While law enforcement in Dallas, Milwaukee, New York and other cities keep their hands full with some tough hombres, Las Vegas Metro Police is busy corraling the rough-and-tumble world of — wait for it — sidewalk chalk protesters.
Carrying dollar-store brooms and a couple of boxes of children’s chalk, Las Vegas activists gathered outside of Metro Police HQ to prove a point: it doesn’t need to cost $1,500 to clean up sidewalk chalk.
For months, four Las Vegas activists had been writing messages in colored chalk outside the LVPD. The latest protest was in response to their arrests.
Brian Ballentine, Kelly Wayne Patterson, Hailee Jewell and Catalino de la Cruz Dazo each face multiple misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to putting graffiti and defacing property.
Each count carries the risk of twelve-months behind bars. LVPD estimate the “damage” to be around $1,500 because a “graffiti abatement team” and a $100 power washer to required to remove the chalk.
Jen Harney, the event’s organizer and a mother of three, started the protest by writing in pink chalk, “Expletive anyone who steps on my right to free speech.” Harney suggested people imagine their favor swear word.
Activists followed Harney’s lead by writing that chalk is not a crime. The group then picked up plastic jugs of water and washed away their messages in under a minute. Passing cars honked their support.
No one was arrested, bu law enforcement reserved the right to serve warrants on another date.
When Ballentine and Patterson were arrested, their lawyers found police had outstanding warrants for other activists.
Police started showing up in pairs at homes. Maggie McLetchie whose firm had been monitoring the activists’ citations said she didn’t think the District Attorney’s Office could be “stupid enough” to prosecute anyone.
“I never thought I’d be arrested for sidewalk chalk,” Ballentine said. “They aren’t that worried with cleaning up neighborhoods.”
Law enforcement said its officers were monitoring the activists who are associated with Nevada CopBlock. Police have labeled the four-some “ideological taggers.”
While McLetchie is firm that the chalk isn’t graffiti, Nevada’s legal definition doest specify whether something needs to last; the term “affixed” raises questions about permanence.
According to the regulation, “graffiti” means any unauthorize inscription or word that is marked, painted on or affixed to the public property which defaces the property.”
Las Vegas Justice Court will hold a preliminary hearing about the case on December 9 with Judge Cynthia Cruz presiding.
The chalk protester’s lawyers intent to fight the accusations on First Amendment grounds.
Jeff Olson, was protesting banks, was acquitted after five hours of jury deliberation.
What Should You Do If You’re Detained for Protesting?
Protesting, around since the birth of the nation, is almost as American as baseball and apple pie. Some police departments and prosecutors haven’t figured out what to do, though, and the list of abuses directed towards protesters keeps getting longer.
Nicholas Wooldridge, a prominent Las Vegas defense attorney, points out 5 things to remember when approached by law enforcement.
1. Think about your words and body language.
2. Don’t interfere with, bad mouth, or run from the police.
3. Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.
4. Keep your hands where the police can see them
5. Don’t touch any police officer.
The ACLUNV has published a prompt card detailing more about your First Amendment rights.