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“I thought it better to try and get these banks to be accountable for their actions. To me, the best way to do that was to inform the public and their customers of their part in the whole mess.”

Security camera footage shows Olson chalking anti–Bank of America messages on the sidewalk.

That’s just what he did. On October 3, 2011, Olson took residence on the sidewalk outside Bank of America’s North Park branch and began a crash course in activism.

He handed out leaflets and held signs urging customers and anyone within earshot to take their business elsewhere. He rallied against a proposal from the bank to charge customers fees to use their debit cards.

On October 11, Olson and his partner of seven years, Stephen Daniels, stood at the corner of University Avenue yelling slogans and sticking up signs informing customers of the bank’s desire to start charging fees for debit cards.

Daniels’s sign read, “$45,000,000,000.00 – Taxpayer Bailout only $300,000,000 paid in fines.”

Olson’s read, “Get you debit card here for only $60.00 a year.”

“The sign was meant as a joke, but at the same time making people aware that this huge bank, the third-biggest non-oil company in the world, wanted to add new fees just a few months after the federal government — the taxpayers, really — bailed them out from the brinks of insolvency.”

Safe to say bank employees didn’t consider it very funny. Vice president of global corporate security Darrell Freeman, visiting from his office in Laguna Hills, hopped from his spot inside the bank and approached the two protesters.

Freeman accused them of running a racket to collect finder’s fees paid by a local credit union for each new customer. He threatened to call Olson’s credit union and have them close his account.

David Batterson, a contributor to the San Diego Reader, happened to be at the scene to cover the protest.

“Freeman was very hostile,” remembers Batterson. “I’d say he was trying to bully Olson by threatening to call his credit union and demanding his identification. I have to say that at the same time, Freeman was unprofessional for not showing his credentials. I felt like he was there just to scare [Olson]. I’m fairly certain he did just that.”

According to a Costa Mesa gun store’s website, the security executive is a former member of the Costa Mesa SWAT team. He taught sniper courses for Orange County police cadets and currently volunteers as a firearms instructor for the Royal Rangers Scouts, an evangelical mentoring program tasked with the mission to “evangelize, equip, and empower the next generation of Christlike men and lifelong servant leaders.”

Bank of America’s corporate security VP Darrell Freeman testifies in court.

“At first I was scared shitless,” Olson says. “I really thought he could do that. So, after our little confrontation, I called California Coastal Credit Union to see if he could have my account closed.  They laughed and basically said it was total nonsense.”

On October 17, five days after the altercation with Freeman, Olson again stationed himself on the corner of 31st and University Avenue. He and his friend JP Conly held signs and handed customers anti-bank leaflets.

Bank employees called 911. Police officers showed up a few minutes later. He posted the incident on YouTube.

He told the officers that he made sure not to yell at bank patrons and promised not to bother anyone using the ATM.

The officers left shortly after without issuing any citations.

While the police officers were willing to forget about the incident, Freeman was not so forgetful.

Olson continued protesting at the bank three days a week for a couple hours a day. He took weeks off during the holidays. His homemade signs and leaflets were not having the impact he desired.

Then one day in February 2012, Olson came across the box of sidewalk chalk.

The following day, Olson, an early riser, showed up to the bank just after dawn armed with a box of Creatology chalk and began to write the popular slogans at the time:

“Shame on BofA.”

“Banks got bailed out and we got sold.”

“No thanks, big banks”

On February 21, Olson became more creative with his message. He drew long octopus arms stretching from the walls of the bank. Stuck on its tentacles were wads of cash.

The chalking incidents became less frequent as Olson became more involved with the June elections.

What Olson did not know was activists around the country were using similar tactics. It was a temporary way to get their point across, far better than using spray paint, or for that matter lighting dumpsters on fire and pushing them into banks, like anti-war protesters had done in the ’60s.

On July 23, Los Angeles police officers arrested artist and Occupy activist Alex Schaeffer for writing “crooks” — using the Chase logo and colors — on the sidewalk outside of a branch bank in downtown Los Angeles. Schaeffer recorded his arrest and posted the video on YouTube.

“If you’re re going to get arrested, why not do it at the scene of the crime, where it all started, that being the banks,” Schaeffer said during a phone interview.

Jeff Olson chalks the sidewalk outside of a Bank of America

“I knew the city was going to be all arrest-y; that’s exactly why I did it. I wanted to show them put[ting] me in jail for writing something in chalk while at the same time these institutions bring the country to its knees and get paid billions of dollars.

