An Indianpolis man is fighting criminal charges after he used chalk to write political messages around Monument Circle.
Greg Lambert is a U.S. Army veteran and wanted to express his political views during a protest downtown last August. Like others at the demonstration, he used chalk to write political statements on the ground around the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. He said soon enough, police officers showed up and told protesters they were defacing government property and had to stop.
“A police officer came up and told us we couldn’t do that and we told him we could,” he recalled. “You’ve got the little girls out there drawing hopscotch out in the middle of the street. Is that illegal? I did nothing different.”
He said the officers eventually backed off, but took down names and told him they would submit a report to the Marion County Prosecutor to find out if any charges could be filed. Months went by and this February, Lambert said he was arrested at his home for Criminal Mischief. He spent the night in jail.
Fox59 reached out to the prosecutor’s office, but we were not given a comment on the case. A spokeswoman wrote, “…it would be ethically inappropriate for a prosecutor to discuss the respective contentions of the parties.”
We turned to First Amendment expert and attorney Steven Badger. While there are limitations to the Freedom of Speech, Badger said, Lambert didn’t appear to be permanently damaging State property. He also said political speech gets the highest protection under U.S. and Indiana laws.
“Generally the government would have a reasonable reason to protect public property,” explained Badger. “But Constitutional tests require some common sense. I mean the fellow was writing in chalk? I mean that’s not doing any permanent damage.”
Although Lambert felt he was silenced at Monument Circle last year, he is hoping he will have a voice in court. His case will go to a jury trial in April.
“That’s something that our founding fathers fought for… to make sure that we had the ability to say what we needed to say and not be persecuted for it,” said Lambert.