Chalk Protest Leads To Talk Of Criminal Mischief

Apr 5, 2019, 10:59 PM

LEHI, Utah — Criminal mischief isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about chalk, but that’s the language demonstrators in Lehi encountered, amid a protest against a development project in the city.

“It’s alarming,” Traverse Mountain resident Erin Faraclas said. “They were threatening criminal charges.”

Faraclas is one of several people in the neighborhood protesting the development project that involves the company Geneva Rock grading an area to make way for homes near Traverse Mountain.

They say their concern is safety and the impact the project could have on the air quality.

“As a lung cancer survivor…I’m afraid,” Faraclas said. “Because I know what dirty air can do.”

The neighbors have been pushing back against the project for years. But this week, the city decided the group’s latest tactic of using chalk to write its message on the sidewalks and steps surrounding Lehi City Hall, was crossing a line.

“Police got involved because it was becoming an issue for Lehi city,” Sergeant Bart Kirkham with the Lehi Police Department said. “It is defacing property even though it’s not permanent.”

Faraclas wasn’t there for the chalk protest, but supports the messages about air quality that parents and children left on the concrete.

“They wanted to create positive messages of the value of clean air,” he said.

Still, Sgt. Kirkham says “the city’s having to pay in resources and manpower to have that removed…It stepped over that line of protest and freedom of speech to possibly a crime.”

As of Friday, no one had been cited.

The ACLU of Utah said in a statement to KSL TV:

“If the city threatens criminal charges for chalk drawings on the sidewalk in front of city hall, they need to apply the same enforcement to drawings on all city sidewalks — otherwise it might appear that they are targeting the content of the message, and not the actual conduct.”

As for the Faraclas, they want the attention to turn from the chalk on the sidewalk, to the words they left behind for the city.

No one at Lehi City Hall was available for comment during Friday’s coverage of this story, but Sgt. Kirkham said the city had no issue with the protest, only the chalk they had to clean up.

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Chalk Protest Leads To Talk Of Criminal Mischief