In a press release today, the City of Champaign reminded protesters that “[g]raffiti use…can present a condition of blight within the City” and it “will begin to clean graffiti that has been placed on public property and will continue this practice moving forward to maintain consistency and fairness throughout the city.”

Children under the age of 13 or their guardians may use water-soluble chalk on city sidewalks.

This statement is outrageous for a number of reasons, the least of which is equating the use of sidewalk chalk during a protest as graffiti.

Where is the press release “reminding the community to proceed safely and respectfully” when driving your motor vehicle through a crowd of peaceful protesters?

Where is the press release decrying the blight caused by massive, mostly empty high-rise buildings with "For Lease" signs in their windows?

The City says, “[a]mong the concerns of graffiti use is the deterioration of property values, business opportunities, negative environmental impacts and effecting the enjoyment of life for persons using adjacent and surrounding properties.” Okay, but what about the “persons using adjacent and surrounding properties” who are harassed by ornery and racist business owners?

If you’re worried about the rise in graffiti crime in Champaign, the City urges you to contact the police: “Residents interested in learning more about this process are encouraged to contact the Police Department (police@champaignil.gov) to help ensure it is done so safely and appropriately.”

Yes, seriously.

What about the press release talking about the absolute waste of resources to have police dealing with sidewalk chalk abusers? Is that how we want our tax money spent?

It's time the City of Champaign started valuing Black people more than property.

The entire press release is below, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety; just be sure you are sitting down when you do so.

Posted on July 30, 2020

The City of Champaign is reminding the community to proceed safely and respectfully while exercising your rights to peacefully assemble and protest. The City supports civic engagement, and as we continue to have more important and necessary discussions around social injustice, the City is providing the following guidance in response to citizen inquiries pertaining to matters of protesting and permissible graffiti use.

Champaign is a city of compassion with deep respect for social diversity, and we must remember to treat one another as neighbors with a common goal to become stronger, more educated, and more just. To help do so, the City’s Legal Department has assembled a set of guiding statements relative to gatherings where City Ordinances, State law or other legal principles may be relevant for organizers to be aware of. That document can be accessed on the City’s website here, which will continue to be updated as a working document.

The City is proud of its longstanding partnership with residents, businesses, and visitors to protect the right of self-expression. Graffiti use, however, can present a condition of blight within the City. Among the concerns of graffiti use is the deterioration of property values, business opportunities, negative environmental impacts and effecting the enjoyment of life for persons using adjacent and surrounding properties. Furthermore, by allowing any and all graffiti use, the City may open itself up to allow expression that does not align with our community values of equal opportunity for all.

Generally speaking, it is unlawful for an individual to deface public or private property with graffiti. Exceptions to the ordinance include the use of water-soluble chalk on public sidewalks by a child under the age of thirteen (13) or by the child’s parents or guardians. More information on graffiti use can be accessed by visiting Article IV, Division 2 of the Champaign Municipal Code here.

Starting today, the City will begin to clean graffiti that has been placed on public property and will continue this practice moving forward to maintain consistency and fairness throughout the city.

Residents interested in learning more about this process are encouraged to contact the Police Department (police@champaignil.gov) to help ensure it is done so safely and appropriately. We are committed to helping provide you the proper arena for your voice to be heard.

Top image by Jessica Hammie.