San Diego Gets Another Black Eye: Goldsmith’s #ChalkGate Prosecution Gets World-Wide Coverage

chalk for liberty

“Chalk-U-Py” Protest, Petitions Follow Judge’s Gag Order in Bank of America Graffiti Trial

By Doug Porter

startinglinelogoThings are going out of control for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. His office’s decision to prosecute 40 year old Jeff Olson for using children’s washable chalk to scrawl protests on sidewalks adjacent to Bank of America branch offices has garnered world wide notice. And it’s not the kind of publicity the Downtown Tourism folks appreciate.

A newly organized group calling itself Liberals for Liberty has announced plans to create a chalk mural of the Constitution with focus on the First Amendment in front of the San Diego Hall of Justice.  A Facebook page set up for the event calls for local artists to meet up Saturday (June 29th) at the courthouse, 330 West Broadway, San Diego.

At, a petition went up Friday morning calling upon City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to drop the prosecution of Jeff Olson for chalk graffiti, citing “an obvious abuse of power and a wasteful use of the resources of the City of San Diego.” The influential Daily Kos blog has also announced a petition, saying “prosecuting people who chalk political messages on vandalism charges is a blatant abuse of power.”

In the wake of a gag order by Judge Howard Shore prohibiting the defendant or any witnesses from speaking to any members of the media, coverage of the case has ballooned, with stories via both Reuters and Associated Press appearing in news outlets (including the New York Times) nationally and internationally.  Independently written accounts also appeared in newspapers as far away as Sweden.

Battle of the Recalls

hop-skip(1)Recall Judge Howard Shore page on Facebook has gone live, joining the Recall Jan Goldsmith page, which has already gathered six times more signatures than a Recall Filner page

San Diego’s latest shame caught the eye of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren yesterday, who felt motivated to comment about the case on Twitter:

You’ve got to be kidding me.

— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) June 27, 2013

Over 90% of 650 +readers in a UT-San Diego online poll indicated they thought the prosecution on Jeff Olson was wrong

Meanwhile over at the San Diego Reader, reporter Dorian Hargrove, who originally broke the story, continues to provide excellent coverage of the trial. Unfortunately much of the national coverage of this story is based on a UT-San Diego story which failed to credit Hargrove’s reporting. From yesterday’s account:

At today’s hearing, Judge Shore didn’t stop at voicing his disappointment with the media coverage. He then turned his attention to Mayor Filner for his statements in support of the defendant’s right to free speech.

Shore said the Mayor was “irresponsible” for comments he made in a June 20 memo, as was reported here on June 23.

“This young man is being persecuted for thirteen counts of vandalism stemming from an expression of political protest that involved washable children’s chalk on a City sidewalk,” read Filner’s statement. “It is alleged that he has no previous criminal record. If these assertions are correct, I believe this is a misuse and waste of taxpayer money. It could also be characterized as an abuse of power that infringes on First Amendment particularly when it is arbitrarily applied to some, but not all, similar speech.”

Shore also stated that the Mayor has no place injecting himself in court trials, regardless of his opinion on the case.

A good backgrounder on the case, now known as #ChalkGate on the internet, appeared in TruthOut/BuzzFlash:

The trial, which is now underway, resulted from the contracted head of security for Bank of America in San Diego, Darell Freeman, leaning on his apparent former colleagues in the SD police department. Paige Hazard, deputy city attorney, informed Olson of the charges, after a prosecution referral was received from — get this — the city’s gang crimes unit. Olson had moved onto more personal pursuits months ago, but Freeman and the Bank of America didn’t like his disappearing chalk protests during the Occupy movement and. as in Les Miserables, were in unrelenting hot pursuit of the sidewalk protester.

The Judge’s ‘Dope’ Comments

Illustration from Facebook Recall Page

Illustration from Facebook Recall Page

Judge Howard Shore’s past has come into play, as commenters are remembering his role in a infamous San Diego medical marijuana prosecution.

 Back in 2009 County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made headlines, touting more than 60 arrests in raids coordinated with the feds on pot dispensaries, dubbed “Operation Green Rx”. Of the two cases the DA chose to take to trial, both had resulted in acquittal.

