La Jolla chalk messages draw more vandalism as other locals offer support

Chalk drawings from a ChalkUp event on Thanksgiving in La Jolla were pictured defaced a week later.
Chalk drawings from a ChalkUp event on Thanksgiving morning in La Jolla were pictured defaced a week later, with many of them crossed out.

Drawings and messages written in chalk on the La Jolla Bike Path during the latest in a series of community events in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were defaced, and organizers of the events say they’re concerned about escalating opposition.

About 40 people participated in the most recent ChalkUp on Thanksgiving morning, many of them “focused on sharing messages about love and gratitude and peace — very heartfelt messages,” co-organizer Elizabeth Tobias said.

During a walk the morning of Dec. 3, Tobias noticed that many of the drawings had been vandalized, she said. Some were crossed out with chalk, “drawn through, giving the message of canceling them,” she said.

Someone left messages such as "Trump," "Devil" and "Sick of your liberal BS" on the La Jolla Bike Path.

Other drawings were written over with “Trump,” “Devil” or “Sick of your liberal BS.”

During the event, Tobias said, a few passersby made comments opposing the chalk drawings. “I was drawing ‘I love you so much’ and one man walked by me and said, ‘I’m so sick of seeing your political views.’”

Tobias said she didn’t respond, and the man walked on.

Another woman, Tobias said, angrily said that “because we do [these chalk events], graffiti in Kellogg Park” is increasing. “She felt the two were related,” Tobias said.

Another event organizer and participant, Dawniel Stewart, said a man on a bicycle rode toward her, running over her phone, breaking the chalk and yelling “All lives matter.”

Stewart said the incident reminded her of a ChalkUp on Oct. 31, when another bicyclist ran into her, knocking her over.

Stewart did not report either incident to police.

“The fact that these people are taking so much time and effort to go and deface these messages of love and unity and kindness and diversity says more about them than it does about us,” Stewart said. “It tells me there’s so much hate and ugliness in their heart. It’s disturbing.”

“We’re not trying to fuel a them-and-us,” Tobias said. “We’re all us, that’s all. We’re not trying to polarize our community, we’re not trying to divide our community. ... We’re acknowledging our need to be creative in this moment that’s so difficult, this moment of social justice. We are all in La Jolla in this together.”

Many of the latest chalk drawings and messages, like this quote from late Congressman John Lewis, were crossed out.
Many of the latest chalk drawings and messages on the La Jolla Bike Path, like this quote from late Congressman John Lewis, were crossed out.

Drawings at previous ChalkUps also have been vandalized or washed away. The city of San Diego removed the drawings after the first two events in July and September after receiving complaints from residents that they were offensive. The city later decided not to remove future drawings.

Some in the community have objected to the use of public areas for what they view as political expression.

The ChalkUp events, however, also are eliciting support from some community members. La Jollan and past ChalkUp organizer Mira Sanchez Costello said she was walking her dogs on Nautilus Street the day after Thanksgiving when a friend passed her and yelled, “Thank you for the ChalkUp.”

A couple nearby overheard and the man also thanked her. “He said his family had lived in La Jolla for over 100 years and his parents had since passed,” Sanchez Costello said. “He said his parents would be so proud of what we’re doing, and he was so grateful for what we were doing.” She said the man handed her $100 cash “for future ChalkUps.”

Tobias and Stewart said they’ve received more comments in support of the events than against.

Ruth Leivers, who organized the first two ChalkUps, said she wishes those who oppose the ChalkUp series would engage in dialogue with those who support it.

“If someone disagrees, then ... disagree with your chalk next to our words instead of crossing off what children are doing on the bike path,” she said. “We do have to find a way to stand as Americans and to be respectful of our differences.”

There will be more ChalkUp events, Tobias said, but they are “on hold” due to the region’s elevated coronavirus numbers. ◆