Say What? Chalking It Up to Big Brother, Guy Faces 13 Years For Sidewalk Slogans

Abby Zimet

It was bad enough when Pennsylvania health care activist AJ Marin, at a demonstration against Gov. Tom Corbett's move to leave over 700,000 Pennsylvania citizens uninsured, got arrested for chalking on a wall the  “derogatory" remark: “Governor Corbett has health insurance, we should too.” Then came the start of the trial for San Diego's Jeff Olson, arrested months after the fact for protesting bank bailouts by chalking - with washable kids' chalk - "No Thanks, Big Banks" and "Shame on Bank of America." He faces - wait for it - 13 counts of misdemeanor vandalism charges, which could send him to jail for 13 years and cost him $13,000. On the first day of his trial, a judge prohibited Olson's attorney from mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, or political speech during the trial. Come to think about it, sounds about right.

From the City Attorney's Office: “The People do not fear that this reading of section 594(A) will make criminals of every child using chalk. Chalk festivals may still be permitted. Kids acting without malice may still engage in their art. Circumventing the rules, without permission, under the color of night, and now waiving a banner of the First Amendment, does not negate the fact that defacement occurred, a private business suffered real and substantial monetary damages, and Defendant is responsible.”

Update: Acquitted. Duh. Wonder how much that cost.

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