“I spent 12 hours in jail that day, got the face and eye scan, the whole deal. It was all a show, to scare me.”

Just two days before Schaeffer’s arrest, Olson was at the Pride festival with his box of chalk. Olson, while focused on writing anti–Carl DeMaio slogans along the parade route, stopped by the Bank of America on University and Eighth Avenue with a stick of chalk.

“I wrote something about the banks and about DeMaio near the bank. It was funny because just after I finished, mayor — or, rather, then–congressman Bob Filner — walked by with [then-councilmembers] Toni Atkins and Donna Frye. I pointed to the message and he gave me thumbs up,” says Olson.

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David Dodd July 3, 2013 @ 1:17 p.m.

I'm very proud of the Reader for this piece, the entire coverage of Jeff Olson's ordeal, and for exposing the audacity of the City Attorney for prosecuting Olsen with taxpayer dollars (the City Attorney should not only be dismissed but also be order to pay all court expenses out-of-pocket). This made National news, and thanks to Mr. Hargrove, it is a perfect example of how alternative weekly publications are notoriously necessary, since mainstream media fails to provide proper coverage on how all branches of government are so easily manhandled by huge corporations. Olson has proven his point here, even more so than having done nothing more than drawing what amounts to harmless hopscotch chalk patterns on city sidewalks, in that large corporate entities seem to be powerful enough to direct the government to cast off a shoe and use it to smash us often-helpless slugs into submission. Good job Mr. Hargrove, and good job Mr. Olson, I thank you both.


HonestGovernment July 3, 2013 @ 3:03 p.m.

Great to read about all the background on Jeff Olson and the lead-up to the charges and trial. Good story, and congratulations to Dorian Hargrove for shining a light on the events. Also, congratulations to Jeff Olson and Tom Tosdal for standing up for principle and for winning.

Hoping this is Part 1. Want to know more about the courtroom atmosphere and the jurors. More!

I continue to be shocked at the thought of Jeff Olson losing his 4th Amendment rights in order to avoid trial. Are the San Diego cops so overstaffed and unbusy that they could find time to randomly search Olson's home and person, ... for chalk or political literature? What?

The extreme plea deals offered and the arrogance of the judge, who criticized the press and media for reporting the maximum charges Jeff Olson faced (as if reporters are obligated to assure the public that the worst would never happen?), are frightening. I hope this abuse of the City Attorney's office brings about some internal changes in the official protocol for deciding on charges brought, and some deep introspection among the Deputy City Attorneys as to the political nature of the office and their boss. They might do a little protesting of their own in the future. I'm also curious if any of the five DCAs in the courtroom on the final day were from the Civil Rights division, if there is one.


BlueSouthPark July 3, 2013 @ 5:21 p.m.

I wondered what Olson's T-shirt said. Knowing that it says I am displeased with the entire situation makes me even madder that the "deals" that the city offered included anger management. Olson presented himself with gentle mildness when confronted by the BofA security jerk and by the police officers who were sicced on Olson. Even the chalked protests were polite, as I'm sure the jury noticed.

The cheapest, laziest way to insult someone whose point of view is at variance with your own is to declare them "angry" or in need of behavior modification. It's the sort of cheap shot that Goldsmith and the cabal take toward Mayor Filner, day in and day out. Those people place great value on sticking the knife in with a quiet and sickly smile, smug comments, and supercilious remonstrations. It prevails in the City Attorney's office. The "deal" for Olson of taking anger management classes was twisted and insulting. In honor of Kafka's birthday, I'll paraphrase: In the fight between Goldy's cabal and the world, I'll back the world. Round One goes to Olson-Tosdal.

(Goldsmith and the cabal, so pissed that DeMaio didn't win, must have never seen him fly into a rage in council meetings, demeaning anyone who didn't agree with him. We really are blessed that he is confined to sending out pleas for money, and isn't sitting in City Hall giving away favors and money to the cabal. I'll take Filner's honest outrage, any day, and wish we had a City Attorney that was his equal.)


Fred Williams July 3, 2013 @ 9:08 p.m.

Jeff Olson's acquittal on all counts is not the end of this saga.

Next, let's watch Goldsmith squirm, as Freeman loses his job, and the City and SDPD are sued for damages.

