A California man is facing 13 years in prison for writing an anti-big bank message on the sidewalk in chalk. While the charges seem over the top, the case will go to trial next week.
Jeff Olson is being charged with 13 counts of vandalism for writing his message about the pitfalls of big banks on the sidewalk in San Diego. Besides the 13 year prison bid, Olson also faces having to pay $13,000 in restitution fees. Olson has called the charges “heavy-handed” and says he was just exercising his right of free speech. Olson told news outlets, “I was encouraging folks to close their accounts at big Wall Street banks to transfer their money local nonprofit, community credit unions.”
Jeff Olson was caught on city surveillance cameras writing his anti-big bank message in children’s chalk on sidewalks on several different occasions in three different neighborhoods around San Diego. Olson admitted he has done this more than a dozen times before. He also said, “Free speech is protected; just because you don’t like what it says doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. If I had drawn a little girl’s hopscotch squares on the street, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Despite Jeff Olson invoking his first amendment rights, the San Diego District Attorney says what Jeff Olson did was vandalize a sidewalk with his message and he will be tried in a court of law for it because the city deems it as vandalism.