“Chalk-U-Py” Protest, Petitions Follow Judge’s Gag Order in Bank of America Graffiti Trial
By Doug Porter
Things 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 Change.org, 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
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. http://t.co/8d8AhpJBif
— 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
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 Kansas. The 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
Lost 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
San 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 here, here, 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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