This is how my night went. I drove to DTLA to vend my handmade jewelry at Art Walk. I was set up at the Spring Arcade with a group of artists on Spring between 5th and 6th. I got there at 5:45pm and started unloading my car and setting up after 6:15pm. The chalk protest started after we had parked and started setting up. I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the street chalk protest was a stupid idea because I was thinking “who cares” and went about my business. I have been doing art walk for months and nothing had ever happened before. Using Art Walk as a platform was probably a smart move for those that wanted to get the attention of the community but it also has a downside – it soured the art walk experience.
There were people with signs, chanting, and others were doodling on the sidewalk as a non-violent expression of their frustration. There was a recent arrest regarding writing on the sidewalk with chalk and people were outraged. I heard political chants and there were some youths causing a ruckus, but they were not the majority – they were a handful of people. After 9pm the police moved in in full riot gear and made the crowd disperse on Spring street between 5th and 6th – right where we were set-up. Some rabble rousers ran through the I ART U DTLA market walkway and the doors were rolled down for our safety. It started to get pretty hairy outside. Police had completely blocked off Spring where we were and had set up a blockade in their riot gear. From what I saw the police were on high alert and we were caught in the middle of it.
The paying customers were told to leave the area and the lights were dimmed on the vendors. We asked what we should do and the security for Spring Arcade told me, “there is a riot going on outside. Stay here for your safety and forget everything else.” A riot? Seriously? I tried to explain that we wanted to go home but the scene was too active to get a human being to respond to actual questions. So we sat around for a half hour and then packed up for lack of better guidance – the night was officially ruined. We spent a lot to get in that space and our time was cut in half. Most vendors will admit that the majority of their sales happen in the last hour, so who knows what we could have made. I slowly packed up and waited. There were grumblings of wanting a refund. After 11pm we were finally able to take our things to our cars – almost all the vendors were parked next to the building and the lot had one exit on Spring st – which of course was block on both ends. The police did move to one side of the blockade at around 11:30pm to let us out, one by one. There was a wall of police in full riot gear walking together from 6th street to 5th street and that’s when it hit me – this is insane. We are human beings. Why are they treating us like the enemy?! How many innocent people got caught in the middle of this crap?
Covered in sweat with downtown grim in my pores, all I could think about was going home to my husband and showering for days. I drove home, numbed by the experience, angered by the way we were treated, and upset that I just lost a lot of money. When I got home I hydrated, washed up for bed and curled up into my husband’s chest and tell him what happened; he was sympathetic. I took a few minutes to look through facebook and realized that I should have tried to locate a friend and felt guilty. I didn’t think of anyone but myself and though it was a crazy night, I still feel like I should have helped that friend get out of there sooner. she did find a way home later on. I looked at cellphone footage from friends that were there and on youtube from strangers of police actions, protesters being carted off, and LAPD lashing out with batons and ignoring common sense. There was push-back after the police in riot gear showed up, but not before.
I saw people mistreated in my own country, in my own city, in my own lifetime. This experience has gone beyond my own financial loss and has brought me to finally understand why the chalk protest happened in the first place. The government is treated people like dirt and is suppressing our basic rights to be heard. I am now a sympathizer and I am armed with anger. Shame on you LAPD for mistreating the people of our great city – the art walk crowd was shot at with rubber bullets. I don’t know if I want to return to Art Walk after this.
This morning I heard news reports on the way to work. They are completely-fucking-false. Instead of listening to that dribble, watch actual youtube footage and make your own decisions. The LAPD escalated the situation and the people responded, giving the LAPD some sort of twisted permission to crush the crowd of protesters and innocent bystanders alike. Ask yourself if riot gear and rubber bullets were the proper response to a sidewalk chalk demonstration during art walk.
If you would like to help myself and the other artisans recoup losses due to the LAPD ChalkWalk shutdown, please become a customer:
Dani Shriver ~ MyDaniMonster Handmade Jewelry & Use coupon code ROCKET50 at checkout for half off all items!
Heather Duby-Tharpe ~ BBLUXE handmade & hand forged jewelry and accessories
Stephanie Payan ~ Unique Inspirations – all sorts of rad items from jewelry to sewn items!
Kim Weaver ~ Astera Leather handmade leather goods
Christina Cabral ~ Jonah Elliot – plus size handmade clothing