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Categorized | News, OWS, Tea Party

Richmond TEA Party and Occupy Richmond to Attend City Council Meeting Tonight Supporting Free Speech

IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. – Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities.

It is hard not to recall this famous work by one of the great writers of all time when you juxtapose the Occupy Movement with the TEA Party Movement.

On nearly every philosophical level, these are two diametrically opposed unions of two sets of like-minded individuals.

But that is not to say there is absolutely no commonality between the two movements.

Peel back the causes of each group and you are left with a similar foundation upon which both movements agree.

  • Neither is happy with the status quo
  • Both have had their Constitutional Rights to Free Speech thwarted by Richmond’s Mayor – Dwight Jones – and the city leaders.

Theologian John Calvin said:

I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

Obviously Calvin was speaking about the seeming Biblical conflict between Free Will and predetermination, but his premise also applies to these two movements.

There is an undeniable commonality at the very foundation of both movements.

And while neither the Occupy Movement nor the TEA Party are united in any intentional, coordinated way, both plan to attend tonight’s meeting of the Richmond City Council to speak to the city’s shabby treatment of their Right to Free Speech which is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Wikipedia has this to say about the First Amendment:

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

Originally, the First Amendment applied only to laws enacted by the Congress. However, starting with Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S.652 (1925), the Supreme Court has held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendmentapplies the First Amendment to each state, including any local government.

It is the second paragraph that the City of Richmond fails to comprehend.

Hopefully, both movements will be able to drive that point home in the meeting tonight.

I plan to be there and will (hopefully) be allowed to cover the event with video as well as with words.

Commonalities of Purpose

The Richmond TEA Party Movement, from the beginning, was forced to jump through hoop after hoop by the City of Richmond and forced to spend thousands of dollars and file countless forms as well as provide insurance, security and sanitation at each one day event held in Downtown Richmond. It is safe to say that the Mayor and the “powers that be” were politically opposed to the TEA Party Movement and, while it is probably not accurate to write that they went out of their way to throw speed bumps in front of the group, it is accurate to say that they did nothing to streamline the process.

That was not the case with the Occupy Richmond Movement, at least initially. Mayor Jones obviously had hoped that he could somehow gain political advantage from an alliance with this group (as have most of the Democrats) and he had the city enforcement officials turn a blind eye, and even go out of their way to help and facilitate them.

When I visited the Occupy Richmond encampment at Kanawha Plaza in Richmond shortly before they were evicted, I found that a lot of what we were hearing and reading about the group was false. There was no filth, no crime and no drugs that I witnessed. And one of the most startling revelations I uncovered was that the group was granted permission to pitch tents.

According to Bobbi Richards, a member of the Occupy Richmond group:

On Monday, 10/17/2011 at 11:15 am John O’Kleasky Jr. Homeland Security and Special Operations Division of the RPD visited Kanawha Plaza along with Michael Snawder RPD. He introduced himself as our Point-of-Contact .A few suggestions were made by Officer O’Kleasky in regards to the sidewalk chalk, which we agreed to remove. He also complimented us on what a wonderful job we were doing keeping the park clean. Verbatim “This is the cleanest I have seen Kanawha Plaza in some time”. After this exchange, Officer O’Kleasky told us that we would be allowed to pitch tents and tarps, but that there could be NO PERMANENT STRUCTURES. (I.E. wooden structures.) We were dubious, so asked him to reiterate his statement… and he did. We also have video footage of this exchange. That is the day the tents went up in the park.

Let me state that Bobbi Richards, to my knowledge, is not a spokesman for Occupy Richmond, as far as I know, and is only offering this account of events based on personal observations.

I also do not know if Officer John O’Kleasky Jr. acted on his own authority, or on orders from the Mayor in placing sanitation facilities at City expense. I was also told that City Health Inspectors regularly inspected the food services and gave the group passing marks for sanitation.

It would appear that, at some point, Mayor Jones realized that the Occupy group was becoming less and asset and more of a liability as pressure mounted on him to enforce the law.

So, after legitimizing the group by providing sanitation and inspections, he ordered police to move in in the middle of the night, and in spite of John O’Kleasky Jr’s permission, they were rounded up and evicted.

Of the First Amendment and Free Speech

The Richmond TEA Party asked for no favors and accepted every challenge from the city and complied with every whim and demand in order to hold a one day rally each year for three years running. In essence, they were required to pay for their rights that have already been bought and paid for by our nation long ago.

The Occupy Richmond group showed up and asserted their right to free speech. They were willing to go along to a point in order to express their free speech rights, but they were there to make a point and not willing to jump through the hoops that the TEA Party did. The price for these rights were already paid in full long ago.

