2 min read
Posted on 11.04.11
  • 2 min read
  • Posted on 11.04.11

The participants in the nation’s Occupy movements, including those in St. Louis, are saying some important things about the direction of the country. I support their right to say them.

During the weeks it has been camped here, Occupy St. Louis has had the opportunity to make its points heard and seen during some very high profile events, including a presidential visit and the World Series.

I emphatically disagree with those who say that allowing the encampment to remain during those national events showed St. Louis in a bad light. Instead, I think it showed us to be a reasonable and compassionate place to live and work. Moving the Occupy residents simply to deny them a chance to tell their story to a large audience would have been wrong-headed and wrong-hearted.

From the first week they arrived in Kiener Plaza, I have reminded the people who have gathered there to obey the law or accept the consequences – citations, arrest – of not doing so. That is the basic formula for civil disobedience in this country.

In the intervening weeks, some arrests have been made; but, for the most part, the City’s ordinances regarding encampments in parks have not been enforced.

(This is the kind of tolerance with which the City tries to handle minor matters about which no one complains and which do not threaten life or public safety. Food trucks operating outside the vending zones and the Gus’s Pretzel guy vending on Jamieson are other examples of that philosophy.)

But, we went a little further than just ignoring the Occupy encampment. The City offered a permit and, even wrote one, but Occupy’s occupiers declined it.

Over the past several days, there has been a rising tide of complaints. I know, and the Occupy participants know, that they cannot stay there forever. Bad weather and other programming for Kiener Plaza are racing each other to mark the end of their tenure.

The City’s Parks Department has prepared a list of ordinances and regulations which it believes Occupy is in current violation. We will present that list to Occupy.

I expect that we will reach an accommodation that allows Occupy to use Kiener Plaza, to exercise its First Amendment rights, but to follow City ordinances and regulations.