Art gallery owner Nathan Cartwright says Thursday night’s Occupy LA demonstration cut off his business during a monthly downtown art exhibit. He says he didn’t like the protesters use of Art Walk as a back drop for their demonstration because it hurt artists trying to make a living. Antonio Castelan reports from Downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 13, 2012.
The chalk is gone from Thursday night's Occupy LA demonstration, but opinions of the demonstration remained as diverse and adamant as when the Southland's arm of the nationwide movement first set up camp outside City Hall for two months last fall.
Art gallery owner Nathan Cartwright says Thursday night’s demonstration cut off his business during a monthly downtown art exhibit.
"I don’t like the use of the Art Walk as a backdrop for a huge political rally," Cartwright said. "It hurts us; it hurts the actual galleries, the artists that are actually trying to make a professional living."
LAPD issued a citywide tactical alert and deployed about 140 officers to deal with roughly 200 protesters that gathered near the intersection of Fifth and Spring streets.
Downtown resident Donovan Brown said those involved shouldn't be characterized as protesters.
"These were just people who were down here for the Art Walk. They passed out chalk. The police overreacted. They're putting down free speech. It's being mischaracterized," Brown said.
Still others questioned the group's motives and what its demonstration achieved.
“You know art is one of the universal languages and for the agitators last night to say they were engaged in free speech, one has to look at the results of their speech and see if it was really the goal they’d set out to achieve,” said Joe Moller with Downtown Art Walk. “You can yell fire in a theatre, but is that the result you want?”
Occupy LA is taking credit for the protest it dubbed ChalkWalk.
"Tonight, #ArtWalk in #DTLA becomes #ChalkWalk! Occupy Los Angeles has had a laughably ridiculous 12 arrests the past 6 weeks for children's sidewalk chalk. Tonight from 7-9pm, occupiers, artists, enthusiasts, rebels, and the intrigued will defend the First Amendment and freedom of speech," wrote organizers on the group's Facebook page.
"Chalk the police" and "You wouldn't shoot your kids for this, why shoot us?" were among the chalk messages written in the streets.
"This was ridiculous. This was way, way, way out of proportion; and like I said, I think the problem was the police caused the problem," said another resident John Maldonado.
Police said there is a delicate balancing act between protecting the rights of the Art Walk attendees and the rights of the protesters.
Based on revised numbers released Friday morning, police said 17 arrests -- down from 20 -- were made as a result of the Art Walk altercation.
"We always heavily deploy for the Art Walk anyways," said Sgt. Rudy Lopez. "We had probably about 80 officers deployed for that event, so they were ready -- not related, but we did receive information that there was a potential protest or sit-down involving Occupy LA."
Charges include one count of misdemeanor vandalism for a juvenile, eight misdemeanor counts of vandalism for adults, two counts of failure to disperse, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, two counts of resisting arrest, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of assault on a police officer, Lopez said.
Police clarified that two pedestrians originally reported as being injured were actually arrested on suspicion of failure to disburse.
Three officers suffered minor injuries, Lopez said. Another officer suffered a mild concussion when she was hit in the helmet with a bottle, Lopez said.
Witnesses first reported a demonstration near the intersection of Fifth and Spring streets around 8:40 p.m. Thursday. Shortly after 11 p.m., more than 100 officers in riot gear told the crowd to disperse.
Aerial video showed demonstrators throwing objects at officers. At least one person threw a traffic cone at an unmarked police car.
"I went to bed and that's when I heard all the noise and all the chaos. I didn't know what was going on," said downtown resident Alex Rendo.
"The cops shooting rubber bullets, there was people in the middle of the street, like right at the intersection of 5th and Hill, they had Pershing Square like completely blocked off, like the cops. It was just like crazy," Rendo said. "Not our normal Art Walk night."
By 9 a.m. Friday, clean-up crews had removed most of the chalk from the side of buildings and the street.