Rule of law(lessness): Charlottesville city manager orders police to NOT enforce law on Occupy Charlottesville protesters

| October 19, 2011 | 15 Comments

At the behest of an anarchistic City Council, Charlottesville City Manager, Maurice Jones, ordered the Charlottesville Police Department to refrain from enforcing city curfew laws in Lee Park.

A group known as Occupy Charlottesville, in advance of their transgression, signaled intent to defy the law, and sought a waiver of compliance with city code at the October 17 Charlottesville City Council meeting. When the waiver was denied by council (but referred for next-day action to Parks and Recreation Director, Brian Daly), many protesters returned to their tents and spent the night, illegally, in Lee Park.

An initial email inquiry for clarification of law enforcement policy regarding the trespassers—sent to Jones and city spokesman, Ric Barrick—was answered vaguely and indirectly:

From: Rob Schilling
Sent:
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 6:09 AM
To: Barrick, Ric; Jones, Maurice
Cc:
Brown, Craig; Longo, Tim?
Subject:
Questions on Lee Park Protesters
Importance: High

Hi Ric and Maurice,

In watching the discussion last evening, it did not appear that an immediate waiver was granted for the protesters to stay overnight in Lee Park. A couple of questions

Was a waiver granted to the protesters last evening?

[city response] It was Council’s will to give the Occupy Cville group an opportunity to file for a permit today.

Did the occupiers vacate Lee Park last night?

[city response] Not all, our understanding is that there were a few that stayed in the park after 11pm

Have the police been given any directive by any city employee or official to refrain from enforcement in Lee Park as it relates to the occupation?

[city response] See answer to number 1

Thanks in advance for your prompt responses to these questions.­­

A follow up email was sent requesting clarity of response from the city:

From: Rob Schilling
Sent: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 2:18 PM
To: Barrick, Ric
Cc: Jones, Maurice; Brown, Craig; Longo, Tim
Subject: Re: Questions on Lee Park Protesters

Hi Ric,

Thanks for getting back to me.

Can you please answer question #3 directly?

Have the police been given any directive by any city employee or official to refrain from enforcement in Lee Park as it relates to the occupation?

If they were given directive, please provide details. What was the specific directive? On whose orders were the police directed? Was this in writing?

City Manager Jones responded promptly, indicating that he had issued the no-enforcement policy verbally to the Charlottesville Police Department (presumably to Chief Tim Longo):

From: “Jones, Maurice” <MJONES@CHARLOTTESVILLE.ORG>
Date: October 18, 2011 02:50:15 PM EDT
To: ‘Rob Schilling’ “Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Cc: “Brown, Craig” <Brownc@charlottesville.org>, “Longo, Tim” <LONGO@CHARLOTTESVILLE.ORG>
Subject: RE: Questions on Lee Park Protesters

Hi Rob,

It was obviously Council’s will to give Occupy Charlottesville the opportunity to submit a permit for the use of Lee Park.  I decided, in consultation with the police department, to refrain from taking any action against the group until they had a chance to submit the permit, which they did this afternoon.  The discussion I had with the department was not in writing.

Not referenced by Mr. Jones was the fact that Occupy Charlottesville had plenty of “opportunity” to submit a permit in advance of their illegal occupation of a public park. Jones stated at the City Council meeting that he had been in contact with Occupy organizers days prior to their council appearance and that evening’s subsequent demands for permission to circumvent the rule of law.

Although he does not cite it, Jones derives his authority to override law enforcement through his designation as “Director of Public Safety,” a title fraudulently obtained by former Charlottesville City Manager, Gary O’Connell, in a successful attempt to pad his retirement pension.

Primarily, though, the ability of an unelected bureaucrat to supersede established statutes for purposes of political expediency sets a dangerous precedent. Citizens of Charlottesville should expect equal protection under the law as guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. That is not the case in this abridgment, and citizens should contemplate what rights administratively will be nullified next. Despite repeated public denials of such by Charlottesville City Council, political favoritism certainly is at play. Police regularly enforce curfew laws at all city parks against homeless individuals, whose political leanings are not solicited prior to their expulsion from public property. Other groups who wish to use city parks are required to submit a permit well in advance, meet certain conditions, and vacate by the designated closing time. The notable difference here is politics, and city hall’s Marxist Charlottesville Democrats know that their political bread is buttered not by the hapless homeless but by fellow travelers of the Occupy Charlottesville movement.

