Thursday, October 27, 2011

SNR gets it EXACTLY right re Occupy Sac

OK, I may get in trouble here, but the Sacramento News & Review is spot on in their editorial this week regarding the Occupy Sac protesters' RIGHT to free speech. Here it is, en toto:
A tent in Chavez Park two days ago.
As Occupy Sacramento moves into its third week, some people—say, for instance, the local daily and the city council—seem to be suffering from protest fatigue. After all, the protest is messy (despite the fact that protesters in Cesar Chavez Plaza have been cleaning up after themselves), and, gosh, if we let them protest 24 hours a day, won’t we have to let less savory characters do the same?

But that’s precisely the point. It’s easy to support freedom of speech when you buy ink by the barrel or have microphones and cameras at ready access for each and every one of your opinions. But the main thing protesters of Occupy Sacramento have to work with is their own bodies. A 24-hour protest is a pretty stark statement of how much the principles they are fighting for matter to them.

And if the Ku Klux Klan or anti-gay protesters or pro-life protesters or—gasp!—our homeless citizens are the next to protest 24/7 in front of City Hall? Good for them, as long as they keep it peaceful. That’s what free speech, the right to assemble and the right to petition for redress of grievances are all about.

Things are much messier in democracies than in dictatorships and oligarchies. Freedom of speech and the right to protest aren’t privileges that can be revoked; they are rights, and they are not reserved for causes of which we approve. The fear of potential problems is not an excuse for prior restraint on free speech—and our city council and local daily should be the first to say so.
And, indeed, the ed is right that there is an issue of allowing Occupy to protest that lets in the Big Barn Door protest from the homeless community. [And, unfortunately, that means SafeGround and probably not the larger, needier, more-legitimate-without-crazy-underlying-politics other 90% of suffering homeless folk.]

The problem with SafeGround is that they have become -- like Loaves & Fishes and SHOC -- a money-grabby pseudo-charity that has become far more interested in garnering publicity [which brings attention, which results in donation receipts] than a group that ACCOMPLISHES anything. By constantly jonesing for a rumble, and making noise, they have come to think that that is all they need to do. They protest everything, object, nay-say, and play victim instead of engaging any path toward possible progress. If others, say the city council, has issues or problems SG rejects them. WE are poor victims, so goes the SG whine. And that trumps all else.

And, thus, SafeGround will begin their full-throttle protesting in Chavez Park the minute the Occupy crowd leaves. But for SafeGround it won't really be an exercise of free speech; it will be the same old, same old. "Get your lime-green SafeGround T-shirt, right cheer, folks. Just fifteen smackers. Help a victimized homeless dude, wontcha?"

The delicious absurdist irony is that by having a legalized place to protest, the SafeGrounders will have undermined their protest for a legalized place to be. Thus nullifying their protest. But should they leave, their complaint of not having a place to be would re-arise as something they must settle in in Chavez Park to protest.

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