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Chalk Walk organizer apologizes to Downtown community

By Omar Shamout
Published: Friday, August 03, 2012, at 11:32AM

About 100 community members attended a town hall meeting organized by Occupy LA Thursday to discuss last month's Chalk Walk fiasco. / Omar Shamout

Chalk Walk organizer, Richard Florence, apologized to the approximately 100 community members, artists and business owners who attended an Occupy LA-organized town hall meeting last night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center for last month's melee that ended in 17 arrests.

“I don't want anyone who lives down here or works down here or has a business down here to be negatively affected by anything I ever do,” Florence told Blogdowntown after the meeting. “I just wanted to personally tell them that I'm sorry for anything negative that happened to anybody.”

Florence also promised that Occupy would steer clear of next week's Art Walk and only congregate in the Pershing Square area.

Many who attended the occassionally contentious meeting criticized Chalk Walk, saying it strayed from the ideals of the Occupy movement by antagonizing police, while also hurting individual artists trying to sell their work in addition to commercial establishments. While remorseful for the effect the event had on others, Florence defended the actions of chalkers and said their goal was simply to create art.

"It's not a protest; it's just wanting to do art. And in a way it exposes that the police are willing to arrest artists for making art during Art Walk."

Though Florence did admit to having one regret about the way things went down last month.

"If I could go back and do one thing differently, I wish I would have had a megaphone when that crowd was in the street, and I would have told everybody to get on the sidewalk,” Florence said. “There really was no reason for 150 riot police to have been there in the first place."

Some in the crowd did agree with Florence about the level of response by LAPD officers.

One of those people was 42-year-old former Occupy member Stephen Zeigler. The Downtown resident said he left the group a few months ago feeling like it had grown more concerned with the actions of police rather than the banks. While Zeigler said he thought LAPD officers overreacted during the Chalk Walk, he also claimed organizers like Florence should have known better.

“I think the Occupy movement was incredibly naïve bringing this to Art Walk,” Zeigler said. “I don’t think they understood how it could escalate.”

Meeting organizers asked law enforcement personnel not to attend Thursday's town hall, so none were on hand to respond directly.

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