About the Author:

Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.
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15 Comments on "Rule of law(lessness): Charlottesville city manager orders police to NOT enforce law on Occupy Charlottesville protesters"

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  1. FTD says:

    These are well meaning people. Just leave them be!

  2. The_BlueSpade says:

    FTD, the issue here is not the people but what’s minutely deigned the appropriate enforcement of city ordinances with laws on the books.

  3. Ken says:

    the ability of an unelected bureaucrat to supersede established statutes for purposes of political expediency sets a dangerous precedent.

    For starters, you don’t know, although you have reason to suspect, that the law was not enforced for political reasons. Secondly, representatives of government often use discretion about when to enforce the letter of the law and when not to. Park curfews are intended to keep parks from being used for drug use, public indecency, loud partying, etc., not to keep them from being used to make political statements. The city didn’t enforce the letter of the law here, but that may be because its spirit is not being violated.

    Other groups who wish to use city parks are required to submit a permit well in advance, meet certain conditions, and vacate by the designated closing time.

    False parallel unless you can cite an instance where another political group was prevented from occupying the park overnight. Perhaps Carole Thorpe should try camping out.

  4. Ken says:

    A repost, because I messed up the italics tags:

    the ability of an unelected bureaucrat to supersede established statutes for purposes of political expediency sets a dangerous precedent.

    For starters, you don’t know, although you have reason to suspect, that the law was not enforced for political reasons. Secondly, representatives of government often use discretion about when to enforce the letter of the law and when not to. Park curfews are intended to keep parks from being used for drug use, public indecency, loud partying, etc., not to keep them from being used to make political statements. The city didn’t enforce the letter of the law here, but that may be because its spirit is not being violated.

    Other groups who wish to use city parks are required to submit a permit well in advance, meet certain conditions, and vacate by the designated closing time.

    False parallel unless you can cite an instance where another political group was prevented from occupying the park overnight. Perhaps Carole Thorpe should try camping out.

  5. Jim Stern says:

    It is sad we even need to have this discussion. Laws, ordinances and codes are not optional, to be followed when you feel like it. Nor are they to be selectively enforced.

    Ken’s arguement that unless you can show another instance where a group was prevented from occupying the park overnight is sad to see because it paralellels the misuse of power shown by city officials. By allowing this one group to occupy the park overnight a precident has been set and even further, if some has the inclination to push it, this foolish act by the City has changed the law. Now anyone can occupy the park overnight whenever they want, forever. If the Boys Scouts, the Klu Klux Klan or the Clown Mimes are removed when they decide to camp in the park, then it is unequal treatment.

    If you don’t like the law, work to change it. If you don’t like the Constitution, work to change it. But as long as they are on the books they must be enforced and enforced equaly.

    If Ken’s neighbor ‘Tom’ was running an ilegal business in his garage, Tom was throwing all his household waste into Ken’s yard, or Tom just started building his new pool in Ken’s yard, would it be OK with Ken if the City Officials decide to give that a pass? I guess if Ken’s neighbor Harry on the opposite side from Tom had already built a pool in Ken’s yard it would be OK with him to let Tom build one too.

    If we selectively enforce only the rules that each official in government ‘feels’ like enforcing then we no longer have a government, only anarchy. But Ken will have two pools in his yard, maybe he can get permission from Tom and Harry to use the pools once in a while.

  6. Ken says:

    If we selectively enforce only the rules that each official in government ‘feels’ like enforcing then we no longer have a government, only anarchy.

    Jim, did you ever get stopped for speeding and not get a ticket? Are there no extenuating circumstances under which a police officer should not apply the letter of the law? Again, this law was not designed with political protests in mind.

    Also, you’re only imagining that the determination to allow Occupy Charlottesville to stay was made on the basis of mere feelings. Justify that presumption. Given that no other political groups have been prohibited from occupying the park, you can’t.

    If Ken’s neighbor ‘Tom’ was running an ilegal business in his garage, Tom was throwing all his household waste into Ken’s yard, or Tom just started building his new pool in Ken’s yard, would it be OK with Ken if the City Officials decide to give that a pass?

    All are examples of one citizen being allowed to harm another’s property. What harm is being done here? It’s doubtful that in this cool weather the occupiers are even hurting the grass – and that grass belongs to them too.

