Santa Claus, also known by his friends as James Peterson, was arrested after spreading holiday cheer and chalk with young people in front of the Texas capitol building on the 21st. An occupy activist who was giving out chalk to children while dressed as Santa was well received in the plaza, but as he left, Texas DPS officers chased him down and handcuffed him. The crowd appears shocked, one woman yelling out in confusion, “You’re arresting Santa Claus?!”
The jolly red man asks numerous times, “Why am I being arrested?” After a minute, they tell him that he was chalking the sidewalk. A few in the crowd having filmed the entire time tell police that everyone was chalking, to which a female officer states, “You’re the only report that we got of chalking.”
Cory Williams takes a seat on the pavement behind his friend from the North Pole as he begins expressing his displeasure at being arrested “for being nice”. Recording the scene, Cory then chalks on the pavement in front of him, FREE SANTA. Shortly thereafter, DPS officer Ken Scheer, who had walked around the crowd videorecording faces of bystanders, stands Cory up and arrests him for chalking.
A press release from Occupy Austin notes that Cory was one of three people arrested earlier in the year for chalking and held in jail before being released without any charges. Following the arrests, the videographer calls out to the officers in disgust, “Have y’all read what they chalked up there? Stuff like PEACE, and HARMONY; JOY, COMMUNITY.”
One of the aspects of this video that makes it worth watching to the very end is to bear witness to the silly response by Texas DPS officers. More and more cops arrive on the scene as Santa sobs face-down on the sidewalk for the last half of the seven minute clip. One officer, who arrives wearing fancy boots and a helmet, runs near a bystander and waves a finger over his chest as he passes, ordering, “Step back, step back!” The man appears confused before complying, as he is several feet away from anyone else.
According to HuffPo, Santa’s charge is ‘evading arrest’, and Occupy Austin’s twitter feed indicates he and Cory also face a class B ‘criminal mischief’ charge. They were released from captivity late last evening.
Imagine this sort of scenario playing out in New Hampshire. While Manchester Police did not respond favorably to their building being chalked (arresting eight for an act of two), to my knowledge there has never been a chalking arrest by state or local police in Concord, with the only arrests being at the federal building presumably under federal rules/code/law. At the 2011 420 celebration, there was a capitol security guard who threatened a chalker with the state police, but ultimately there would be no police intervention at the peaceful rally.
Austin PD may lose their insurance coverage, because the settlement in this case may give economic stimulus to the North Pole.