Peace sign response: free speech violation?

The last day in August of 2012, the day that transformed into a blue moon night, was a busy day for Salida police officers and public works employees. It was the day Kindlelyn Bustos and her “sacred posse of five” drew a peace sign with temporary spray chalk at 4:30 a.m. at the intersection of F and First streets, reaching all four corners.

Bustos called her mother at 6 a.m., asking her to check out the peace sign because it wouldn’t last.

Bustos’ “simplistic approach of peace” was anything but. Her plan to do “something higher, something cool and raise energy” by spraying the symbol in chalk didn’t go as planned. In the end Bustos pleaded guilty to a class B traffic infraction in Chaffee County Court and paid a $15 fine. She faces between $500 and $800 in restitution. She was originally charged with defacing public property. Bustos has a restitution hearing on Dec. 18.

“I had full intention of Mother Nature taking care of it,” said Bustos, who was inspired by the mandala sand paintings of Tibetan Buddhist monks. The monks painstakingly create this art, then blow it away to symbolize nonattachment.

Bustos said the third police officer who visited her that day seemed agitated and told her the peace sign could be offensive to some people. The intersection was closed and traffic diverted for hours while a Salida public works crew cleaned up the symbol.

The manner in which the situation was handled raises compelling questions. Did the police officer overreact, taking action based on the symbol’s message? And were Bustos’ free speech rights violated because of this?

Chalk is often used on downtown sidewalks and streets, specifically F Street, for shop sales, promotions, artwork and hopscotch.

Promoters of sporting events, such as the Vuelta de Salida bike race, regularly write on streets with permanent paint without suffering criminal action. Salida High-schoolers have shown their spirit by painting large purple paw prints in the roads. There is no precedent of anyone in Salida being prosecuted.

Daniel Zettler, Bustos’ attorney, said, “Ms. Bustos’ concern is that the actions of the Salida Police Department, via a misuse and abuse of the criminal code, were designed to chill her and others’ First Amendment activities and were based on the content of her speech rather than a legitimate concern about traffic and pedestrian safety.

“Ms. Bustos wrote her political message on the street with temporary chalk, not with spray paint. If the police department had waited, the message would have soon disappeared on its own accord without the waste of time and money, and the citizens of Salida would have been no less safe as a result.”

Apparently, Bustos’ symbol became problematic when she drew into the crosswalk, touching on the road’s signage.

Meanwhile, Zettler questions the city’s calculations of cleanup costs. He said a street sweeper was already out that day. Zettler has requested documents showing the need for additional city personnel and equipment that would bump up the bill to as much as $800.

Manufacturer’s instructions for the product used, Air Chalk by Goodmark, say the substance is temporary and can be used on walls, glass, grass, concrete, wood, plastic and more. It cleans up with soap and water or can be brushed away.

Kevin Nelson, public works inspector, declined to comment for this story. Deputy District Attorney Rex Kindall, who represents the city on a contract basis, did not return a phone call before this story was posted.

Bustos and friends are a common sight on the corner of F and First streets, lifting signs that say, “Honk for Peace” and “What is Your Peace?”

“It’s one more second in your day you’re thinking of peace,” said Bustos, who is a manager at Yolo Clothing store.

Bustos has an aunt in Gunnison who often holds a peace sign at a popular intersection. Her aunt has said publicly she’ll hold the sign until all U.S. troops return home.

Bustos’ approach is more personal as she hopes people “tap into inner peace,” she said.

Flowers and bicycles detailed Bustos’ now famous peace sign, with smaller peace symbols colored in the artful designs. “There was a lot of purpose,” she said.

Talking over coffee at Sweetie’s, Bustos recalls the police – or peace – officer’s words about her peace sign being potentially offensive as the “saddest of conversations.” She said: “Why would anyone be offended? I grabbed my heart.”

Then she talked about an award-winning documentary that moved her, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The movie chronicles the story of courageous Liberian women, Christian and Muslim, who came together to end a bloody civil war and bring peace to their shattered country.

