A San Diego jury decided that a man should not face up to 13 years in jail for protesting Bank of America by writing in water-soluble chalk on the sidewalk in front of bank branch buildings. The man, Jeff Olson, said he was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and was engaging in political protest.
A jury Monday acquitted a 40-year-old man of all charges connected with writing protest messages in chalk on the sidewalk outside branches of the Bank of America. Deliberating for only a few hours, the jury apparently agreed with Filner — declaring Jeff Olson not guilty on all 13 misdemeanor counts filed by Goldsmith’s office.
Olson, who said he was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, never denied writing the slogans. One slogan said, “No thanks, big banks.” Another, “Shame on Bank of America.” And in yet another, the bank was portrayed as an octopus grabbing at cash with its tentacles.
What was notable about the case, besides the heavy sentence, was that the judge had ordered that the First Amendment could not be invoked as a defense.
The judge in the case came under scrutiny when he ruled that the defendant and his lawyer could not even attempt to argue that the defendant was exercising his First Amendment rights in protesting the oft-maligned bank. The judge said that these were allegations of vandalism, and that the laws on vandalism don’t include any exemptions for protest.
Despite the judge’s instructions and a prosecutor out for blood, a jury of Olson’s peers decided writing political protests in easily washed off chalk on the sidewalk was not something that warranted jail time.
No word on whether Bank of America will be prosecuted for anything, ever.