The design was based on my friends, Craig and Pratibha’s, Tony’s Circus puppet character It was important that the small squares were in a grid, because the “weaving” wasn’t.”
Chalkupy Oakland decided to come down to LA and chalk our First Amendment rights after Occupy LA chalkers were rubber bulleted and tear-gassed for chalking at Downtown LA’s Art Walk which happens every second Thrusday of the month. We were there for the next Artwalk with 23 people from Oakland and the above message.
We began planning our LA visit with the help of Occupy LA and Chalk Activist Richard Florence. It took two trips just to get a good map of the downtown, Pershing Square pavers. They were really complicated, in this woven design the kept confusing my eye and there was a curved area that I wanted to use but it had to be exact or the design would not fit.
Meanwhile, I posted “Here comes Oakland!” on a couple of LA chalk protest sites to mixed reviews. Some looked forward to meeting Melvin Kelly and DJ Occupy (Teardrop), both Occupy celebrities in their own right, while others made dire prophecies of shields and gas masks. We showed up to the pre-chalk walk, night before General Assembly in a big, black bus wearing Hawaiian shirts and the silliest props we could come up with, animal costumes, party hats and such, ruining rumors of shields and traditional anarchist photo opportunities for the press. I believe that tone is everything and that setting the scene can be accomplished by props and language.
I remember seeing thousands of angry, Oakland protesters turn around and end a confrontation after a cop finally said “Please.” We had fun with the LA people, who showed us around, gave us advice and information and seemed excited about our participation. We made more than one new friend including chalker Melissa Balin, who would later call the police and “turn herself in” for her art crimes. I think the authorities expected us the next evening but we were at Pershing Square chalking at 9am and finished in a record 46 minutes, timed by one of our favorite live-streamers, Courtney Occupy who had come along on the trip with us along with PFailblog and PunkBoy. Livestreaming is important to protestors because it gets the truth out and bears witness instantly, before facts can be changed. More and more police piled up behind us and we ignored them focused only on finishing.
There were two, then four, then ten or so, all for us cute animal Chalkupeople. Those of us who could not afford to get arrested began to disperse as per our plan to our secret hiding place. When asked who was in charge, Craig replied: “Nobody, we just follow the map.” It was during the second trip to the bus with our tools that three of us, Foxx, Scooby and myself were detained and put in handcuffs.
News helicopters hovered above, shooting the Lion and Goose- Duck.
One news report mistakenly called the lion a bear. (As I have mentioned before, nobody has a clue what the goose-duck is. I don’t miss these characters.) Another report claimed that a fight had broken out between Oakland and LA chalkers which was complete network fiction. After being told by police that “our little game wasn’t going to work” they released Scooby and myself but kept Foxx on a fake warrant that later disappeared They probably picked on him because of his Crips tattoos and the fact that he used to rob banks in LA before he did his time and reformed. As the bus pulled out, leaving the hiders to hide while the police looked through the Biltmore hotel lobby for them, we managed to lose one of our members in the confusion.
After hours of anxious waiting and checking for him in the hotel and on the inmate locator website, he appeared, having dumped his coverall and taken the bus back to our motel. He said he’d gone up to a cop and asked him where the bank was to see if he was recognized. We couldn’t bail Foxx out until midnight so we tried to enjoy the press and the motel pool while we waited. When he finally was free, it turned out that he had had a good old time in jail, as a TV news celebrity. One of the guards confused him with the relative of a talk show celebrity and brought him a cold soda which he refused. We reinforce the mistaken identity by claiming that sed celebrity had paid his bail. Chalk Walk was declared a success, a no-violence chalk party where a good time was had by all. Our drawing was allowed to remain for the while, having been declared “good art” by an LA police spokesman, thereby reaffirming my belief in that the word “deface” implied an art competition of sorts.
Michelle Shocked plays at Chalk Walk
We return to Oakand somewhat famous. Now that we have received attention elsewhere, a couple of the local papers are interested in doing articles on Chalkupy.