The Anatomy of a Battle for Public
July 2004 ... Protesters Shut Down Baywalk in Florida...The issue surfaced early last week when St. Pete for Peace, an anti-war group which has been holding weekly peace vigils in front of a downtown shopping and entertainment complex called Baywalk, learned that the City Council would be considering legislation to restrict the days, times and locations that demonstrations in St. Petersburg could be held. Not surprisingly, the restrictions included Saturday evening between 7PM and 9PM, which is when the weekly vigils are held. Also not surprisingly, the sidewalk where the demonstrators stand was deemed a "no protest zone".
Fast forward to the present...
July 2005... Barricades at BayWalk make protesters wary
August 1, 2005... Mr. Sembler's neighborhood...Well it’s that time of year again, folks. Last July, as you may recall, Mel Sembler and his freedom-hating junta, made an ill-advised attempt to throw a local peace and social justice group (St. Pete for Peace) off the public sidewalk where they had been holding anti-war vigils since before the run-up to Iraq War Redux...I would love to be able to report the proverbial, rosy “what a difference a year makes” here, what with support for Bush’s war plummeting, but unfortunately this does not appear to be the case...
August 8, 2005... Arresting dissent... It was during one of these drumming and chanting sessions that 14 year old Joe, who had been pacing up and down in front of the barricades shaking a maraca either strayed too far to the left or too far to the right. It is difficult to tell because, while the barricades steer patrons away from protesters bearing flyers, the area in front of the barriers is not strictly off limits. And there is no line on the ground that marks the end of public space and the beginning of private property. The “line” is invisible and possibly arbitrary depending on lighting, time of day and who is enforcing it. At some point, Joe stepped over the line.
August 9, 2005 - A coalition of progressive groups gather
for a press conference to denounce the arrests
August 9, 2005... St. Pete Food Not Bombs issues solidarity statement. "Whether it is Equality Florida in Tampa, fighting for the right to celebrate its gay and lesbian authors in a public library or a 14 year old protester in St. Petersburg fighting for his right to use a public sidewalk as a forum for dissent, the loss of their voice is a blow to the democratic health of an entire community. This is true whether you agree or disagree with any given struggle, because it is impossible to find new solutions to old problems such as war and violence in corporate-controlled uni-culture of “yes men.” One wonders if Sembler Company would have allowed Galileo to stand on the public sidewalk proclaiming that the earth revolved around the sun if it disrupted the bottom line. An extreme example, yes, but it should be noted that this theory was much less popular in its time than opposition to the war is today."
August 12, 2005... Orlando Food Not Bombs and Orlando Direct Action issue a solidarity statement. "We feel these arrests were meant to have a chilling effect on the ability and willingness of citizens to express their opinions through protest and public dissent from State policies. The authorities' actions on Aug. 6 are part of the trend toward ever-greater authoritarianism in our society and the placing of the profit interests of private property above the interests of citizens in being able to freely exercise their civil liberties. If we are to have an enlightened and free society, individuals and their rights must always take precedence over private property and profits."
musicians manage to combine
August 16, 2005... Vibrant Protest Follows Previous Week's arrests. (Story, audio and video links plus page one of photos; page 2 of photos, click here.) Over 200 activists gather at Baywalk to oppose war and reclaim the streets. See also: Reclaiming the Public Sidewalk at Baywalk.
August 20, 2005... Police crack down on protesters once again: Citations issued to drummers; at least 3 passing motorists ticketed for honking their car horns.
Will pinwheels soon be illegal, too?
Deserve Praise, Not Harassment ..."Our
community's priorities are clear: It's commerce over conversation at
BayWalk, where our area's most active and engaged citizens are decidedly
not welcome." Robyn Blumner, St. Petersburg Times.
from occupied Florida,
August 21, 2005
Reporting from occupied Florida,
August 21, 2005
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