Chalking & the Disruption of Business as Usual in DTLA: It has never been about the sidewalk chalk on the sidewalks, that’s a simplified interpretation of a more sinister picture.
Last October, OccupyLA camped with City Council approval, and a council member said the protesters “could stay as long as they liked”. Chalk was everywhere then. It was “allowed” at City Hall last Fall because the messaging was contained around a dead fixture of “democracy”, where anyone present was already interested in an alternative. In a sense, it was a “Free Speech Zone”.
And we know what a “Free Speech Zone” really is: containment of dissent. Putting contrarians in a sometimes literal box, far from the action. Ironically, City Hall was as far from the action in Los Angeles politics and life as you could get.
When occupiers began laying siege to the Central City Association, that’s when suddenly chalk was worth riot cops, hysteria, Mayoral quotes, and Chief of Police statements. Over chalk? NOPE. The Central City Association is a microcosm of the 1% and Wall Street, the bridge between money and politics here in our town. So, suddenly the chalking mattered. It mattered not because of the heinous graffiti that washed away in mere seconds, but because our target mattered.
When analyzing this marriage with corporation and government, the violence of the state is usually a good indicator of dissent’s efficacy. What did we see when we followed the money that is donated to every single council member in City Hall? Suddenly we saw police directly following the orders of those men in suits, those men really running the show. We saw arrests and trumped up charges and brutalization for a child’s plaything.
But it wasn’t about chalk. It was over stifling what the people were WRITING on the public sidewalk. It was over content. Content like the names of all the Black Panthers murdered by the LAPD: ARRESTED! Or writing out directions and meeting times to the general assembly meeting at Pershing Square: ARRESTED! Or daring to write about the banks’ crimes (ARRESTED!) the politicians’ criminal participation (ARRESTED!), or even “Happy Birthday” messages to comrades… building solidarity? Arrested!
This is because the CCA has a plan to further criminalize, “Intelligence-based graffiti” and they purchase whoever holds the Mayor’s office, City Council, and LAPD. To expose the ever-present fascism all around town is far more dangerous than scrawling, “Peace, Love, and Evolution!” around City Hall. That was not threatening to those in power… but chalking truth to the masses, damning capitalism in pastels all over the city - that poses a real threat.
So we have chalk solidarity around this nation-state and around the world. We have LAPD firing “less-lethal” projectiles into crowds, we have police around Amerika brutalizing and arresting people because this IS NOT ABOUT CHALK.
This is about disrupting the status quo. This is about the oligarchs in this City so TERRIFIED of the people rising up that they apply the ‘broken windows’ theory to the First Amendment. For chalk is a bolder reclamation of space than holding a sign. It is an indicator of defiance and of claiming of haggard black asphalt.
This is a battle of classes, manifested within a quick-dissolve artist’s canvas. It not about chalk - it’s about who controls the streets: the Authorities or the People. It’s about who gets to display their ideas in public: those that PAY MONEY or the People.