The day after Easter, the city of Onalaska apparently spent seven hours washing off sidewalk chalk messages that were written on Easter Sunday afternoon by my 16-year old biracial daughter and me and a few fellow members of our local racial justice group, La Crosse Area Showing Up for Racial Justice.

We were joined by a couple of children and their grandma who happened to be at the new Great River Landing. Messages that were written were, “Black Lives Matter,” “You Are Standing On Ho-Chunk Land,” “I Stand For Love,” “Peace Be Unto You: As-Salaam-Alaikum,” “You Are Welcome Here,” “The Time For Racial Justice is Now” and “There is Enough For Everyone.”

In total, we chalked for less than an hour.

We did not realize we were doing anything other than spreading messages of love and inclusion to people of all cultures, races, religions and sexual orientation. The next day, a police officer came to our home, explained a city employee was dispatched to power wash away the chalk messages and issued two citations, $187 each, for Crimes Against Property: Graffiti to my daughter and me.

For most of my life, I have felt good about the social justice work I have been involved in. I help organize a teen clothing closet at my church, donate to important causes and volunteer in a variety of community settings.

When Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer last August in a suburb of St. Paul and the video was shared on social media, I knew I needed to do everything I could to partner with black and brown voices to change our country’s flawed criminal justice policies.

Maybe it was the way Philando Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, told the officer her boyfriend had done everything he was instructed to do after he was pulled over. Or perhaps it was the way her four-year-old daughter tried to comfort her mother after the shooting, and me knowing that that little girl’s life was forever changed by what happened. Whatever the reason, I knew I needed to speak out about the number of black people dying on city streets.

Profiling has made it unsafe for people of color to drive down the street with a broken tail light. Profiling has made it unsafe for immigrants to leave their homes. Since Philando Castile was shot and killed, I’ve listened to people of color talk about the ways they are marginalized in our society. They are fearful of contact with the police.

I talked personally with the chief of police, the director of parks and recreation, an alderman of Onalaska and the mayor. All of these men were in full agreement that the citations totaling $374 for sidewalk chalking were warranted. Additionally, several weeks later, we received an invoice for restitution totaling $579.60 payable within 30 days for hours related to clean up of sidewalk areas and administrative fees. The sidewalk chalk we used was bought at Target and was labeled “washable.” It is also noteworthy that since the time we were cited, I have noticed sidewalk chalking in various places in Onalaska that has not been sprayed off.

I don’t believe these citations were about chalking. Onalaska alderman Bob Muth stated to me that he didn’t want to have to explain to his eight-year-old grandson what these messages meant. I dream of a time when he can have that conversation. Because of my beliefs in our messages, I will go to court June 5 to answer to the city. I do hope this begins a new level of conversation in Onalaska about human rights and racial equality.


(33) comments

Drift Less

Let's be honest, the message "This is Ho-Chunk Land" wasn't "touting love". The Indians are pissed, and rightfully so! The city of Onalaska wanted to spend millions on a new park and when there were Indian remains found on the site, it almost wrecked their taxpayer-funded party. But they paid off the Indians with a $175,000 payment through the UWL archeological department.

Face it, Chilsen desecrated an Indian cemetery. The Indians should be taking scalps, not just chalking sidewalks!


Much gratitude to Lori Lunney for her poignant essay. This woman's heart and soul are one of the most beautiful examples I know of how to care for and support her fellow humans--ALL her fellow humans. I seldom read the comment section, but somehow did today and am amazed at the anonymous writers' who send belligerent accusations. I am also saddened by such responses, but realize I can only control myself and not others. I will use Lori's example for myself as I try my best to empathize with citizens who fight for themselves as I have not had to do as a white woman blessed in my life. Those blessings have partly come to me with my choices in life, but I do truly know that so many have come my way simply for the color I was born with. Bless you, Lori, for all you do......UN-anonymously, Kate Mayer.


Your childlike statements are as underwhelming as your smugness is overwhelming.


The City of Onalaska spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars improving the area of the riverfront. What kind of knot-head would think its ok to deface that area with their political views.

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gee snow job I didn't read anything about erasing borders. Were did you get that. Or are you always in the habit of making stuff up. I am guessing the latter.

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Mellowese is a Russian fake news bot.

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Snow Cougar is a fake news Russian bot.


