It appears there is a thin chalk line between us and anarchy. Police in various states are cracking down on a criminal epidemic sweeping the nation: sidewalk chalk protesters. We just discussed the case of a California man who was not only arrested but hit with 13 charges for writing protests in chalk in front of a Bank of America. Now in Pennsylvania, a blog is reporting that AJ Martin, a health care protester, has been arrested for disorderly conduct for writing the above statement on the public sidewalk in front of the home of Governor Tom Corbett.
Martin was protesting the possible failure to expand medicare in the state and its impact on 700,000 uninsured Pennsylvania citizens. The officer wrote that Martin wrote a “derogatory remark about the governor on the sidewalk.” That remark seems less derogatory than merely descriptive: “Governor Corbett has health insurance, we should too.” Moreover, writing something derogatory is not particularly relevant to a disorderly conduct charge unless the officer was also merely being descriptive.
It is hard to see how writing this line meets the definition under the state law:
§ 5503. Disorderly conduct.
(a) Offense defined.–A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(1) engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;
(2) makes unreasonable noise;
(3) uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
(4) creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.