Bustos does see a lesson in all this trouble over her peace sign. “I’m learning about my rights,” she said.

Bustos will soon learn at her restitution hearing whether her peace sign was an expensive expression. In the meantime she’ll return to her familiar spot on the corner of F and First streets on Fridays at noon, raising her signs of peace, cheering and waving, responding to the honks. She chooses this intersection because it’s “the heartbeat of Salida.”

Bustos can’t change who she is. “I’m a peace warrior,” she said with a shrug.

A peace vigil at F and First streets will happen at noon Fri., Nov. 23, then later a Peace Dance Party at The Fritz at 10 p.m. Donations are encouraged to help defray costs for Kindlelyn Bustos. Art will be exchanged too.

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

31 Responses to “Peace sign response: free speech violation?”

  1. JT

    Such a typical waste of taxpayer money when there is so much more to spend the funds on .
    Oh , and while I am on my soapbox , I know of a situation where one of our elected public officials has personally demonstrated his own inability to pay people he hired to do a job . Is this the kind of person that should have a say in how our tax dollars are spent. Will his decisions on City business be tainted by his own personal goals and hopes to make money as a result of these decisions ? ( The new building being erected on the Vandaveer property comes to mind .) If the voters knew of the inside deals going on in this town , they may vote differently .Remember that just because someone is a Salida native , it does not make them the best person for a city council job .

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  2. Jay Moore


    Ah well JT, once again we are here with are becoming quite typical hints, sniggers, snide remarks, jestures about "someone in authority" with "inside information" who "might" be able to "be tainted" by his own personal goals. This is really gloriously middle school. Who are you implicating this time?? A County Comissioner, a Council person because both jobs have a local effect?? Note that I am not arguing about the peace sign, I am just tired as all get out from all the inuendo, with no follow up substance.

    Anne Marie wrote a nice article. I am sorry JT you chose to dump on it fto use your own personal soap box creating all sorts of tripe. Prove it.

    Jay, writing for himself and no others.

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  3. JT

    Sorry you feel that way . It certainly was not my intention to detract from the article about the peace sign . Just my two cents about those in authority and the waste of our taxpayers dollars and the possible conflicts of interest that occur from our elected officials . Simple as that .

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  4. JT

    Oh Jay , I 'm sorry If you feel I am dumping on the article . And by the way , sometimes it's not best to name call in public .

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  5. ira curry

    Nice article Ann Marie. I'd have to say this case is just another example of wasting taxpayer dollars on a non-issue. Ms. Bustos certainly did nothing harmful to anyone, or anything for that matter. The chalk would have disappeared in a matter of days. The Salida Police Dept. has certainly changed since I came here 30 years ago. They must have had to look awful hard to find an infraction in this instance.

    The lack of comment from anyone representing the city speaks volumes...


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  6. Doc Sarvis

    It's too bad the city choose that particularly expensive and time consuming method to clean up the chalk. I think that with a hose and $3 worth of water balloons my children and friends could have taken care of it in a hour or so, and furthered the message Ms. Bustos was promoting. A message I wholly support, and need reminding of on a regular basis. I certainly hope that Ms. Bustos continues to send it. Thanks to Ann Marie for the exposure, thanks to Ms. Bustos, and thanks to Dan Zettler for defending her.

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  7. Jimmy Descant

    Well the power of the people spoke yesterday on the corner, last night in the streets, and at the Fritz, for peace and camaraderie. People were handing over money and checks at noon, and the donation box was full at the Fritz where we set up at the big front table and had a blast with folks in serious and boisterous talk! Gave out plenty peace stenciled shirts and bandanas by Brinkley and cardboard painted peace signs by me, in trade for donations. A big treat was the donation of a guitar by Dave Collins (painter Dave), signed by some band no one knows who, and is still available. Go to the Facebook page to see.

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  8. Sheriff Palmer

    If Ms. Bustos has a right to express her opinion by chalking peace symbols over an entire intersection and adjacent sidewalks, are others justified in similar expressions of their beliefs? How about a swastika, White Power lightning bolts, Confederate battle flag? Would religious symbols be acceptable?

