Occupy protesters help organize DTLA town hall to discuss Chalk Walk
Tomorrow's town hall meeting will discuss what happened at last month's Chalk Walk during Art Walk.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Occupy L.A. protesters are helping to organize a town hall meeting in downtown L.A. Thursday night, in what they say is an attempt to bring together residents, artists, business owners and others who live and work in the area, and may have been affected by last month's Chalk Walk melee.
The protest waged by Occupy demonstrators took place during Art Walk, and quickly escalated as the participants began drawing with chalk on the sidewalks and buildings. Hundreds of police were called to the scene and the event resulted in nearly 20 arrests and damage to surrounding storefronts. Businesses were vandalized with spray paint, people threw rocks and glass bottles, and police responded with bean bag shotguns, said Matt Shafer, an LAPD officer who was on the scene.
Executive director of the Art Walk Joe Moller, responded to the incident a week later saying the Occupy organizers targeted Art Walk because of its "notoriety and audience" -- two things he said the activist group is "grossly lacking in" and could gain by showing up at the popular DTLA event.
Now, select participants in Chalk Walk along with some community members are putting together a group called the Creating Community Awareness Coalition (CCAC) -- which they say is an attempt to "build bridges between the diverse communities that live, work, organize and play in downtown Los Angles."
The upcoming town hall is event is being organized with the help of Richard Schave, founder of the Los Angeles Visionaries Association, a previous director of the downtown Art Walk and an active DTLA community member. He said there's been a "complete failure on the part of existing civic leaders and existing community leaders" to address what happened during Chalk Walk and plan for the upcoming Art Walk.
"I don't see anyone trying to de-escalate the situation," he said.
Schave points fingers at everyone from the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council to the Art Walk Board, saying someone needs to take responsibility for diffusing what was and could continue to be a volatile situation.
He said he was approached by Occupy members in response to a newsletter he sent out through his L.A. tour company, Esotouric, regarding the Occupy movement and the recent Chalk Walk. He said they asked for his help coordinating community outreach, and he reached out to friend Rev. Sandie Richards to moderate the event.
Schave said the members of the Art Walk were invited to the event, but Executive Director of the monthly event, Joe Moller, said that although he was aware of the town hall meeting, his organization never received an official invitation.
"To the best of my knowledge we have not been invited," he said.
Moller added that he wonders if this town hall is just "another tactic" by the Occupy movement, and said a meeting like this may have been a lot more effective if it occurred before last month's Chalk Walk event.
"The whole culture of, it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission, is not one the Art Walk is part of," said Moller.
He added that "it's nice to see what appears to be a gesture of goodwill," but as of now, he's unsure if he will attend Thursday night's event or if it will even be beneficial at all to the future of Art Walk.
Art Walk is starting a campaign on Thursday where they will canvas the neighborhood, asking businesses and community members to put up signs in their windows that say "I support a peaceful Art Walk." This outreach is in preparation for the upcoming monthly event on August 9, where Moller said he hopes to have a peaceful evening, "free of political protest."
The Creating Community Awareness Coalition's town hall meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday in the rehearsal room at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Included in the two hours will be a reception, discussion and presentation.
The Los Angeles Theatre Center is located at 514 S. Spring Street