Officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested a man dressed as Santa Claus in Austin Friday on charges of criminal mischief after writing with chalk on the grounds of the state Capitol building, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
Video footage of the arrest was quicklyuploaded to the Internet by members of Occupy Austin, which included a press release with the video detailing the incident and the group’s response.
“Today I saw the jolly red elf at the Capitol, cheerfully requesting that children write their wishes for a better world in chalk on the sidewalk. Santa said his favorite word was ‘Community.’ Various children wrote words like ‘Peace,’ ‘Friendship,’ and ‘Grace,’” Occupy Austin’s Lainie Duro, a witness to the arrest, said in the statement.
In the video, peace officers can be heard saying that the man, identified by the American-Statesman as James Peterson, was the only person drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. But bystanders quickly responded that children and other adults were also drawing on the sidewalk and that they had video footage of it.
Peterson repeatedly asked why he was being arrested and was visibly distraught.According to the paper, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said Peterson was charged with evading arrest.