Wellesley students arrested for chalking up town square sidewalks with peace signs 

Interesting little news item back from the other side of the country in Wellesley, MA.

What these girls did is against the law -- you don't get to write your opinions on a public sidewalk that's not specifically designated for that purpose. Writing it in the town square also makes it a bigger offense (practically speaking, not legally speaking) than writing it on some residential street. The fact that the chalk washes off after a couple days of foot traffic or a rainfall or a concentrated hosing is also immaterial -- that's still a significant period of time that they're improperly using the sidewalk. But I think the cops may have overreacted just a tad by throwing them in the slammer instead of just issuing a citation and making them wash it off. This was certainly one of those "teachable moments", and they blew it.

Lots of cities have walls and other spaces designated for public expression. Maybe these Wellesley kids can support a proposition for such spaces to be built. (Given the population of the town of Wellesley though, I doubt it'd ever pass.)

Would the same have happened if they wrote "Support Our Troops" instead? If someone cared enough to narc on them as happened here, I would guess that they'd be ordered to clean it off. There might be a lesser chance of them getting thrown in the slammer. But I could be wrong on either count. And I don't think the cops would have done anything at all if it had been a hopscotch board.

Defacing a sidewalk is like keeping a pet in a dorm room. If it's a goldfish or a hamster, no one will care as long as it doesn't leave the room and doesn't bother anybody. If it's a dog, the neighbors will complain, and the RA will have to enforce the letter of the law.


I'm surprised they weren't hauled into Homeland Security for questioning.

This brings up a hilarious (and completely unrelated) anecdote. Back when I was at the Harvard math department, there was a white powder/anthrax scare once. I never found out quite what it was, but I'm pretty sure it was chalk dust.

obviously, the appropriate way to deal with a follower of gandhi is to imprison her. while she protests nonviolently.

When it comes to freedom of speech, it seems that many people in the US want to ban everything that they find objectionable. Thus it doesn't surprise me that it was political speech where they cracked down on the chalkings. With that said, I think arresting someone for chalking is pretty pathetic.

Well, to be fair, people/governments in lots of other countries want to ban everything that they find objectionable, and some go a lot farther than is typical in the US.

Political speech isn't the only form of speech that would be extremely objectionable in this case. If Wal-Mart (to pick on another easy target) wanted to put a chalk ad in the sidewalk of the town square, I imagine there'd be a similar fuss, and deservedly so.

I agree.

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