The Chalk Menace: Pennsylvania Man Charged With Writing On Public Sidewalk In Front Of Governor’s Mansion

chalking1It 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.

220px-TomCorbett-McCainRally2008_flippedThe reference to the character of the message makes it sound a lot like content-based enforcement. If Martin wrote “Governor Corbett rocks,” would it still have been a disorderly act?


29 thoughts on “The Chalk Menace: Pennsylvania Man Charged With Writing On Public Sidewalk In Front Of Governor’s Mansion”

  1. I was criminally charged in Routt County / Steamboat Springs Colorado just for talking. I was accused of accusing my neighbor the city council president Kevin Bennett of violating the zoning. The buildings he built did violate the zoning and when I asked the City of Steamboat Springs Colorado to compare the descriptions of the buildings at 701 Princeton Ave to the zoning they refused to do so. Kevin Bennett is a convicted drug dealer! or at least convicted of transportation of illegal drugs with intent to sell. I never went to trial on the charge but a restraining order was issued on the basis that there was a charge and I was forced to sell my house to my neighbor’s lawyer.

  2. In Seattle, when the Occupy movement was just breaking out, there were arrests of “chalking” public property… So parents supporting the Occupy Seattle let their little 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 year old children draw their protest signs in chalk… No more arrests. Odd, ain’t it? Even the parents weren’t cited. Kids. Gotta love ’em. 🙂

  3. Oky1, I didn’t take it that personally. I just thought you were engaging in an Alex Jones rant. In any case it is sweet of you to clarify it. Hell, you can’t be all that bad if you boycott GMO foods and grow your own. 😉

  4. Reblogged this on Randy C White and commented:
    “Free speech”, unless you mildly criticize a public official (or a corporation).

  5. Swarthmore mom,

    I noticed your posts have been far better since our lil dust up a couple of weeks ago.

    It seems you’re wearing an arm band with a US flag on it now. Believe me, look much better wearing this one, keep wearing it.

    We swear an oath to protect & defend all the US Constitution’s intent & not some partisan political hacks jaded opinion, Demo or Repub, that came into office through rigged election voting machines/etc.

    I was a Sen John Kerry supporter in 2004. He told us he & the govt had repaired the election process from 2000. Then we all saw it was still rigged from the results in Ohio.

    He said & did much of nothing about it.

    His office called later asking for support on some other issue. In a somewhat heated discussion I told them to go pound sand until they went & really repaired our voting system & it’s still not fix.

    We’ve all been betrayed by so many politicians in our lifetimes that it’s a pity, but I’m not letting up on hammering them on these important issues.

    Anyway, I’m just writing this to say I don’t like getting harsh with you or anyone yet I feel it’s important not to allow these polecats one inch to abuse us people or our Republic.

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