By Jack Johnson, Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 4:15am
It’s always hard to overestimate the witlessness of city officials, but last night, The Richmond City Police, and Richmond City Mayor, Dwight Jones, exceeded all expectations.
Here’s a quick rundown of events. Occupy Richmond made it clear in a general assembly that there were three places that were favored for occupation—or re-occupation—after their encampment at Kanawha Plaza was destroyed in the dead of night by city officials on October 30th. Those three places were Monroe Park, Festival Park and Monument Avenue.
Shortly after a General Assembly last week it was announced that Occupy Richmond would make their encampment in Monroe Park after gathering for an excellent documentary film presentation on Occupy Richmond entitled “All Night, All Day”. The turnout tripled the numbers for the original Occupation at Kanawha Plaza. About 350 activists took to the streets after the showing. But these occupiers were split into three groups. One group went by Monroe Park and the other two groups converged on Festival Park. The folks that marched by Monroe Park (but not IN Monroe Park) were harassed for wearing bandanas across their faces, and 2 were arrested for this petty offense (they will be arraigned at 9 am tomorrow in Manchester Court at Hull and 10th, if you want to show your support).
The others, undeterred, marched onto Festival Park.
Now, the nice thing about Festival Park, if you happened to be set on occupying Richmond, is that it doesn’t follow the so-called sunset provision of Monroe Park. You can assembly legally there until 3:00 in the morning.
Hundreds of officers showed up at Monroe Park, but the activists did not stay there, but rather marched onto Festival Park. The police eventually caught on and within an hour or so, another sortie of state and city police lined the park, apparently waiting to carry out mass arrests. At around One o’clock in the morning, after a rousing round of the Star Spangled Banner and Woody Guthrie’s This Land, the Occupiers simply walked out of the park and headed toward the Canal Walk, moving by –but not into — Kanawha Plaza. Our fine city officials, with apparently limitless tax money at their disposal took it upon themselves to assume the marchers would descend onto Kanawha Plaza–and encamp there illegally once again. So, at about 2:00 in the morning there were another 100+ Richmond Police Officers and Virginia State Police and dozens of vehicles cooling their heels in front of Kanawha Plaza, waiting to make arrests…. But the Occupiers were nowhere in sight.
The Occupy Richmond crew were at The Canal Walk which just happens to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—and is perfectly legal.
So let’s tally this up. Richmond Police and State Police burn probably close to $20,000 in sparse City resources chasing the Occupy Marchers through the city, staking out where they THINK they might unlawfully assemble until well past 3 in the morning. Meanwhile, of course, Occupy Richmond is perfectly legal and is not going away.
Cost to the city for useless police activity to squelch free speech and the right of assembly? Nearly $20,000 (and probably more when you count the cost of circling helicopter and airplane)
Cost to Occupy Richmond activists for an evening stroll on Public Streets? 0
Expression on Mayor Dwight Jones’ face when he realizes his effort to destroy free speech and assembly with a ludicrous show of force has failed miserably?
Note: GA tomorrow at 1:30 PM in Monroe Park.