Occupy's rights violated
I have watched with interest the reaction of LR city government to the Occupy Movement in general and particularly the treatment of OLR in recent weeks. The motivation for evicting the OLR protesters from their downtown encampment as articulated by City Director Lance Hines is their association with what Hines considers a "Revolutionary Anarchist" movement informed by Saul Alinsky's writing.
It is my profound hope that I am not the only person deeply disturbed by this horrifying move by city government. Peaceful protesters disallowed from gathering in protest because of the content of their beliefs. Yes, they were camped on city property but they were there with the blessing of city government. It is only when they became a potential political liability during Riverfest that their presence became problematic to the power structure of the city.
The implication that OWS and OLR protesters are somehow dangerous or, to use Mr. Hines language, "revolutionary," is questionable. He may not agree with their point of view and they may oppose what he stands for politically, but there have been no indications that this small group of protesters posed a clear and present danger to the governance of the city much less the nation. Mr. Hines' justification to break up the protesters is the very means used by the likes of Bull Connor and Orval Faubus to break up NAACP and SCLC protesters half a century ago. We have reached a dangerous point in our political culture when opposition to those in power is deemed criminal or subversive. At what point will the power structure of this city stop their silencing of opposition?
What other forms of gathering and protest will be disallowed by this city government? Will a preacher who dares to speak out against the neglect of our urban core or a neighborhood association board member who speaks out against seizure of their home for the new tech park find themselves facing the full force of City Hall? Where is the line for Mssrs. Hines and Stodola? What is the litmus test for what is and what is not radical, revolutionary or subversive? Is our city government so weak and its vision so shallow that it cannot withstand citizen protest?
There are some principles of the OWS and by extension OLR movements with which I sympathize. There are some I do not share. Agree or not, what I cannot do is remain silent when a citizen's right to assemble, speak and petition his or her government is silenced simply because that government does not like what it hears. Mssrs. Hines and Stodola should be ashamed of their actions in the treatment of OLR. As a citizen and taxpayer, I am certainly ashamed of them.
Dr. Robert Wm. Lowry
From the web
In response to the Arkansas Blog's reporting on Riverfest workers disallowing persons from gathering signatures on ballot initiative petitions:
I don't understand why the Riverfest folks would want to keep the ballot initiative folks out. Why not rent booth space within the festival grounds to the petition groups? There are thousands of Arkansans who support their issues and would seek them out in order to get a chance to vote on the proposals in November. If you missed a chance to sign a petition on the medical marijuana issue, their website (arcompassion.org) lists businesses around the state where you can sign their petition, and I suppose some of the other issue websites do as well. There are only six more weeks left to get the needed signatures.
It is odd that hateful demonstrators at a private funeral cannot be arrested, but police dutifully threaten petitioners at a public event on public grounds at the behest of a private entity. Constitutional rights are auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Petitioning has been a part of the American political process since before the American Revolution (for the Faux News acolytes, that was more than 200 years ago). Certainly, by now there should not be any confusion over where petitioning can be done.
But considering the anti-civil liberties attitude of many tea-bagger elected officials, clarification needs to be made. Free speech and petitioning disputes have been litigated over and over again. Federal, state, and municipal attorneys should be well aware of the precedents, but choose to ignore them.
Maybe a state legislator will request that the state Attorney-General compile a comprehensive guide about free speech rights to be disseminated to all elected officials — not that they will read it.
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