The TEA Party was forced to pay dearly for their rights, and they complied. If anyone has any doubt that the TEA Party would have been met with force immediately had they failed to jump through the hoops, they are delusional. Mayor Jones would have surrounded the park on day one and arrested anyone who dared to cross their line.

Occupy Richmond found a far more willing accomplice in Mayor Jones – at first. There was absolutely no danger of eviction on day one. There was no danger of eviction when they pitched their tents – because they had permission.

Therein lies the problem.

When the city plays nice with a group that is somewhat ideologically aligned with the city’s Democratic leadership, and then plays hardball with another that has an opposing ideology, that is a failure of leadership. It is purely partisan.

What should the city do?

Well, that’s the question for tonight, isn’t it? The city has a responsibility to protect the citizens, that is a fundamental reason that local government exists. And while that protection is often thought of as protection from crime, these protections also extend to individual’s rights. Including Free Speech (see Gitlow v. New York). And while actively protecting free speech may go beyond the scope of city government, there is undeniably a constitutional mandate that the city not infringe on such rights.

The onerous requirements the city placed on the Richmond TEA Party are unreasonable. Over $8,000 for three annual one day events is just too much to be allowed to assemble and speak freely. The TEA Party is possibly due a refund on the unreasonable fees and charges. And it is simply not fair and equatable to charge one group so much, and allow another to ignore the law with the city’s blessing.

If one plans to stand in a park and give a speech, the government has no right to demand payment in advance of the exercise of such speech.

But if you plan an event anticipating a large crowd, reasonable preparation and planning is necessary. A balance must be struck between unreasonable infringement of free speech and protecting the rights and safety of all citizens. Proper security, sanitation and preparedness in the event of an emergency is prudent. And this is not something that the taxpayers should be expected to fund. And if it is going to cost the city, then does this not infringe on the rights of taxpayers who must pay the bill?

The TEA Party Tax Day rallies were one day, well planned events that did not infringe on anyone’s rights.

The Occupy Movement, on the other hand, has cost the city plenty. But this was the fault of Mayor Jones, not the Occupy group. They simply took what the city offered for as long as the offer was extended. They only broke that laws that the city said they would not enforce.

But does the Occupy movement have the right to take over, hence Occupy, a public space for an undetermined amount of time?

Absolutely not!

One day is a bit of inconvenience for those who might wish to leave the stuffy confines of a downtown office and enjoy a quiet lunch in the park. While they were still free to do so during the occupation, as the group welcomed one and all, it is hard to find peace and solitude among the tents and bustle of an encampment. And to go on day after day is an unreasonable infringement on the rights of the taxpayers to enjoy a green space that was paid for with tax dollars and maintained by the same.

Mayor Jones did his job with the TEA Party. He managed to strike a balance between free speech and protecting the tax dollars he is entrusted to spend. And to the extent that the TEA Party was forced to go above and beyond what was reasonably necessary to facilitate and control the expected crowd, and if the city actually made a profit from the exercise of free speech, that money should be returned. I don’t have the facts and figures, so I cannot make even a guess at the costs involved.

And if there was any justice in the world, Mayor Jones, and not the Occupy Richmond group, would be held financially liable for the costs involved in the Occupy situation. Unequal treatment under the law has cost taxpayers a tidy sum. Money that the City of Richmond could have used to pay teachers or provide medical services to children in need.

The Mayor and the City Council get an “F” for the way this has been handled.

If you can, join us tonight at Richmond’s City Hall.

Here are the Details:

THANK YOU for volunteering to come to the City Council meeting this Monday night, November 14, 2011.  The meeting lasts from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.   So far we have close to 90 people that have volunteered to attend this meeting.  The room can hold much more…so bring your friends, family, and neighbors!
ADDRESS:
Richmond City Hall
900 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA  23219
 
TIME:
The meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. and ends at approximately 9:00 p.m.  Citizen comments are usually made somewhere in the middle but there is a strong possibility that the City will purposely delay our speaking time towards the end of the meeting.  Be prepared to stay until the end of the meeting.
 
SIGNS:
Small signs are allowed…no bigger than 22” x 22”.  NO STICKS ON SIGNS!  Wording on your signs should relate with our reason for being at this meeting…unfair enforcement of city laws.
 
ATTIRE:
You are welcome to wear your Tea Party t-shirts or casual business attire.  It is important that we act and appear as law-abiding citizens. 
 
PARKING:
There should be street parking available around City Hall since it is after working hours.  A PARKING LOT is located on 8th and Leigh Street and there is a PARKING GARAGE located on 7th and Cary Street .
 
MEDIA:
We are contacting the media to inform them of our plans.  This issue is still HOT so we’re hoping for the best!  There is a small possibility that there will be a press conference prior to the meeting, but we will not know more until later.

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog.Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

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