From the SD Reader account of the case of Jovan Jackson:

Jackson was the former operator of the San Diego medical marijuana dispensary Answerdam Alternative Care Collective. It was the second trial in less than a year for Jackson, who was arrested in a multi-agency law enforcement raid in September 2009. Jacksonwas acquitted by a jury in December of marijuana possession and distribution charges stemming from a 2008 arrest. This time, however, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis convinced Superior Court Judge Howard H. Shore to deny Jackson a medical marijuana defense, virtually assuring a conviction.

The OBRag reported that Jackson “was denied a defense and ultimately convicted. San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore, … referred to medical marijuana as “dope,” and called California’s medical marijuana laws “a scam,” … sentenced Jackson to 180 days in jail.”

The case was overturned on appeal on Oct 24, 2012, a ruling which was published (meaning it became a legal precedent).

Senate Passes Border Surge…er, Immigration Bill

The Senate passed an immigration bill that would give a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S. yesterday. The final vote was 68 to 32, with all Democrats and Independents along with 14 Republicans voting in favor.

While immigration advocacy groups are biting their tongue over the pork-laden provisions of the bill which will amount to a paramilitary surge in border communities, opponents are digging in their heels over at the House of Representatives.

From the very conservative National Review (emphasis mine) :

Perhaps the one thing that’s certain about the House of Representatives and immigration is that the bill that just passed the Senate could never, ever pass the House. Indeed, it’s difficult to overstate how little regard Republicans there have for it, even with the border-security amendment added by Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven.“Just like all the senators, I haven’t read it yet,” quips Representative Tim Huelskamp of KansasThe House should “fold it up into a paper airplane and throw it out the window. Oh, is that not the right answer?” jokes Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. “The Senate is, at this point, irrelevant,” observes Representative Ted Poe of Texas, the chairman of the House immigration caucus.

The National Security Agency’s Privatization Blues

spyflag_212x1971Lost in the shuffle of stories, in-between new spying revelations being published in the Guardian and the trivial pursuit of stories about the people involved in bringing those revelations to the public eye is the underlying truth that much of this whole can be attributed to the outsourcing of national security to the private sector.

This story in the Washington Post should be exhibit A:

Federal investigators have told lawmakers they have evidence that USIS, the contractor that screened Edward Snowden for his top-secret clearance, repeatedly misled the government about the thoroughness of its background checks, according to people familiar with the matter.

The alleged transgressions are so serious that a federal watchdog indicated he plans to recommend that the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees most background checks, end ties with USIS unless it can show it is performing responsibly, the people said.

Cutting off USIS could present a major logistical quagmire for the nation’s already-jammed security clearance process. The federal government relies heavily on contractors to approve workers for some of its most sensitive jobs in defense and intelligence. Falls Church-based USIS is the largest single private provider for government background checks.

An astounding 70% of the U.S. intelligence budget currently going to private firms. As Tim Shorrock whose research into the subject is the basis for what little the American public does know about these contracts says,

“because of the cloak of secrecy thrown over the intelligence budgets, there is no way for the American public, or even much of Congress, to know how those contractors are getting the money, what they are doing with it, or how effectively they are using it.”

A Tip of The Hat

Judi-Curry-Mike-Turko-FtRosecransSan Diego Free Press and OB Rag contributor Judi Curry is getting her fifteen minutes of fame this week, appearing on KUSI News with Michael Turko to talk about the shameful conditions at the Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery. You can see her stories herehere, and here.

On This Day: 1960 – In Cuba, Fidel Castro confiscated American-owned oil refineries without compensation. 1971 – The Supreme Court overturned the draft evasion conviction of Muhammad Ali. 1975 – David Bowie’s “Fame” was released.

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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org    Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.


Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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  1. avatarJEC says

    If Judge Shore only knew public challenges to prosecutions are common. Wait a minute, he’s been to judge school, he knows that. So with his 1st amendment and gag orders he denies public discourse under an ethical cloud. He’s now an issue. I wonder what the Judicial Council would have to say about Shore’s actions?

  2. avatarPeter says

    Speaking of San Diego judges, any word on how our Birther judge, Gary Kreep, is doing?

