You can’t make this stuff up! Today, I found the following E-mail in my in box, sent by Daily Kos:
Jeff Olsen faces thirteen years in prison for writing political messages on the sidewalk outside of a Bank of America, using washable children’s chalk. Please sign the petition telling San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith to drop charges against the sidewalk chalker and preserve the First Amendment. Click here to sign the petition.
This story gets even more absurd. Under pressure from Bank of America, the city attorney prosecuting the case motioned to block Olson from using the First Amendment as part of his defense––and the Judge granted the motion!
What’s next? Are college students and little girls playing hopscotch now in danger of arrest if they chalk on a public sidewalk? Olsen’s crime was easily washed away with the next rain, but this case sets a dangerous precedent––blocking political free speech under the First Amendment endangers all activists.
Senator Elizabeth Warren shared the story on her Facebook page with the headline, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I couldn’t agree more.
My response: This is beyond absurd. The charges are outrageous, to begin with—but NOT being able to bring up a 1st Amendment defense? WHAT? This sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch—but it is someone’s life and freedom on the line. I wish I could say “unbelievable”—the fact that I do believe it is upsetting—what has happened to my country? In many ways, I do not recognize it.
Happy Independence Day! What would our founders think?