I’m torn on this issue. The first amendment freedom of assembly is extremely important. We, as citizenry, have the right to protest peacefully and that is an absolute cornerstone of the American democratic process.
But, I’m a pragmatist. A protest designed to be indefinite, seeking vague goal (“end corporate greed”) with an unclear reason to protest at City Hall seems silly to me. After reading their own brochure, I don’t understand what, specifically, they’re trying to protest.
I watched part of the eviction by way of OccupyAustin’s livestream team. One women, very upset, was decrying being evicted from “the home they have known for four months.” I’m not part of the 1%. Hell, I’m not in the top 50%. That plaza is my city hall too. It is as much “my home” as your home. This group has monopolized a very visible public plaza for four months. I care about the abortion issue. Could I have organized a protest at City Hall to attempt to impact decisions within the competency of the City around the anniversary of Roe v Wade?
I care about transportation issues. Could I have staged a “bike-in” at City Hall during that time? I care about electricity rates being fair for both Austin Energy and consumers, especially those struggling already. Could I have staged something at City Hall during this time, as Austin Energy (owned by the City), is debating rate increases?
Many will say yes, but it would either be mixed in with Occupy or, by virtue of the limitation of space, be smaller than it could have been. These are issues that the City not only can take action on but is the entity to take action.
Should the City have ordered their removal? I don’t know 1st Amendment law enough to begin to answer that question. I don’t know how absolute Freedom of Assembly is within our legal precedents. Can a protest use a public space permanently? Do I have a legitimate claim that they are restricting my ability to (effectively) protest by hogging City Hall?
What do you think? Leave a comment!