Growing pressure from the North Downtown Residents Association and frustrated downtown businesses and merchants—all of whom are tired of the Occupation’s negative impact on their lives and livelihoods—finally has forced reluctant Charlottesville City Councilors to make a decision on the future of Lee Park. In a November 28 Daily Progress article, Mayor Dave Norris stated that permission for a 24/7 encampment will end soon.
Unwilling to take a public vote on the subject of the ongoing Occupation, City Council is desperately seeking a painless exit from their self-created political quagmire. McIntire Park has been suggested as a new, less offensive commorancy, but on their own web site, Occupiers have expressed concern that the location:
- Does not offer free wi-fi
- Is not pedestrian friendly
- Is too far from soup kitchens
- Does not fit the Constitutional definition of a public forum
With such backlash against McIntire, city administrators clandestinely have proposed relocating the Occupiers to the George Rogers Clark (GRC) statue site, adjacent to the University of Virginia and the Corner.
City Hall officials have contacted management at the Red Roof Inn—located in the immediate vicinity of the alternate destination—to alert them to the prospect of new “neighbors” in the ‘hood. Red Roof management has expressed concern over potential crime and sanitation issues, as well as negative business impacts, should the Occupation migrate to the Corner.
The entitled Occupiers have not wholly embraced the notion of transposition from Lee Park against their collective will, commenting on the proposition:
- We should make a statement that we will decide if/where to move in the future.
- Mayor says that we ARE leaving, that’s not a decision we’ve come to yet.
- The issue is not whether or not we can occupy parks. That has been agreed on at City Council. The issue is which park. Lee Park is the best and that’s why we chose it. Lets dig in our heels here!
Further complicating the issue is a November 28 press release from the Rutherford Institute in the form of an open letter to Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris. Rutherford founder and president, John Whitehead, suggests that any location not within a “reasonable distance” from Charlottesville City Hall is unacceptable for the purpose of continued “free speech” as currently being exercised by Occupy Charlottesville. He proffers that Occupiers relocate to the First Amendment Plaza, which stands immediately in front of Charlottesville City Hall:
First, the city should encourage protesters to make full use of the space which is presently home to the First Amendment Plaza. In light of the fact that the First Amendment monument, which is situated in the area outside City Hall, includes a podium “intended to serve as a contemporary soapbox from which individuals may address both planned and impromptu public gatherings,” this would seem to be a natural place for individuals wanting to petition their government for a redress of grievances. If the city chooses to look elsewhere, it should keep in mind that any such forum must be within a reasonable distance of City Hall so as to ensure the visibility of any potential protestors. To place such a forum away from the seat of government would effectively nullify the space’s purpose. To this end, we have concerns about McIntire Park as a proposed venue.
So, what is a Marxist Mayor to do?
Let the Occupiers stay in Lee Park and risk further political alienation of the neighbors? Not a chance.
Accept Rutherford’s recommendation for a Downtown Mall “free speech” Occupation marathon? Over the merchants’ dead bodies, especially at Christmastime.
Relocate the Occupiers to another park site within city limits? Possibly; but no real purpose is served by moving elsewhere legal, social, and sanitation problems inherent in the Occupation—a temporary fix, at best.
Norris and his spineless Keystone Kouncilors have capitulated to Occupiers’ lawlessness by rewarding them with unprecedented political and financial favoritism and by mollycoddling them with undeserved gratuity. In remunerating lawbreakers with misplaced charity, councilors have created a dangerously false expectation of continued leniency—a mirage that sadly may vanish in a haze of pepper spray should push come to shove.