His attorney Tom Tosdal, working pro-bono, says he is in for the long haul.
“As a lawyer, I took an oath to defend the Constitution. That’s what this case is for me. The city attorney is playing politics with [Olson’s] right to free speech. It’s another form of social control, and I won’t sit by and watch it happen. I was there in the ’60s when real protest happened. This, writing in water-soluble chalk, is so minor.”
It’s not the first time that Tosdal has stood up for free-speech rights.
He also advised Alex Schaeffer as the Los Angeles city attorney pondered whether to press charges.
“Each person in this country has the right to freely speak, write, or publish his or her sentiments on all subjects. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech. That’s what the Constitution says and that’s what I believe is right and just.”
Despite his pleas, Judge Bloom denied Tosdal’s request to dismiss the case. The trial was set to begin on June 25.
After the judge’s decision, standing outside of the courtroom, Olson tried to grasp the positive aspects of the ordeal.
“It’s good and bad that City Attorney Goldsmith is going after me. In certain ways I feel like a martyr. It’s, like, here I am getting prosecuted for marking the sidewalk with chalk and the big banks and Wall Street fat cats haven’t answered to nothing. It’s not huge, but I feel like this might make a difference for others, for the future activists who don’t agree with the system and try to fight to be heard.”
It’s been up and down for Olson since that June 17 court hearing. On the positive side, Olson has seen support for his cause grow.
He’s also been forced to deal with the strong possibility that he may be convicted. That proved to be the case on June 25, when judge Howard Shore listened to preliminary motions filed by the attorneys.
During discussion, Shore granted deputy city attorney Hazard’s motion to prohibit Tosdal from even mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech to the jury during the trial.
“The state’s Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights,” stated Shore.
The judge felt the trial should focus on whether or not Olson was guilty of vandalism and not deliberate about his motivations.
As an example, Shore cited the case, Mackinney v. Nielsen 69 F.3d 1002 (9th Cir. 1995), in which a man was acquitted after a court ruled that use of chalk was not considered vandalism. The law was later changed to define vandalism as defacement “with graffiti or other inscribed material.”
Tosdal exited the courtroom after Shore’s ruling with a smirk on his face. “I’ve never heard that before, that a court can prohibit an argument of First Amendment rights”
The jury was selected on June 26. The trial began that same day.