But I bet Olson being a true gentleman, would agree to drop the matter if Goldsmith, Officer Miles, and Freeman would simply apologize with sincerity and refrain from such misconduct in the future.

Perhaps the Mayor's office could arrange a press conference where he apologizes, on behalf of the City, and invites Goldsmith and the others to do so as well.

That would be sweet...and justified, and the only scenario where the city doesn't lose even more money because of ferret-top and the SDPD maliciously collaborating with big businesses to violate the constitutional rights of citizens.


BlueSouthPark July 3, 2013 @ 10:11 p.m.

That's a nice idea, Fred. I like it. Also, Filner could announce he isn't going to attend any more closed sessions until Goldsmith apologizes to everyone and Andrew Jones apologizes to Rosa Parks' family.


nostalgic July 4, 2013 @ 2:06 p.m.

What will happen next? This was a criminal, not a civil suit. I am not sure the city has to pay the winning lawyer. Then, it would take a civil suit for "false arrest"? Please, some of you lawyers, help us out here.


SurfPuppy619 July 4, 2013 @ 3:42 p.m.

Yes, a federal lawsuit is next, usually in federal court, against the City ......and SDPD.


SurfPuppy619 July 4, 2013 @ 3:45 p.m.

"Deputy city attorney Hazard fires back, “The people do feel chalk is defacement. Mr. Olson did not seek authorization from the Bank of America or the City of San Diego to write messages on the sidewalk." Oh brother......"authorization" on a public sidewalk...Hazard should put on a Batman outfit and try to act in movies instead of a courtroom.

"The goal of this case is to address blight. We prosecute cases to protect the quality of life for residents.” The goal of this case was to jump at the command of your corporate master. I wonder if Squirrel Toupee can "Roll Over" and "Sit" just as good.......


HonestGovernment July 4, 2013 @ 4:06 p.m.

When anyone from the San Diego City Attorney's office starts talking about the quality of life of residents, I want to run far, far away.


SurfPuppy619 July 4, 2013 @ 6:22 p.m.

Tell Ferret Head to ask B of A[ss] how the "quality of life" is going for the home owners they DEFRAUDED with their robo-signing foreclosures.......


Writeon July 5, 2013 @ 6:21 p.m.

Ferret Head! I will never see this guy the same way again!


bartleby88 July 5, 2013 @ 12:41 p.m.

Unfortunately, nowadays when a government official says he is "concerned with the public welfare" means there is a red flag going up and you better be very careful in what will happen next.


HonestGovernment July 4, 2013 @ 4:53 p.m.

This charge filed by Goldsmith's attorneys led me to do a little reading about who Goldsmith is. I started with this profile. It says nothing about what he was doing prior to 1988, pretty odd for someone who was admitted to the Cal Bar in 1976. The San Diego Daily Transcript had the only Internet mention of his work and partnership at two law firms, Seltzer Caplan and Dorazio, Barnhorst, Goldsmith & Bonar. I couldn't imagine why these affiliations aren't present in any of his public resumes.

Perhaps this is why: His biggest claim to fame at Dorazio, Barnhorst, Goldsmith & Bonar was, from 1981 to 1985, defending against deportation a former officer of the Latvian Political Police. The Board of Immigration ruling for deportation produced witnesses describing Goldsmith's client, as an "armed, paid, full-time, relatively high-ranking officer" who, from 1941 to 1943, at a Riga, Latvia Nazi-controlled prison "assisted and otherwise participated in the persecution of persons because of political opinion." It's just so ironic.

Goldsmith took the case to the US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, and won, based on the narrow ruling that no living witnesses were produced who could actually state that they were beaten or tortured (or killed?). Goldsmith's client, Laipenieks, was not deported and remained in the US, dying in 1998 in La Jolla at the age of 84.


rdotinga July 4, 2013 @ 5:38 p.m.

That's very interesting background. But it's hard to know if the case against the Latvian guy was bogus or not.

Btw, the profiles on the site you mention don't seem to include non-political jobs. Bob Filner's bio, for example, only starts in 1975. http://www.joincalifornia.com/candidate/5980


dlwatib July 5, 2013 @ 11:56 a.m.

Thank God the jury had a modicum of common sense and refused to convict on such ridiculous, trumped-up charges. But we are still left with the evidence that our police force, our District Attorney, and the judge in the case were too corrupt to see the stupidity of prosecuting this case in the first place. Plus, where were the voices of reason in our state legislature when it was decided to include chalk markings as vandalism?

