UPDATE: A video report from RT:
The program notes:
[Late Monday] a San Diego jury acquitted 40 year old Jeff Olson on 13 counts of vandalism and he was also facing a 13-thousand dollars fine. It took the jury less than five hours to arrive at their decision. It’s the case of a San Diego, California artist who was prosecuted for vandalism, after writing anti-Bank messages on public side walks, using chalk. Olson’s anti-bank messages included one that read: “No Thanks, Big Banks” and another that read: “Shame on Bank of America.” Over the weekend, in a protest dubbed “Chalk-U-Pie” dozens of supporters drew their own colorful messages in chalk, including the phrase “This is NOT vandalism!”. At the end of the ordeal, Olson said he was relieved it was all over.
A San Diego jury proved far wiser than hard-line City Attorney Jan Goldmsith when it voted unanimously to acquit a 40-year-old Jeffrey Olson of 13 charges of vandalism for scrawling protest message on sidewalks in front of banks [previously].
The charges led to a confrontation between Goldsmith and San Diego Mayor Robert Filner, a veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement.
To the mayor, the prosecutor’s action was stupid and a waste of money, coming at a time when state budget cuts have forced major cutbacks in the California’s court system.
To the prosecutor, Olson was a graffiti scrawler pure and simple, prosecuted at Bank of America’s request.
From Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times:
On Monday, a Superior Court jury sided with the mayor — acquitting 40-year-old Jeffrey Olson of 13 misdemeanor counts filed by Goldsmith’s office.
Olson had never denied writing slogans or drawing outside three bank branches.
One slogan said, “No thanks, big banks.” Another, “Shame on Bank of America.” In yet another, the bank was portrayed as an octopus grabbing at cash with its tentacles.
That Bank of America had contacted the city attorney’s office to urge prosecution had become part of the dispute between the Democratic mayor and Republican city attorney.
“We prosecute vandalism and theft cases regardless of who the perpetrator or victim might be,” Goldsmith said. “We don’t decide, for example, based upon whether we like or dislike banks. That would be wrong under the law.”
Read the rest.
More from Doug Porter of the San Diego Free Press, including one chilling detail:
This verdict follows a trial strategy pursued by the City Attorney’s office that included suppression of the defendant’s attorney mentioning any connections with the First Amendment during the trial.
The case, the prosecution said, was purely about acts of vandalism.
Olson was charged with 13 misdemeanor counts after Bank of America security officials pressured the San Diego Police Department’s Gang Unit into asking to the City Attorney’s office to prosecute. His arrest came months after the last incident occurred.
Read the rest.
Gang unit? Really?
But Olson has won, and his case is being celebrated in song.
From vlogger emotion999, an auteurial tour de force by Michael Hermiston:
the ballad of Jeff Olson (with text)
We’re reminded of another criminal case that arose here in Berkeley on 17 January 1992, when police arrested sidewalk chalker Christopher Mackinney.
Mackinney was arrested, held for three hours, then released. He later sued the city and the police department for violating his civil rights.
In a ruling ordering the case to trial, the justices of the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeal wrote:
Mackinney is a resident of Berkeley, California. On September 17, 1992, Mackinney and a friend wrote on a public sidewalk in Berkeley with “sidewalk chalk,” an allegedly washable, non-permanent material. Mackinney wrote: “A police state is more expensive than a welfare state-we guarantee it.” As he was finishing writing this message, Berkeley police officers Davis and Tejada, driving in an unmarked car on their way to serve a search warrant, saw Mackinney and ordered him to stop writing. Before complying with this order, Mackinney underlined the last phrase of his message.
The officers pulled their car up to the sidewalk. Officer Davis stepped out of the car and told Mackinney that if he did not stop writing on the sidewalk he would be arrested. Mackinney, though he had already stopped writing, refused to agree to stop writing, asserting that his actions were legal. During this exchange, Berkeley Police Sergeant Nielsen arrived. Nielsen rushed to the scene and asked what Mackinney had said. Mackinney said that he told officer Davis that he was violating Mackinney’s civil rights. Nielsen responded by grabbing the chalk from Mackinney’s hand and throwing it behind him. He allegedly said to Mackinney, “I don’t give a f-k about your civil rights.”
Sergeant Nielsen ordered the officers to arrest Mackinney. Officer Davis arrested Mackinney and charged him with violating California Penal Code § 594, which prohibits defacing “with paint or any other liquid” or damaging property that is not one’s own. The officers took Mackinney to the Berkeley jail and kept him there for three to four hours. He was then released on bail. He was not prosecuted for violating § 594 or any other statute.
Read the rest.