    Further, if Ms. Bustos’ freedom of expression is boundless, why limit it to just one intersection? Why not two, or three, or more?

    The chalk is not so “temporary.” When was the last time Salida experienced rainfall sufficient to erase the stuff? July? And as Ms. Swan’s posting notes, clean up of the chalk requires soap and water; it does not simply disappear on its own without effort.

    “Daniel Zettler, Bustos’ attorney, said, ‘Ms. Bustos’ concern is that the actions of the Salida Police Department, via a misuse and abuse of the criminal code, were designed to chill her and others’ First Amendment activities and were based on the content of her speech rather than a legitimate concern about traffic and pedestrian safety.’ ”

    Think about the absurdity of that statement for a moment. So, the Salida police, all fourteen of them, cooked up a conspiracy to intimidate the rest of us from expressing our views freely and openly. Really?

    The police officer that “seemed agitated” (the other two presumably were more calm and reasonable) was indeed correct in advising that some might find the symbol offensive. As a former Marine who attended college during the turbulent Sixties, I can attest to the baggage that became attached to the symbol. It came to be seen not simply as advocating peace but vigorously and often mindlessly opposing this country’s military and law enforcement institutions (and promoting a virulent and overt hostility to their individual members), and ordered society in general. Perhaps today the significance of the symbol has devolved to mean something less encompassing, something more benign, but to many of a certain generation it is indeed offensive.

    Ms. Bustos is “learning about her rights.” Good for her. As a lawman with more years in this business than most, I’ve dealt with hosts of people who know their rights but ignore their responsibilities, and conveniently forget that actions have consequences. The honorable thing for Ms. Bustos to do now is to stop the whining, acknowledge that her behavior has caused inconvenience and unnecessary expense to others, pay the restitution, and be still.

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  9. Jimmy Descant

    Now THIS is emotional, slightly unsettling, somewhat intimidating, and akin to unprofessional whining that does not enhance a forum of intellectual education of the situation by way of civil exploratory conversation while delving into the fluidity of the legal system, and limitations of the citizen. But I digress slightly, immediately emotionally, in my initial response. More to come, as I collect myself... maybe too much Irish coffee...

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  10. Jimmy Descant

    I'm sure folks would want to see you log in as Mr. Palmer instead of Sheriff if these opinions and conversation are personal beliefs. If they are professional thoughts on the matter, we wish you would state this out loud, because as a civil servant you should be forever neutral in matters of public policy and service, and stick to facts and figures.
    This action was not an opinion piece, but a statement by an individual that peace should be considered, shared, observed, and absorbed for the sake of her soul as well as the town's. And yes, the county's, the state's, the world's.
    Symbolism is all relative, to the user and viewer. The swastika was around for 15,000 years as a representation of peace, the four winds, the Navajo's 'whirling logs', etc. before it was usurped by Hitler, and thus changed the meaning in that context, but not forever in any context but it's own. The peace sign was conceived in 1958, in response to nuclear armament, and continually used as a symbol for a better attitude towards the ever encroaching blackness of the human mind towards destruction and destructive principles, no matter how small, or large. In this experience context Ms. Bustos is not berating anyone or anything, but attempting to raise the collective. Peace, or it's symbol, is not benign, and applying the moniker of 'offensive' is indeed itself offensive, and reflects back onto the offended the deeds that may be hidden in the back of the mind as evil but justifiable, thus shunning peace as a poison instead of an antidote. Lest we forget, we are in our 12th year of a horrible, corrupt, never ending, violent, humiliating, species and humanity killing thing called war labeled as fighting for 'freedom and peace'. Talk about antithesis.
    This is not to say that in further discussions we can't apply this to residual aspects and topics. One item she has mentioned comes to mind - the choice of the Salida Police Dept. to buy new black suv police vehicles, instead of the customary white. Was that meant to be intimidating militaristically in the performance of 'peace officer' duties, or just to have cool looking new toys?
    I would not want to see confederate flags, nazi swastikas, white power, or anything hate filled chalked on our City sidewalks for sure, and I would do something myself about it if I saw it. There is a GIANT difference, and if you see offense in a chalked peace sign, that does not bode well for the collective, and for that to be one of the first responses is opinion and not professional and should not have been stated in the performance of a peace officer's duties. Also, the perception of the rush to clean up the 'mess(age)' as quickly as possible does allude to the perception of selective censorship. Dan Zettler's statement was not absurd but a consideration in the process of intent, and not something to just scoff at. Geez! I as many, feel it was the symbolism not the location or safety that brought on the frenzy of washing in protest. Which, really, actually, would have washed off 3 days later when it rained.
    The system has worked in this process, but lays bare the system wide attempt to extricate money in lieu of compassion, understanding, and meaningful understanding of social activist recidivism. Some players have attempted to present conjecture and cliche in lieu of positives. Some observers attempt to present in a wider scope while some just say 'take your medicine and shut up'. This episode in the comedic human experience has proven that this is not a subject to close the book on, but to be heralded, not calling it 'whining'.
    It was chalk.... but so much more than...
    Looking forward to more lively banter, MR. Palmer.

