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Arrested for Chalking? Occupy Austin Members Face Misdemeanor Charges

Update: KUT News has received a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Here's DPS Media and Communications Press Secretary Tom Vinger: 

On 08/09, at approximately 6p.m., Corey Williams and Audrey Steiner were arrested for Criminal Mischief, class C misdemeanor.  Williams and Steiner were observed chalking the sidewalks at 11th Street and Congress Avenue across from the Capitol.  The charges might be enhanced to a class B misdemeanor if the cost to the city of Austin is $50 or more but less than $500.  This is based on the cost to clean the chalk off of the sidewalks.  According to the Criminal Mischief law (28.03), “a person commits an offense if, without the effective consent of the owner, intentionally or knowingly makes markings, including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings on the tangible property of the owner.”

Original post: Two supporters of Occupy Austin were arrested downtown yesterday, charged with criminal mischief for what appears to be drawing on the sidewalk with chalk.

Several photos were posted to the Occupy Austin Facebook page, showing the arrest of two individuals.

Kit O'Connell, an Occupy member who has documented many of the group’s moments, was at the event yesterday. He says the group consciously chose the site they did – facing the Texas Capitol from across 11th Street – as during a previous event on the Capitol grounds, occupiers were told they could not chalk.

“We deliberately wanted to challenge that,” O'Connell says, “but we didn’t want to people to gather at the Capitol itself, where we’ve been told that was illegal.”

O'Connell says state troopers were visible when a dozen or so Occupiers and supporters assembled around 5:30 yesterday evening. Approximately 30 minutes later, troopers came across the street from the Capitol and placed two people under arrest. O'Connell says they were charged with a Class C criminal mischief misdemeanor.

Similar chalking, or “Chalkupy,” events, were held by Occupy organizations across the county yesterday, in solidarity with Occupy Los Angeles.

As KPCC Los Angeles reports, during the city’s July public arts event ArtWalk, “members of Occupy L.A., protesting an LAPD crackdown on chalking, migrated into ArtWalk, spurring a melee that involved 17 arrests, bottles being thrown at police, and the LAPD's use of rubber bullets and other less lethal crowd control weapons.”

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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