private property.

A Loyola Law School professor and former L.A. public defender says chalking is a “ticky tack” violation of the law and would be surprised if the city attorney seeks prosecution.

Professor Stan Goldman spoke to BlogDowntown today and said the Occupy L.A. “Chalk Walk” event was a “technical violation,” but amounted to selective enforcement of the law.

“It probably fulfills the elements of vandalism or defacing public property … but maybe building sand castles on the beach is defacing public property,” Goldman said.

LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman told the City News Service today that one person was arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism and nine for misdemeanor vandalism last night. She also told KPCC, “the city attorney – this is something they prosecute.”

Goldman said he thought it was unlikely that a jury would convict someone on vandalism charges when such a non-permanent substance as chalk was used.

“I would find it surprising if the city attorney decided to prosecute. If [the city] has to send people out to wash it off, then they might stand a chance of getting a conviction,” Goldman said.

Goldman added that Occupy has a right to express itself, but using private property to do so is not acceptable.

“There is a First Amendment issue here if it doesn’t do any harm … but on the other hand you can’t have people chalking the sides of buildings,” Goldman said.

Ultimately, Goldman said bringing anyone to trial over an offence like chalking would not be worth the time, effort and expense.

“While you’re trying to save money … and closing courtrooms, do you really want to spend too much time on it?” Goldman said.

Meanwhile, Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district now includes most of Downtown, said in an emailed statement from his office that he supports the actions of officers at the Art Walk event.

“I support LAPD in its determination that public safety was jeopardized by a group of people on 5th and Spring at last night’s Art Walk,” Huizar wrote.

Huizar added that he would like to try and keep Art Walk alive for Angelenos to enjoy without having to fear for their safety.

“My office will be meeting with the Art Walk Task Force to discuss next month’s Art Walk and how we can maintain the Downtown Art Walk as a safe, fun and worthwhile event.”

Huizar joined the mayor in supporting the actions of police in response to last night’s unrest.

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