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  11. Floyd Cummins

    Guess our grandson won't be playing hopscotch in front of our house, someone might trip over the chalk, or be offended by it . .

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  12. Kyle

    Well done to everyone here! There are obviously, and always will be, differing opinions on issues. I applaud Mr. Sheriff Palmer for replying and Mr. Jimmy for opening the door to dialogue. It is my prayer along with Ms. Bustos' for there to be more awareness of our selves. The care for what we are giving the collective, the people and the world is important to all sides of every issue. Ms. Bustos is reminding us all of our connectedness and that to live with Peace in our hearts is the first step to treating each other with Peace in our actions. If both the elected authority and the ever-present-citizen-mass can approach a civil discourse focused on reaching a peaceful resolution, as so commonly offered by all the great thinkers of antiquity, then... well... we would still be in the same place! "This has all happened before, It will all happen again" :)
    While both sides of this issue will surely claim a love for the people of our collective community. The biggest difference I see between sides on this issue is that in one office there are decisions based on historical data and projections for the elimination of things that will upset the comfort of the collective. On the other corner there are decisions made in ernest with the faith that the opening of our Peace Purse will provide unlimited access to the riches of our greatest most connected selves.
    So I do hope that Ms. Bustos continue her path as she believes. I also hope that those who wish her to "be still" try to continue to prove her path as "offensive' and Illegal. Either way, unless we find a common ground on which to begin the discussion this issue will soon be a movement.
    Would Sheriff Palmer and Ms. Bustos agree that a heartfelt love and care for our community, both present and future, is at root in their actions and lives?? If so, then begin talking and as examples to your community show us all how professional, honorable adults resolve misunderstanding. 'Be the Change...'

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  13. Mark Minor

    It's an aside, but fairly pertinent---I'm pretty sure one of the Liberian women alluded to in this article is Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, who spoke in Denver on the 13th of November. "Powerful" doesn't even start to describe her and her message. I know linking isn't encouraged here, but I know this TED talk she gave would be of real interest to a lot of folks here. Highly recommended:

    I think Leymah would be proud of this sort of non-violent direct action. She is proof that well intended actions from the heart can have great and positive consequences, locally and globally. A small act can ripple outward, and grow. We should all be thankful for those with enough courage and conviction to take those steps.
    [ted id=1403 width=560 height=315]

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    • Trey

      Relevant links are definitely encouraged. As an anti-spam measure, we do push comments with more than a few links into a purgatory of sorts, from whence they may or may not return. But if you have four or fewer links in your comment, link away. :)

