'Santa' arrested for using sidewalk chalk in front of Texas capitol building
It hasn’t been a jolly season for one Santa, who ended up getting arrested by DPS in Austin on Friday after he wrote on the sidewalk with chalk in front of the state capitol building.
According to a Friday press release from Occupy Austin, “Santa” and one of his “Elves” were arrested after they allegedly wrote things like ‘Peace,' 'Friendship,' and 'Grace,'" and “Free Santa” on the sidewalk near the south steps of the state’s capitol building. Santa was handcuffed and placed face-down on the ground in front of a large audience around 1:30 Friday afternoon, according to the release.
The man in the red suit was later identified as 36-year-old James Bradly Peterson, and he was charged with criminal mischief for “defacing” the grounds in front of the sacred state capitol building.
Witnesses to the events were members of Occupy Austin, who as a group feel that “the use of washable sidewalk chalk is constitutionally protected free speech, and several previous court rulings agree.”
Following Santa’s arrest, Occupy Austin formed a Free Santa Rally at the Travis County Jail around 6pm Friday night.
One of the witnesses to Santa’s arrest stated:
"DPS has overstepped all boundaries today and I will stand and wait for Santa. I hope he's out quick, I hear he still has a lot to do to get ready for Tuesday," said witness Christopher Michael, a member of the Occupy Your Capitol group.
Peterson was booked into the Travis County Jail on charges of Criminal Mischief of less than $50.
"Today I saw the jolly red elf at the Capitol, cheerfully requesting that children write their wishes for a better world in chalk on the sidewalk. Santa said his favorite word was 'Community,'” said Occupy Austin's Lainie Duro, a witness to the arrest.