At 2:30PM this afternoon, I went out to Central Square for Chalk the Police Day. Being the first to arrive, I began decorating the ground with phrases such as “CopBlock.Org, Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights” and “Give Peace a Chance.” Other chalkers began arriving, and soon the bleak pavement was filled with color and colorful ideas. A man from the Keene Parks and Recreation Department (pictured to the right) parked his vehicle at the edge of the square. As you can see in the photo, the place he chose to park is somewhat disruptive to traffic.
The man hid his badge beneath his shirt when Garret of FreeConcord.org focused in with his camera and then basically pushed the camera away, but I have since learned that his name is Andy Bohannon. Bohannon told us that we were defacing city property by writing with sidewalk chalk, asked if we had gotten permission to chalk, and said that we needed to discontinue the event. After calling the police, he warned us that they were coming – needless to say, we continued to chalk.
As the square had been sufficiently decorated, we decided to move across the street to chalk in front of City Hall. Bohannon moved his vehicle and parked nearby. Two police officers showed up and stood talking with the man for a few minutes, observing. After a few minutes, the police officers walked in the other direction, then crossed the street to Central Square. The man from Keene Parks and Recreation walked into City Hall without saying a word. As the officers walked through Central Square, Garret filmed. Those of us chalking at City Hall began walking in the direction of the officers. When we crossed paths, a friendly suggestion was made that they join in the fun. Officer Peter Bowers of the Keene Police Department asked for yellow, then proceeded to use a piece of chalk to draw a smiley face on the ground. See for yourself:
Rather than arresting or ticketing those who were using chalk as a way to express ideas as the man from Keene Parks and Recreation would have probably desired, the officers simply observed and declined to forcefully prevent us from writing with children’s chalk – and one of them even joined in! I would say that Chalk the Police Keene, NH was a successful event and that officers who have used force to stop people from using sidewalk chalk on public property should follow the lead of the two officers who arrived today – leave them alone or join in the fun!