  7. Jim Stern says:

    I have been stopped three times in 35 years of driving for speeding and I have gotten three tickets. It is the job of the judge to evaluate extenuating circumstances not the officer. The officer should only not write a ticket if they realize that they erred, not to listen to and evaluate excuses.

    This is what we train our MP’s and I hope the same is taught to officers on the street. Handle people differently and you will be accused of, and likely are guilty of, discrimination.

    As far as Occupy Cville, they have every right to be there….after following the established rules and with no special consideration like free potties and extra trash pickup. If you think they should not have to apply for and be granted permission in the manner prescribed by law, then find a group of other people who agree with you and then change the law.

    We have the right to do what we want within the law in this country. And we have the right to make changes to those laws if we disapprove of them. In most of the world you can’t change the laws, so you have to skip that step and go to protests. That is the difference between here and Russia. I am not talking about holding up a sign or meeting with a few like minded souls on the mall, but skipping right to mass protest without any attempt at dialogue or attempt to follow established means for change shows nothing but ignorance of the rights you already have in pocket.

    And MOST IMPORTANTLY the ignorance of these Occupy groups doesn’t hurt the grass as much as our employees in need, neighbors, real people. SO, When there is no money again this year to give our teachers and police and fire responders the raise they deserve and need badly right now, I will think of the money wasted on potties and the wasted time of city employees, officers and others, on this groups ignorance. City workers and law enforcement aren’t helping those in need, they are relegated to babysitting spoiled brats and the money for officers and their families is going to the landfill and the waste authority.

    But you just keep living in a world where this doesn’t cost the taxpayers a thing. But you wouldn’t have the guts to walk the line of cafeteria workers or school bus drivers and look each in the eye when they get little or no raise, or the family of the elderly peron who didn’t get that first responder in time because of the time wasted on spoiled childrn and the dollars wasted on the unexpected babysitting invoice.

  8. Still waiting for a reasonable explanation as to why "occupiers" were given free-pass to break the law, while homeless and ordinary citizens are subject to enforcement…

  9. Ken says:

    Jim, I admire your standing on principle in regards to your speeding tickets, but my point is that cops do use their judgment – that’s the tradition we have, and so the city’s not moving to immediately evict Occupy Charlottesville was not some unprecedented outrage. And the group was given only a temporary pass, not a permanent one. They did eventually have to apply for permits. I agree about the free potties and extra trash pickup.

    However, I have to disagree that the movement has “skipp(ed) right to mass protest without any attempt at dialogue or attempt to follow established means for change.” You guys don’t like it when the OWS folks are likened to the Tea Party, but it’s clear that both movements have arisen because government has not been responsive to its citizens. You rightly complain of bureaucracies writing laws. They complain of corporations effectively writing laws.

    You ought to make peace and common cause. Calling them spoiled brats is just a failure of empathy, class warfare from the Right. Sure, some are young and immature and unrealistic. And some are old and hardworking and disillusioned. Show some respect (and I’d tell them to respect you and your concerns too).

    Likewise, it’s sad you have to personalize this and imagine I lack courage. I’ll ask you the same question Rob shirked – how would you know? The money these protests are costing does concern me, but we’re a long ways from where it’s costing working class people raises or services, and it’s Wall Street speculators who have really hurt the working class.

  10. Ken says:

    Still waiting for a reasonable explanation as to why “occupiers” were given free-pass to break the law, while homeless and ordinary citizens are subject to enforcement…

    I gave you that explanation way back on October 20, and I believe it’s obvious anyhow.

  11. Shannon says:

    Portable toilet facilities were not provided by the city. The group took up a collection and the Occupy sanitation committee handled the procurement. So for clarity – this has been handled from within the Occupy community.

    I might point out here that this is not a collective of destitute citizens, this is a collective of citizens. Lots of us, myself included, are well employed. Negative generalizations are not really productive, from where I stand.

    Also, tents are being rotated, and the ground is being re-seeded and covered with hay. If one were to walk through the park they would see that. They would also be welcome – everyone is!

    Ken – thank you for calling out name-calling as non-productive. This movement certainly did not come out of nowhere. It was a hand that was forced by the back room orgy of politicians and corporations, and a ruling class that has spit on the system of checks and balances of original design.

    Personally, there are many “tea party” viewpoints that I can solidly get behind, and I have felt that way since they came on the scene. I have also heard others say the same. There is lots of common ground to be found.

    These are just my thoughts. Out of respect for the greater community, we speak for our individual selves.

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