I can't believe that the generation that lived through the protests of the Vietnam War era would grow up into such doltish totalitarian dictators. At least this protestor didn't get gunned down like the protestors at Kent State.


Writeon July 5, 2013 @ 6:52 p.m.

Long before mortgage meltdowns and people losing their homes, Bank of America didn't have a great reputation with account holders that I know. Now that we know badmouthing "B of A" via "chalking" ruffles their panties so badly, the biggest fear for "B of A" might be making themselves a target for continued forms of expression. So "chalking" hits a nerve with big, bad, "B of A"? It must hurt when control has it's limits. How about "chalking" half a block away? What are you going do then "B of A"? Thanks for the efforts in bringing this story to us readers. I think of Mr Olson's protest and expression of free speech while also reflecting on the protests going on in Egypt right now. Crying about chalk on the sidewalk? The well-heeled multinational has it so tough. Some people don't like you "B of A". Deal with it. How much is chalk going for these days anyways?


ejs July 7, 2013 @ 4 p.m.

If the Bank of America did force this prosecution and the City Attorney filed and pursued it in order to further his political ambitions (quite a miscalculation, if true), then I think the Bank should be sued in civil court for malicious prosecution and abuse of process.


SurfPuppy619 July 7, 2013 @ 6:07 p.m.

If the Bank of America did force this prosecution and the City Attorney filed and pursued it in order to further his political ambitions (quite a miscalculation, if true), then I think the Bank should be sued in civil court for malicious prosecution and abuse of process.

Well believe it or not, this is not against the law for the city attorney to do, and they can even act in a malicious manner and still get what is known as prosecutorial immunity. B of A and SDPD may be sued, but not the CA (again the City can but only b/c they employ SDPD)..


tonybob49 July 9, 2013 @ 12:47 p.m.

Does no one think this whole thing was due to BofA's "Corporatre Security VP", Darrell Freeman being a homophobe? He's a member of some armed evangelical group out of Orange County, the Royal Rangers. Olson is gay and no doubt Freeman picked up on this (he's working in a BofA in Hillcrest?!?!?!?).
The gay community should start closing accounts with the bank. Then they won't need a Hillcrest branch. And the Gay and Lesbian community leaders should look into this. This could be bigger than Paula Deen.


Jeff_O July 10, 2013 @ 10:26 p.m.

Chalk the BofA / Turn your back on bankster thugs: SD Pride edition!


An injury to one is an injury to all! Tell the Wall Street bankster thugs from BofA that it takes more than one day of platitudes to atone for their crimes against Jeff Olson, our community and our nation.


Turn your backs when their sycophantic sympathizers march in our parade and join the fun chalking our city sidewalks in front of their Hillcrest crime scene at 737 University Ave. Bring washable chalk and your creative spirit.


As we march into the mainstream, let's not forget our radical roots!


villageram July 9, 2013 @ 2:31 p.m.

I meant to leave my account with Bank of Amerika back in the day when Olsen was protesting and there was all the protesting but I didnt. Last week I did. F-U Banks of Amerika!!


dwoodwhe July 12, 2013 @ 1:41 p.m.

This is ridiculous. Olson made no attempts to conceal his identity, and the Gang Task Force waits until 13 complaints pile up before acting? I believe the punishment should fit the crime. Make the Gang Task Force pay for 12/13ths of the clean up from their budget, since the whole mess could have been cleaned up after the first incident.

Make BoA pay for the remaining incident, since a protest would not have been needed had their policies towards their customers not been nasty.

In addition, fire those in charge of the ineffective Gang Unit, who couldn’t catch someone who wasn’t hiding. Hire Olson to fill the resulting job opening. He has proven his abilities to draw chalk outlines, a useful police technique.


BillRayDrums Aug. 15, 2013 @ 12:17 p.m.

Hazard sounds like she needs to go back to civics class and stop being such a bad American. What a disgrace.


LoveBeautyNGlam Aug. 18, 2013 @ 8:47 p.m.

I would find this ridiculous except just about 2 weeks ago my Best Friend's apartment complex took her children's chalk off of her front porch, hosed off the basic scribbles by a 2 & 7 year old on the walkway leading up to her door before it had a chance to rain and then sent her a warning for graffiti. HA! is all I have to say. I can't wait to sent her this article.


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