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First Amendment rights can't be discussed in chalking-protest trial

SAN DIEGO -- First Amendment and free speech claims won't be allowed in the trial of Jeff Olson, the North Park gay man who is being charged with 13 counts of vandalism for chalking anti-big-bank slogans on the sidewalk outside of three San Diego Bank of America branches, reports The Reader.

Olson's trial began today and Superior Court Judge Howard M. Shore granted Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard's motion to prohibit Olson's attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct or political speech during the trial.

"The State's Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights," Judge Shore said.

According to The Reader, Shore said the trial should only focus on whether or not Olson is guilty of vandalism and not what his motivations were. Shore cited the case, Mackinney v. Nielsen 69 F.3d 1002 (9th Cir.1995), where a man was acquitted after a court ruled that use of chalk was not considered vandalism. The law was later changed to define vandalism as defacement "with graffiti or other inscribed material."

Olson left the trial visibly upset, and told The Reader, "Oh my gosh. I can't believe this is happening."

See The Reader's full report HERE.

Supporters have created this T-shirt to show their support of Olson:

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