Black Lives Matter ain"t any-more hateful than the Girl Scouts are .
Another poor misbegotten "soul", who brain is hijacked by fake news and bad news ,fanned with the flames of Hoss Sh__ Kicker Clarke or his good "butty" : Trump, who ,in reality...will burn out the sooner ,the better,
along with all those FAKE,phony badges and metals ,that are not real.
I believe he got "em out of a bubble gum machine at Safeway or Krogers?


What is hateful is you expecting people to sort through your garbled nonsense.


Thanks Johnny, you make my case in each of your posts how ignorant liberals are.


There is other sidewalk chalk currently not washed off in Onalaska and an alderman said he doesn't want to talk about it with his kid. That says everything. It wasn't about chalking, it was about the message. A message too many people want to ignore and the City of Onalaska is trying to silence.


The alderman thought it was warranted because he didn't want to have to explain it to his kid? I'm sorry your white silence/violence is more important than having to have an important conversation with your grandchild. What part is hard to discuss anyway? "I stand for love" is that hard to explain to an 8 year old? "All are welcome" is that hard to explain? "Peace be unto you" is that hard to explain? That we are on Ho-chunk land? An 8 year old should know enough about American history at this point it shouldn't be difficult. Frankly we both know what it was. It was "Black lives matter" because you don't want to have a discussion with an 8 year old that black people matter too? That you should treat everyone with dignity and love? I hope you lose your alderman spot next election. Also it $500+ for pressure washing when it was going to rain in a couple days anyway?


The first message mentioned, 'black lives matter' could provoke a lawsuit against the city because their race wasn't mentioned. Does the city want lawsuits ? NO
Besides, black lives matter is the equivalent of the KKK.

Many years ago the KKK was labeled a Hate group for obvious reasons. Lately a new group, Black Lives Matter have emerged in our society creating the same threat and domestic terrorism as the KKK. Black lives matter have endorsed hate and violence against citizens and Police simply because of the color of their skin. Unlawful protests and riots have been started by BLM and its followers. Recently we saw the effects of BLM protests across the country and the deadly and violent aftermath of these protests. Police have been murdered by BLM followers and even a YouTube video was made by a woman condoning violence and death to non black citizens and Police officers. As was with the KKK, by labeling Black Lives Matter a hate group, they will be monitored and restricted as to their actions and will be charged with a hate crime for their actions. Labeling BLM a hate group will place responsibility of crimes committed by BLM members solely on them and their group. This label will also bring awareness to the issues of race and violence and show that no matter the color of your skin, violence will not be tolerated!

Would you like the KKK reptesented on your sidewalk?


omg Hoaxer has put on his pointy white hood again and shown his true colors, which only includes a pale shade of white. OH my, a video on you tube by a lone woman condoning violence automatically speaks for a whole race of people. Hoaxer, you just don't have a clue. I see in the news a white supremacist stabbed two men on a train when they stepped in to defend two women who were a target of racial slurs. Does that stabber represent the whole white race? Are you proud of the white supremacist? Perhaps he was a pal of yours. Recently we have seen the effects of many black men being gunned down by rogue cops for no justifiable reason. They may not show that on the tabloid blogs you follow but its happening. That is the reason for the riots. And its time it stops.


Actually, historically, BLM would be the EXACT OPPOSITE of the KKK. The KKK is absolutely a hate group, many years ago and now. Designed specifically to incite terror into the lives of black men, women and children in the "United" States of America. Black Lives Matter was organized by a young woman, Alicia Garza, who is in her mid-30's, to bring focus to the anti-black sentiment in America following Trayvon Martin's killing by George Zimmerman, who was NOT held accountable for 17 year old Trayvon's death. I'm not sure where you are getting your information about BLM being a hate group. Go to the source here, http://blacklivesmatter.com/, if you're really interested in the truth. The protests sponsored by BLM are designed as peaceful protests, to bring awareness. But often when black people protest, they are labeled as thugs, and the protests as riots. Police come out in force, with riot gear. When whites rally, no one pays attention. Can you identify the last "white" protest? Who is it that Black Lives Matter hates? Contrary to popular belief, BLM is not an anti-police organization.
They do NOT promote the killing of police, or anyone else for that matter. They have NEVER spoken in support of violence during any protest. They are believers in non-violent protests, just as Martin Luther King Jr was. In fact, your point about BLM supporting and promoting any kind of violence would be counterintuitive to their message trying to bring notice to the deaths of black men. Promoting violence would only mask the problem they demand be addressed, because the violence would make the news, not their message. They DO hate the systematic racism against black and brown lives. They hate that white Americans don't, can't or won't see what is before us to FIX. And maybe they're tired of waiting, as they should be. It is our job to fix racism. We created, and sustain, the racist system we all live under, and it's our work to see it, know it, share it, fix it. The chalk messages were messages of inclusion, not hate. Messages of inclusion should not be viewed as wrong, something an 8 year old can't know about, or political.


excellent post Murdog! Equating BLK with the KKK is just ridiculous on so many levels. This past past week white supremacists killed more people in America than all the terrorist refugees from the countries in Trump's travel ban list, for the past 40 years!


