Three Occupy protesters detained as chalk demonstrations begin
At least three people were detained by Los Angeles police Thursday morning during a "chalking" protest in downtown L.A.'s Pershing Square, the beginning of what is expected to be a day and night of protests by Occupy L.A. activists.
There were about 60 people at the morning protest, in which activists wrote slogans with chalk on sidewalks and streets. Half of those were believed to be from an Occupy contingent from Oakland.
The three people detained were "chalking," police said. [Updated at 11:05 a.m.: Police said one person was arrested.]
The incident comes hours before Art Walk, a monthly event in downtown Los Angeles that was disrupted in July when protesters clashed with police after chalking political slogans on the streets. The melee prompted a citywide tactical alert and resulted in more than 15 arrests, along with injuries to four officers.
The clash catapulted the foundering Occupy movement back into the spotlight and spawned sympathetic demonstrations across the nation.
Thursday marks the first Art Walk since the incident, and Occupy L.A.vowed to be back in the streets.
Along with demonstrators from Occupy Oakland, who are planning chalk murals, antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan is scheduled to visit the group. Members of Code Pink, an antiwar group, say they will be there to show their support, pink chalk in hand.
Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Horace Frank of the Central Division says his officers plan to enforce the law against chalking if they see it being broken.
"It's a violation of the law, it's vandalism, and we're going to make an arrest," he said, adding that he has received frequent emails from downtown property owners complaining about damage from chalk.
"My BlackBerry is burning up with pictures of businesses being vandalized," he said.
Even before Art Walk brought attention to the issue, police had arrested more than a dozen protesters on suspicion of chalking. But the city has elected not to press charges in the majority of those cases, said William H. Carter, chief deputy to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, and it has yet to file criminal charges in chalking arrests from the July Art Walk incident or in the weeks since.
— Andrew Blankstein, Kate Mather and Kate Linthicum
Photo: A police officer looks over chalk art, labeled with an evidence tag, in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday morning. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times