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Alex Schaefer, L.A. Artist Behind Burning-Bank Paintings, Arrested for Chalking Outside Chase

Updated at the bottom with video of the chalking and arrest.

Semi-famous local artist Alexander Schaefer -- the same guy whose paintings of burning banks (including Chase Bank) went viral last year after they prompted an LAPD investigation -- was arrested today around 12:10 p.m. for misdemeanor vandalism.

Schaefer was chalking on the sidewalk outside the Chase branch at 6th Street and Figueroa, the LAPD confirms.

Cops have obviously had their eye on Schaefer...

... ever since they interrogated him last summer about his apparent intentions to torch a bank. Schaefer assured officers at the time that he was no terrorist, and that instead "the flames symbolize bringing the system down. Some might say that the banks are the terrorists."

The Eagle Rock artist's bank paintings have gained significant national fame, reportedly selling for over $25,000 on eBay and currently gracing the walls of The Hive Gallery downtown.

But now that Occupy L.A. activists have become obsessed with proving their First Amendment right to chalk on sidewalks, and now that the LAPD has become obsessed with proving them wrong -- with much encouragement from the Central City Association and the Downtown Center Business Improvement District -- Schaefer has again thrust himself into the center of the controversy.

On July 16, Schaefer posted a photo to his personal blog of a chalk piece he had done outside Chase. The font and symbol matched those of the bank logo, but instead of "Chase," the text read "Crooks." (See photo at the top.)

Max Keiser of the Keiser Report posted the following note from a friend to his blog this afternoon:

Just letting you guys know that Alex was arrested at about 1pm today in an act of civil disobedience.

Alex was chalking the words crooks, crime, and chaos with the Chase logo on the sidewalk around a chase branch at 6th & Figueroa in downtown Los Angeles. 3 "district safety" patrolmen (these are private security paid for by local business interests) stopped and called the LAPD.

A total of 5 lapd cars were called to the scene as well as the 3 district safety officers and a large water truck. Alex was taken into custody on a misdemeanor vandalism charge.

I was told by the arresting officer that if a judge wants to see him that he may have to spend the night in county jail. If not he may be out later today or tonight.

We are editing the film now and hope to have it done later tonight.

Best to you,

sz

Uh-oh. These patrolmen -- better known as "purple shirts," or private security hired by the DCBID -- have made it their mission to drive Occupy out of the neighborhood, even though they're not necessarily supposed to be acting so police-like. [Update: Witnesses tell arts blogger Ed Fuentes that the purple shirts actually "detained" Schaefer before the 5-0 showed up. Fuentes also posted a couple good photos from the scene.]

And LAPD officers have been more than happy to oblige the partnership. Five cop cars on one harmless hippie with a piece of chalk? Ridiculous. Aren't there any shootings or smash-and-grabs to respond to anymore?

Schaefer was reportedly jailed under $1,000 bail. More to come as we get wind.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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