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City Attorney's Office to prosecute North Park gay man for sidewalk-chalking protest

SAN DIEGO -- On Tuesday, North Park resident Jeff Olson will appear in court to defend himself against 13 counts of vandalism that could send him to jail for 13 years and require him to pay $13,000 in restitution, according to a report in The Reader.

His crime? Chalking a sidewalk in protest of big banks.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith's office has opted to prosecute the 40-year-old Olson for writing anti-big-bank slogans in water soluble chalk on the sidewalk outside of three Bank of America branches in San Diego. During his protest, which started in October 2011, Olson said his goal was to encourage people to close their accounts at "big banks" and transfer their money to local credit unions. His action was similar to loosely organized protest nationwide.

Olson, who lives with his partner Stephen Daniels, began his activism around the time of the Occupy Wall Street protests, but he said he was not engaged in that movement and chose to spend his time protesting directly outside of local banks.

"I thought my time would be better spent at the banks, trying to convince people to ditch these banks for local credit unions," Olson told The Reader. "I believed that was the best way to hold the executives and the corporations accountable for bringing this country to the brink of collapse."

Olson began chalking phrases such as "Stop big banks" and "Stop Bank Blight.com" on the sidewalks outside of the banks and continued to do this in the early morning hours a few days a week for several months.

On Jan. 7, he learned that Goldsmith's office would be taking action.

Olson is being defended pro-bono by attorney Tom Tosdal. Olson and Tosdal, as well as attorneys for the City, will meet on Tuesday morning before a Superior Court judge.

The Reader shares an in-depth account of this case HERE.