PHOTOPHILE- Chalked up: Monument gets sunny unveiling

The free speech wall on the east end of the Downtown Mall was officially christened Thursday, April 20. Although the slate wall was clean when the ceremony began, the crowd had covered it with comments shortly after celebrity presenters inaugurated it with theirs.

The wall has been inciting controversy since it was envisioned nearly a decade ago by two local architects, Pete O'Shea and Robert Winstead, who won a design competition (and a whopping $500 prize) sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

Celebrity presenters Mayor David Brown, novelist John Grisham, musician Boyd Tinsley, poet and novelist George Garrett, and Slate (the magazine not the chalkboard) senior editor Dahlia Lithwick looked ceremonial. (Actor Morgan Freeman, in town to shoot the sequel to Bruce Almighty, was invited but didn't attend.)

So, what did the celebrity presenters write on the wall?

Grisham: "Is the war in Iraq worth all the oil we will never get?" and "A wiretap without a warrant is a crime."

Brown: "Vote May 2 for Taliaferro and Norris"

Tinsley: "Remember the troops"

Garrett: "Better him than us"

Lithwick: "Close Guantanamo"

Speech-loving vintner Al Weed watches

Center board chair Bruce W. Sanford and Mayor Brown

Sanford and über-poet George Garrett

Keynote speaker Dahlia Lithwick

Famous fiddler Boyd Tinsley

John Grisham is one of the first to write on the the Community Chalkboard and Podium: A Monument to the First Amendment