Should Sidewalks Be Silenced? - 165 responses

Jun 15, 2014

At a time when digital technology is increasingly relied upon to disseminate messages of any kind, political groups have turned to sidewalk chalk drawings as a cheap and innovative way to communicate with the public. While critics call it graffiti, supporters argue it is a temporary and therefore harmless method of political expression. In Keene, an altercation over a sidewalk chalk drawing has left one man injured, which has led officials to consider changing the city’s graffiti ordinance.

In asking Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) Facebook members the question, “Should your town ban chalk drawings on public sidewalks?” 51 percent of respondents indicated they would not, while 14 percent said they would support it. The question revealed a wide array of sentiments that could not be neatly categorized, however, as 35 percent of respondents did not directly answer the question. In total, the LFDA received 165 citizen responses, including specific comments from 74 individuals supported by 83 concurrences.

For those who indicated they would not support such a ban, the issue of sidewalk chalk drawings should not be one at all. “Truthfully, I think NH should live up to its live free or die motto and leave this alone,” remarked one respondent, whose tone reflected that expressed by many with the same opinion. “It's not permanent, it's a public place, and it's expression.”

Representing those who support the ban, one gentleman countered, “Municipalities typically ‘own’ the sidewalks, so if an ordinance is put in place, the Village, Town or City has a right to ban it.”

For those wishing to discuss the topic in broader terms, several expressed concern at the ensuing violence that followed in Keene. At issue for many such respondents, however, was the content and actual placement of a sidewalk chalk drawing as well as whom was responsible for it.  Remarked one respondent, “Kids using chalk on the sidewalk in front of your house is fine, but using chalk on downtown streets is different.”

Click here to see the full Facebook discussion of this question.

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