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  14. kindle bustos

    brothers and sisters.
    thank you anne marie. and everyone for their diversity in their own thoughts.
    something i wish was mention regarding the 3rd police officer. when he 1st came to me yes he was agitated but something happened...we talked and communicated, he became peaceful and the most lovely thing happened. i felt kindred to him not afraid not intimidated. At the end of our dialog "i said to him he is a peace keeper and i am a peaceful warrior same team." as we parted he said "have a beautiful day." peace was in my heart & i felt blessed w? our exchange.
    and i still have practice everyday~ simplicity and peace.~kindle
    " there is no greater purpose than service to others"
    "a warrior is not about perfection, or victory or invulnerability, he's about absolute vulnerability"
    the way of the peaceful warrior by dan millman

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  15. Danny Ridenour

    To JT,

    To throw out accusations without substance is the lowest form of public comment. If you have information about public official misconduct... please share. If not, please keep your comments limited to those around you in the Wal Mart check out line where it belongs. Another local has done the same in the public arena. Billy Carlisle, in his quest to defeat the latest attempt at home rule, has accused the city council of violating sunshine laws. I say the same to him. Please share. Who, what, when, where, how?

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  16. Trevor

    The peace symbol is a political symbol, not a universal one.

    I whole-heartedly agree with Sheriff Palmer when he states that most people "know their rights but forget their responsibilities". Public sentiment appears to side with Ms. Bustos because of the implied intent behind her symbolic message. However, as Sheriff Palmer pointed out, where does one draw the line? What about a swatsika, a religious symbol, a symbol announcing affiliation to a particular group? It is okay to deface public property with an "acceptable" message, but not an "offensive" one? Who gets to decide?

    In Mr. Descant's reply to the Sheriff, he stated that he believes that a public official should be "forever neutral" in all matters, yet in the same post, he states that while he is okay with a peace symbol, he would not be so with a hateful symbol and would "do something" himself if he saw it. The contrasting view in the same post that on one hand promotes objectivity, and on the other asks for subjective interpretation does not make any sense.

    If Mr Descant wants objective, fair, and "neutral" enforcement of the law, as the beginning of his post indicates and as I'm sure most citizens would prefer, then Ms. Bustos' peace symbol should be addressed in the exact same manner as a painted cross, swatstika, gang sign, christmas tree, or any other mark or defacement that does not belong on a public roadway. Objectivity requires it. While the world according to Descant may see the peace symbol as acceptable, others in that same world may see a picture of a middle finger the same way. The Salida Police Department handled this issue as it should have been handled: impartially.

    One citizen's view is not above any others.

    Ms. Bustos, along with any other person in this country with an opinion, has a multitude of legal, non disruptive, constructive ways of expressing their viewpoint to the masses.

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    • Ed Castellon

      Thanks for writing my exact sentiments!

      From a different perspective, most self-respecting street artists realize their craft is illegal. When you get busted, you serve your time or pay the fine, that's the way it is, regardless of your philosophical motives.

      Don't like that? Plenty of cities and businesses throughout the nation have offered wall space for murals and graffiti art. Maybe that's where you could focus on displaying your message.

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  17. Jimmy Descant

    Well, as far as the courts are concerned, this matter has ended with a total cost to Ms. Bustos at $562, mostly restitution for street cleaning. Judge Alderton was very factual and the community is well served by him. Mr. Nelson was factual also, and expressed no ill will towards this project or Ms. Bustos actions. Dan Zettler was and amazing force for good thru it all. The DA Mr. Kindall is another story, with obvious tones and attitudes of distaste for the case and personally for Ms. Bustos, and if he wants to represent the City of which we are citizens, I suggest he takes a class on manners and being unbiased. But Ms. Bustos was a positive treat when she tried to break his arrogance with a quip of them both having similar names, and wanting to be 'peace warriors' not antagonists. That didn't go over too well to Grumpy. The city got it's money, and the citizens got another lesson in give and take in this world of stretching the bounds of what is acceptable to humanity. Ms. Bustos will be out on her corner tomorrow, Fri, at noon, as she has been since Feb. Stop by to smile, or honk and wave. In what is a horrible time of violence in this country, she is truly an asset to the community, and humanity, and I'm proud to know her.

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