Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace
written by Laramie:
Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Laramie at
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In the sleepy little town of Palm Desert, in the heart of the Southern California Coachella Valley,
a small group of individuals asked the City Council for a permit to camp out over night in a public park so they could " send a message"
to the city, the rest of the state, and I suppose to the world. The City gave them four days. Now, 5 days after the four days have
expired, the "messengers" are still camping out. Some are even willing to be arrested for camping in the park, even though there is
a "right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances". They just want to get their
"message" across. The message they are protesting over has as yet to be spelled out in clear and unified, concise detail, but hopes
are it is forthcoming. And many are ready to listen now, if they will only speak up.
Palm Desert has
a curfew law of 11 P.M. for all city parks, and in the nights the campers slept out in the park, Police had been patiently monitoring
the goings on, their concerns being based not only on the safety and sanitary facilities of the campers, but also on the violations
of the law. Then one morning, the Police went to the park and arrested seven of the campers who were violating the law. But the campers
stayed on. Throughout the several days of "occupation", as far as the Police could tell, there had been no law-breaking behavior other
than the protestors being there. Not surprisingly, the local media, in their never ending use of Constitutional Freedom of Speech
and Press, announced, rather melodramatically, that "police officers, in a crackdown on the protestors, descended out of the darkness....."
and made the arrests. The Police answered that they were clearing the park of the people who were violating the law, as that was what
Police did, uphold the law. Their statement was that they were not singling out any one group, as they would clear the park after
the 11:00 curfew no matter who was in violation, and the campers had been given ample leeway in that regard. Police patience seemed
to be growing thin with each passing night the demonstrators were in violation. But the campers stayed on.
on another night, the Police again went to the park and arrested nine more demonstrators. The officers cleared away tents, sleeping
bags, and supplies. One of those arrested claimed the appearance of the Police "Was an ambush. There was no warning." I guess he forgot
about the several visits and warnings when the campers were in violation. That same night, at a planned meeting to discuss strategy
in the upcoming days, the protestors felt the arrests "would give their 'movement' a shot of energy and coveted media coverage." And
of course, that's what it's all about. Word is, the camping out in the park may be over, and the protesters may be on the lookout
for public sites other than the city park.
The question of which right has precedence, that of
peaceable assembly or the right of the local Police to arrest law breakers, has no quick and easy answer in emotionally heated confrontations
or discussions, no matter what you believe. One could argue that if the protestors had set up camp on some supporter's private, yet
open air property, then the tempers of the campers and the Police would be under better control. But an argument could also be made
that unless the protests were made where they would get immediate media attention, as in a publicly owned park, it would be a waste
of time and effort. I suspect most of the relatively few campers who spent those nights in cold, uncomfortable conditions with few
good hot meals, weren't just doing it for kicks. But the fact is, statements of the demonstrators such as "I'm upset about what's
happening on Wall Street" just doesn't address what it is that they want. Is it to close the Stock Exchange, or to prevent people
from investing in business ventures where profit can be made, or is it to advertise all potential money making opportunities so that
everyone has a chance at making their fortune? Or is it, God forbid, that they just want to tax the rich and give to the poor? The
demonstrators should let the country know, before the issues get clouded over with violence of some sort.
think many would agree that as long as the people occupying the park aren't rioting, or starting fires, or vandalizing the neighborhood,
or turning cars over, or shooting one another or trashing the area and interfering with the normal peaceful setting of a public park,
a place non-protestors want to enjoy also, then maybe all they need to do to quell the uncertainty and unrest over their activities,
is to speak up. Gather together the leaders of this protest and let them make their case. Don't wait until it gets out of hand, so
that thugs and ne'er-do-wells, and professional marchers and rioters become the recognized force behind the movement, as so often
happens in marching protests. I'll bet there are more people who would agree with the marchers' complaints than some might suspect.
Why don't they let the legitimate leaders of their congregation sing out the praises of whatever they stand for. The results of the
last American Revolution turned out to be pretty good for a couple hundred years. Is it possible the "occupyers" have something up
their sleeve that will alter the downward spiral America is struggling with nowadays? I'd like to find out. It's time for the demonstrators
to speak up.