THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 642, October 30, 2011
"Socialism is only a lame attempt to make stealing appear respectable.
That's all it ever was, all it is now, and all it ever will be."4
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Occupy Lawrence has not given up. There was open discussion of planning a big activity this coming weekend, Friday and Saturday, probably around the intersection of 9th and Massachusetts.
This evening, by my count, was day ten of the occupation of South Park. The general assembly (GA) met at South Park as usual at 6 p.m. There were at least 24 people when I arrived at 6:08 p.m. and there were about five others who came and went during the evening. The GA lasted two hours. Many fine ideas were discussed.
Did you know that police scanners are streamed live on the web? Radio Reference or some such, and just google or search for police scanners, your city and state. Easy.
The occupation discussed local outreach to altruism and activism groups in the community. Apparently I'm going to be involved in that working group. Yay.
I expect to be at 9th and New Hampshire on Thursday 27 October at noon to see what happens at Jay Phoenix's information booth. I'll be dressed in my reporter garb, with press badge.
Why was Occupy Lawrence attacked by police on Tuesday morning at 4 a.m., this week? Apparently the police intended to "enforce" (selectively, it seems clear) an ordinance against camping. They are apparently now engaged in a "downtown Lawrence task force" of police, apparently in some white shirt uniform, reminiscent of the white shirted officers of the NYPD now notorious for pepper spraying and brutalising protesters in New York's Liberty Square (formerly Zuccotti Park). The downtown Lawrence merchants, possibly, and the Lawrence chamber of commerce, almost certainly, and selected bigots and unpleasant persons who continuously lobby city commission for special hand-outs and kick backs, apparently want a "task force" to attack homeless people and the Lawrence police department has obliged.
Thus it was that the occupiers got up at 4 a.m. to engage in a new conflict brought to them by the police, even though the occupiers were peaceful, nearly silent, and mostly sleeping at that hour. The word went out on the Celly network, but, sadly, only 5 people were members of that cell at the time. (Tonight that more than doubled.) The protesters opted not to be arrested, but also not to leave, and instead marched up and down the side walk, in front of the park.
The general assembly met at 3 p.m. for emergency session on Tuesday and again at 6 p.m. Then the assembly marched on city hall and attended the weekly city commission meeting. Jay Phoenix spoke to commission for about 5 minutes on the history of the activity of Occupy Lawrence, and then answered questions for 17 minutes.
One witness to the events at city commission suggested last night that Mayor Aron Cromwell's responses were to pretend support while in fact making a supercilious demand that the "elders and betters" in the city government be obeyed in their ordinances and demands. This point seems well made.
The camping ordinance basically fails on three grounds:
1. The city's ordinance is unconstitutionally vague, in that someone who leans against a wall to make a cell phone call, or sits down anywhere in the downtown area can be, and some homeless people have been, arrested for "occupying public space" in defiance of the ordinance. You have no idea if you are or are not violating the ordinance, because any number of ordinary behaviours, such as sitting, standing still, or laying down would be offences against the ordinance. Presumably, you can only tell if you are violating the camping ordinance if you aren't wearing a business suit, or a nice dress, or you have not at least $50 in receipts from downtown merchants.
2. The ordinance violates the first amendment right to peacefully assemble, especially for protests petitioning for redress of grievances. It is not possible to occupy public space for peaceable assemblies, nor for petitioning against grievances, without violating the camping ordinance. The fact that the police may or may not apply the ordinance against such protests appears on its face to be a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
3. The ordinance violates the ninth amendment right to use public spaces for any other activity, including eating, drinking, sleeping, and pissing, as people see fit. If Thomas Jefferson could do any of these things, while serving alcohol to a minor, and selling tobacco to a minor, then so can anyone else. Very few attempts to make a court case out of the 9th Amendment exist, and the Supreme Court would seem to be reticent to make law on this point. However, it is worth mentioning.
Did you get that? The Lawrence camping ordinance violates the first, ninth, and fourteenth amendments, and is unconstitutionally vague, both in implementation and in construction (the lay person's understanding of the words as written makes it impossible to be sure you aren't breaking the law, even if you aren't intending to do so).
The city also fails repeatedly to enforce their ordinances in an even-handed manner. There is a noise ordinance in Lawrence. The University of Kansas power plant whistle that blows every hour during the day is in frank violation of that noise ordinance. The city makes an explicit exception for the extremely well-connected politically and well-endowed financially university.
There is a storm sewer ordinance in Lawrence. The new Doug Compton high rise condominium tower and fitness centre at 9th and New Hampshire violated that ordinance, and required something on the order of $250,000 of modifications to the storm sewer system, which Aron Cromwell (I gather on information and belief) and the other corrupt (as I view them) city commissioners voted to spend out of the city's funds to bring the building's drainage into compliance, based on news reports that I've seen.
There is a parking ordinance in Lawrence. Again, as I gather from reports, rather than making Compton build enough parking spaces in his new building to comply with the downtown parking ordinance, the city has in effect given him 60 spaces in the parking garage built with city funds.
One can go on and on in this vein. The city makes exceptions for KU Athletics Commission, Inc., regarding traffic in and around the stadium on football game days and around the Allen Field House on basketball game days. Businesses that are building new buildings, such as the "natural grocer" on 23rd near Naismith are not supposed to close sidewalks during construction, but they do, and the city lets them get away with it.
So there are exceptions for anyone that Cromwell and the other thugs who run city government see as rich and powerful, or that they think could effectively fight, it seems, based on his supercilious remarks in city commission on Tuesday.
But there are to be no exceptions for the poor and down trodden.
The mood at Day Ten Occupy Lawrence was uplifting. People were determined and defiant.
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