  3. avatarstan levin says

    It seems twenty-to life would be a reasonable lesson for everyone thinking about acting in so egregious a fashion … free some serial murderer or better yet some politician to make room in an 8×10 cell for this terrible threat to an orderly society … good riddance to the likes of him I say I

  4. avatar says

    This “Chalkgate” Prosecution is just one more instance that demonstrates the irresponsibility of the Jan Goldsmith Administration of the City Attorney’s Office!

  5. avatar says

    Doug Porter’s “Starting Line” logo of adorable round-toed brown sneakers waiting at a chalky-looking point of demarcation has taken on portentous significance this week.
    City Attorney Jan Goldsmith just began prosecuting an Occupy protester who chalked dissent on the sidewalks of three San Diego Bank of America branches. Will Porter’s logo stand ? Will he cave? I’m counting on him to be strong. Otherwise, all I can say is 1) Saul Alinsky lives and 2) It’s a great moment to be alive in America’s Finest City.

  6. avatarjudi says

    Gee Doug. My two great-granddaughters are staying with me this week while their parents are out of town. Before I thought they might be arrested for “chalk-drawing” in Pt. Loma I bought a big bucket of sidewalk chalk for them. They are planning to use it today, tomorrow and maybe even Sunday. If they are arrested for putting their ideas in chalk in front of my house, I want you to cover the news. Oh yeah – they are 6 and 10 years old.

  7. avatarAndy Cohen says

    Any word on whether the City Attorney’s office is going to crack down on the chalk antics of the Hash House Harriers? #Chalkgate

  8. avatarWendy Sue says

    The judge for Jeff Olson’s arrest said it’s not a case of Freedom of Speech, this is vandalism…
 That’s B.S. and yet another unjust arrest of a member of the Occupy Movement. A young OSD (Occupy San Diego) Woman, 18 yrs. at the time was arrested downtown at Civic Center Plaza and she spent 3 days in jail for side walk chalk drawing. She was released on her 19th birthday to await trial. She is an amazing graffiti, street artist and political cartoonist. She went to court for the trial 5 different times, arriving at court just to find out the prosecution had postponed her trial. The 5th time going to court, they finally dropped the unlawful charges against her – 8 months after being arrested.

    A week before She was arrested, 2 other Occupy S.D. sidewalk chalk artists at Civic Center/Freedom Plaza were warned and only given a citation by police officers. I admit, I brought chalk and other art supplies downtown to the OSD encampment, often to support the creativity of our movement. So, 4 different people, members of the Occupy Movement charged in very different ways for the same act: Side Walk Chalk Drawing as an expression of Free Speech and Freedom of Expression.

    Anyone else see selective police harassment and a class-action lawsuit?

    When was the last time in San Diego, a child, parent, teacher, school administrator was arrested for Side Walk Chalk drawing. The stupidity of these unlawful tactics is that Crayola and other brand Side Walk chalk packages state it’s water-soluble based and non-toxic. This means it washes off with water and little kids can eat it – and they do! How can this be considered harmful to the environment and vandalism? Why aren’t these packages also labeled that using them on sidewalks might lead to arrest? Maybe a lawsuit against such companies, just like cigarettes, need to happen before police stop arresting innocent people. These illegal arrests clog the court system, are a waste of time and taxpayers money!!!

    I am admitting publicly that I have used side walk chalk numerous times for decades at non-violent protests with cops present and have never been warned or arrested. The latest was at the ‘Free Bradley Manning’ protest in Hillcrest a few weeks ago. The act of sidewalk drawing is an art form practiced for centuries starting with charcoal as a medium and should continue to be covered by Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression!!! Law enforcement must stop arresting, abusing, bullying and harassing street artists under our constitutional right of Freedom of Speech and creative expression.

  9. avatarJEC says

    This is becoming the circus of the absurd. Sidewalk chalk is sold in stores. I see Sidewalk chalk on every block in my neighborhood. As my wife asked, are we at risk of being arrested for having a box of sidewalk chalk? This is so wrong on so many levels and the over-reach of Judge Shore who is clearly acting in concert with Goldsmith in violation of decent ethics. At first it was foolish now it’s disgusting.

  10. avatarClive says

    Hello San Diego. Yes, I can confirm that the laughing-stock status is, indeed, international.
    Best Regards,
    Cardiff, Wales