Occupy Los Angeles Blends Art & Activism

The writing’s on the wall—literally. Occupiers in L.A. take to a new medium and spread words of protest with chalk.
6 celebrate Erik Herrera

In Photos: How Occupy L.A. turns activism to art.

On Thursday, July 12, protestors from around Los Angeles, many of them associated with Occupy L.A., took to the streets of their city with thick sticks of colored chalk in their fists. They dubbed the event "Chalk Walk" because it was planned to coincide with a monthly gallery night called Art Walk. Within hours, much of downtown was transformed into a different sort of gallery, with artwork and political messages written in chalk over walls, sidewalks, and any other surface people could write on.

Welcome to Occupy Wall Street’s new DIY communications technology: chalk. It resembles the “people’s mic” in some ways. Both were developed by Occupiers blocked from using other forms of media: megaphones in the case of the people’s mic, large signs in the case of chalk.

Chalking “has the power of delivering messages of hope to passers-by, and Occupy has always been about connecting with the people,” said Los Angeles Occupier Todd Blose. “We have been deprived of all others methods of doing so, mostly due to media blackouts and police repression, so it is only natural that novel tactics of civil disobedience like chalking should emerge.”

The protests were a direct response to 12 Occupiers who were arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in June for drawing with water-soluble chalk on the sidewalk. There were more long-term issues at stake as well. Statements by Occupiers drew attention to the Central City Association, a group that “advocates on behalf of Los Angeles businesses,” according to their website. Occupiers say that the CCA is actively gentrifying downtown LA.

The events of June 12 included community activism and public art, but also alarming confrontations with the LAPD. To view our photo essay about them, click here.

James Trimarco wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. James is the Web Editor of YES!


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