Equating BLM to Girl Scout is ridiculous on so many levels


Not anti-cop???
Sure, water isn't wet either.
“Pigs In A Blanket, Fry 'Em Like Bacon!” – Chant at a #Blacklivesmatter protest in Minnesota

“What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” – Chant by "Million Marchers" in New York City


As pointed out in the story, there are sidewalk chalkings in place in Ona *right now* that are NOT washed off. This is selective prosecution: prosecution based not on the "crime" (similar crimes are left unprosecuted), but on the content of the message. This is clearly and blatantly unconstitutional.


Amen oz. You hit that one out of the park. There are lots of chalking around the city on public sidewalks. The city is just trying to make an example of the Luney's by piling on more and more expenses. I wouldn't doubt if the judge laughs this one right out of court.


Like when liberals turn their backs or refuse to listen to, or physically adult a conservative speaker? Does that bother you? Or are you offended only when the message YOU want to convey is quieted? Are you the typical liberal hypocrite?


Agree with Mello redbug, do it on your own property not in or on the public domain. If the city had to use extra effort to remove the chalk then it obviously wasn't as washable as many suggested. Not much different than deciding to spray paint or chalk dust the roses in the Friendship Garden because of personal feelings. I feel this park is pristine & beautiful & was created by someone to evoke a feeling of serenity & family relaxation. Politics & personal thoughts of such should be left at home or created in your own personal space, not the public domain.


It wasn't your property. Put signs on your lawn. Wear a t-shirt. Plaster bumper stickers all over your car. Call in to talk radio. Star a Facebook page. Make a Youtube video. I know it was "only chalk," but would have tolerated gang signs done the same way?


yes it was my property. Maybe yours too if you live in Onalaska. As long as the messages were not profane, vulgar, inciting violence or disorder, racial slurs, demeaning, or repulsive, then it shouldn't be treated as a crime. And gang signs would of fit into those mentioned above.

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"distracted with all the leftist messages" I guess then if it was right wing messages it would of been ok in snow job's mind. I guess we should get rid of all bill board advertising and traffic signs along the road just in case someone got distracted and therefor got into an accident. Sounds about as dumb as snow job's post.

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I want you to reread what you just wrote. If you don't realize how insanely dumb that is. Please bang your head on desk until you do realize it. Sue the city for tripping while reading chalk? Seriously?


Wow the city keeps piling up the citations for the sidewalk artists. It is telling what one city alderman said "I don't want to have to explain what those sayings mean to my eight year old." So now we have politics entering the discussion. I wonder if the Luney's would of got a citation if they wrote "God bless Trump" or "down with Muslims". I wonder what the right wingers would of said if they got a citation for writing those type of things. Is it really a matter of vandalism and graffiti? Or is it a matter of free speech? Or is it a matter of politics? I wish the Luney's well in their court appearance. Meanwhile the city should invest in a new power washer. If it takes over five hours to wash off chalk from the sidewalk, either the machine needs replacing or the employee was milking the job.

random annoying bozo

'politics entering the discussion'? the whole purpose of the chalk rants was about politics to begin with.


that was the purpose of some of the chalk rants bozo. The alderman entered politics into his reasoning as to why it should be ticketed. Big Big difference.


Sounds like the employee did, indeed, milk the time. I could have done the job at a fraction of the time and cost- with a scrub bucket and soapy water. THIS is an example of how Onalaska government officials spend their time and tax-payers money? Sheesh.


If milking occurred, that is secondary to vandalizing public property. The employee should not have had to clean up some else's mess.


Chalk is not vandalizing. Should I call the cops on the kid on my street that used chalks on the city sidewalk?


um that is what many public employees do, clean up someone else's mess. That is their job, that is what many get paid to do. From the janitor at city hall, to the road maintenance worker to the park employee, to the utility worker. All are employed to "clean up" after the public and maintain services.

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