Downtown Art Walk sees no repeat of last month's violence
There was no repeat of last month's violent clashes between police and protesters as a party atmosphere prevailed Thursday night at downtown Los Angeles’ Art Walk.
Police said they made at least three arrests in the Pershing Square area during the day. One of those arrests was for an outstanding warrant.
Art Walk, which began as a local art crawl in 2004, has evolved into a showcase for a revitalized downtown, attracting tens of thousands of people who crowd sidewalks, visit clubs, eat at restaurants and food trucks and turn the historic city core into a lively festival on the second Thursday of each month.
But at the July event, Occupy L.A. activists armed with chalk scrawled slogans and drawings on the sidewalks to protest downtown gentrification, which has pushed out some of the area's poorer residents.
Police arrested some protesters for "chalking" and vandalism, and confrontations began between some activists and officers. Hundreds of Los Angeles Police Department officers then clashed with the protesters and fired non-lethal projectiles into the crowd. Four officers were hurt, and 15 people were arrested.
On Thursday evening, police began taking up positions along Spring and Main streets as local merchants watched warily and wondered whether violence would again mar the showcase event. Art Walk patrons seemed undeterred, arriving dressed for a party. Some were pushing children in strollers or leading dogs on leashes.
Rachel Elisheva, who manages Archa clothing store on 5th Street, said the increased police presence was an unfortunate necessity because of the violence during the July event.
"Protesters don't bother us, but when they start throwing bottles and stealing shirts because they think everything is free, that's different," Elisheva said as two LAPD officers on horseback passed by. “It's a shame to have so much police here, but what can you do?"
Inside of Coba Gallery, as a handful of patrons roamed the space, manager Jacky Herrera had a different view of the police. She complained that all the officers in the area had sucked the energy from the typically jovial event. She said fewer people were at the gallery than during previous Art Walks.
"I think it hinders a lot of folks from coming out," she said of the police presence. "It definitely slows the traffic down."
At nearby Pershing Square, about 150 people had gathered in the park Thursday evening. Chalk drawings and slogans were all over the place -- on the sidewalk, on walls, on a large spherical sculpture.
Police, who had made earlier arrests at the park, said they had decided to allow a certain amount of chalking.
-- Frank Shyong, Kate Linthicum and Angel Jennings in downtown Los Angeles
Photo: A wall at Pershing Square is covered with messages in chalk. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon / Los Angeles Times