Occupy Columbus And The First Amendment
The First Amendment guarantees citizens the right to peaceably assemble.
Columbus, Ohio (I-Newswire) September 6, 2012 - Joseph Heller would have called this a Catch-22, a situation that does not make sense if you try to view it logically. Recently the city government of Columbus passed a code that will require engaged citizens to jump through several additional hoops in order to demonstrate peacefully on the sidewalks and in the streets. The cost was $30 for thirty days. Now the cost is $100 for three days plus a deposit of $500. That’s a daily fee increase of TWENTY THOUSAND percent. Additionally, groups must leave the site after the three days.
What instigated this action?
Occupy Columbus, an offspring of the Occupy Wall Street movement, had been occupying the area in front of the downtown statehouse for the last eleven months while demonstrating against wealth inequality among other things. Even though members continued to hold meetings twice a week, the tent (packed with tables, chairs, and signs) was left unmanned for long periods of time.
Eileen Paley, the councilwoman responsible for code #960, stated in a recent Dispatch column that she was not trying to thwart legal demonstrations. She only wanted to make sure that people were present and that objects like chairs and tables and tents were not left behind. If that’s the case, why does the new code include a ridiculous fee increase and a limit of only three days even if people are always present and objects are removed at the end of each day?
It’s reasonable for the city to want to keep their streets and sidewalks free of clutter. But this law does not address that issue. This law simply makes it difficult for any individual or group to organize any kind of sustained demonstration, and we all know that change takes time.
Could the suffragists of the early twentieth century have accomplished their goals in three days? What about Civil Rights or Gay Rights activists? And those groups contain 50%, 37% (all minorities) and 5% of the U.S. population. We’re talking here about legislation that affects 99% of Americans.
Was the OC group violent? No. Was the OC group unruly? No. Is there some kind of rational explanation for the twenty thousand percent fee increase? City officials are on record admitting that the OC movement did not exceed costs of the previous dollar-a-day. If the city had a problem with the tent or with OC, why did they not attempt to talk through the situation?
A few days ago, and for the last several years, states have been passing laws to ban voters without proper photo identifications. These laws will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters across the country. And the problem of voter fraud that these laws are supposed to address? A recent study of the 2000+ cases of election fraud over the last twelve years tallied the number of in-person voter fraud at ten. Not ten thousand. Ten. Ten people out of one hundred and forty- six million registered voters. States are providing a solution to a problem that never existed, just as the city of Columbus has passed legislation to solve a problem that does not exist. In both cases the groups have ulterior motives, and every citizen should be concerned about the roots of those motives.
Groups on all sides of the political spectrum, such as the League of Women Voters, the Northwest Area Progressives, Ohio Right to Life, and Occupy Columbus, would like to work with city officials inside an atmosphere of open dialogue, understanding, and reason. Under the able leadership of Mayor Coleman, the City of Columbus has been a champion of the good society where men and women of all persuasions have found a safe, open community. The new city code has called this trust into question.
The First Amendment guarantees citizens the right to peaceably assemble. The First Amendment does not say anything about excessive fees or $500 deposits. But how long until it does?
Balanced Nation is made up of people who are employed and unemployed, students and retirees, people More..with different cultural backgrounds and different learning experiences. All of us want changes in our country, want a voice, and want leadership that reflects our values. Together, we are making that happen.Less..
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Published On:September 6, 2012
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