Battle between Baker Administration & Occupy Delaware likely going to court
Looks like we're headed for another showdown in Chancery Court between the City of Wilmington and the Occupy Delaware movement.
For reasons only known to Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker and perhaps his closest advisers, the mayor declared a couple of weeks ago that Occupy protesters had outlived their welcome at Spencer Plaza across from the City/County building. The mayor said, in effect, the Occupiers had desecrated the sacred burial ground of Peter Spencer.
That claim drew derision from some people. Our own Al Mascitti said such talk was laughable.
A more serious rebuttal appeared on the "Interfaith Reflections" blog:
"I cannot speak for Peter Spencer, nor for the black citizens of my hometown who rightfully revere him as the founder of the first independent black church in America. I suspect, however, that Peter Spencer, a follower of Jesus, who was criticized for keeping company with no-count tax collectors and sinners, would sympathize with the Occupiers, and would declare his memory has been consecrated, not desecrated by the tent community which they have created near his grave. For Peter Spencer wanted a just society, as they do. He wanted love to prevail over greed for money and power, as they do..."
The May 1st - May Day - deadline Mayor Baker gave the Occupiers has come and gone. (One wonders if Mayor Baker intentionally picked that date!) Mayor Baker told WDEL he wasn't seeking a physical confrontation, but that he thought the Occupiers WANTED to be forcibly removed.
He says it'll be settled in a courtroom. Indeed, the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union seeks to reopen last year's lawsuit. The ACLU argues the city is trashing a written agreement that allowed Occupy protesters to stay in the plaza, not to mention Occupy's First Amendment rights.
The "occupyers" are going into their 8th month, I believe, of squatting on Spencer Plaza. Who is paying for the police who are monitoring that area? Who is paying for the sanitation workers who get the "pleasant" job of cleaning up that area? It sure isn't the occupiers, it's the taxpayers of the City of Wilmington. Shouldn't THEY, the people paying the bills, have some say in this too? They too have rights which seem to be being ignored. Sure the Occupiers have a right to protest, but does the 1st Amendment mean living at someone else's expense for months at a time camping wherever you desire???
I do agree with the Mayor, that the Occupiers DO want the cops to come in and forcibly remove them, just like in the 60's. They want the Philly TV stations there to film it all, so the rest of us can see these "Victims Of Police Brutality".
Unfortunately, I doubt the Mayor is going to get much satisfaction in the courts. So he'll be left with the choice of letting these so-called protesters squat on city public property indefinitely or playing into the Occupiers' hands and calling in the cops and forcibly removing them, giving them their 15 minutes of fame and making Mayor Baker look bad in the national media. He's stuck between a rock and a hard place. What the mayor is probably thinking is, why my city, why not Newark or Dover?
Wed, May 2, 2012 8:46am
I walk past there about a half dozen times a month. From December - March, I saw no one there. Is that a protest? Who will pay to have all the bricks replaced that have been torn up by the tents and other pieces of machinery that were brought in? You can see several places where bricks are broken, moved, or piled up.
When are they actually protesting? I have never seen anyone even there with signs or anything.
Wed, May 2, 2012 12:13pm
Occupiers have done a horrendous job of defining and articulating their demands. They have rallied around a vague, nebulous "the 1% are making too much money" however, Occupiers have not cited a specific piece of legislation or objective. If members of the public, city officials, state legislators or Congress were to "agree" with Occupiers, then what?
If Occupiers were to stay on Spencer Plaza, it would not accomplish any specific objective, primarily because Occupiers themselves have not defined an objective.
Wed, May 2, 2012 12:18pm
Civil rights protestors galvanized Congress into adopting the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guaranteed equal housing, jobs, and education for all people irrespective of race, creed, color, religion or national origin.
Vietnam War protestors called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.
Gay rights protestors successfully pushed through legislation that allows civil unions in Delaware.
Occupy Delaware protestors are calling for legislation which _______________________________?????????
Wed, May 2, 2012 1:06pm
I wonder what the city/public would say if the KKK petitioned to Occupy Spencer plaza. They could call it OKKKupy. Would they be allowed to erect a tent city? Would they get the permit?
Wed, May 2, 2012 7:48pm
Teatime: To fill in your blank, I would say legislation which spreads their misery to the entire American population.
Arthur: Considering that Wilmington has a black mayor and numerous black council members, I think there would be even less sympathy for the KKK, and as a decent God-fearing white person I wouldn't blame them.
Thu, May 3, 2012 6:17am
But, one could imagine the ACLU defending the rights of the white supremacists, to a point.
Remember the ACLU going to bat for the neo-Nazis in heavily-Jewish, Skokie, Illinois (where you had Holocaust survivors) in the late 1970's?
Thu, May 3, 2012 7:10am
Well, having been from Kinmundy, I didn't pay much attention to what went on in Skokie or anything else Chicago, however I did recently see a documentary about it
on the History Channel.
This is why I call the ACLU the American CRIMINAL Liberties Union.
Thu, May 3, 2012 7:26am
Of course, the ACLU would argue the First Amendment exists precisely to safeguard speech most of us don't like.
You have your First Amendment absolutists and your Second Amendment absolutists.
I am neither.
Mike from Delaware
Thu, May 3, 2012 8:26am
Yes, I've heard the ACLU say that the First Amendment is there to safeguard speech most of us don't like.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if a bunch of college-aged suburban Christians wanted to set up a tent city in Wilmington, NYC, Philly, etc., to get the nation to pray and seek God's will for America to draw this nation back to God, etc. Do you think these city governments would grant them a permit to "occupy" some public city space like Spencer Plaza for more than just a one-day demonstration prayer vigil, but say for four days - starting on a Friday morning ending on a Monday afternoon (They wouldn't be there longer as most of these kids probably have jobs and other responsibilities and couldn't just camp out for 6 months). Would the ACLU be there to help these young Christians or would they be siding with the city?
Thu, May 3, 2012 9:15am
I assume they would. I honestly think civil libertarians in the ACLU try to be consistent.
Granted, from all my dealings with the ACLU in various places, I think it would be fair to say the majority of ACLU'ers are either liberal Christians or Jews, or agnostics / secularists.
That said, psychologically, I think that would make them even MORE inclined to try to show their "fairness", and obviously, it would be a lot easier to defend suburban Christian evangelicals, let's say, than rabid white supremacists.
Now let me tell you where the ACLU's "consistency" runs into a wall. The ACLU also stands steadfastly for "reproductive freedom", i.e., abortion rights, so the ACLU could NOT defend anti-abortion, pro-life people surrounding a clinic in such a way that they were blocking women from access to the clinic. The ACLU would argue that's not free speech anymore. It's denying citizens access to a legitimate public institution.
However, in Ohio a couple of years ago, the ACLU joined the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List in opposing a Democratic Catholic Congressman and "pro-reform" Catholics who wanted the Ohio Elections Commission to bar political ads that accused the incumbent Democrat of having "voted for taxpayer-funded abortion" (when he voted for health-care reform).
A Susan B. Anthony-sponsored billboard targeting Representative Steve Driehaus triggered that debate. The ACLU argued an Ohio law establishing "false statement" prohibitions illegally restricts free-speech rights. The ACLU filed an amicus brief arguing the Buckeye State's statute was "vague and overbroad". The leftist Catholics United disagreed, saying there were limits to free speech, such as defamatory speech.
I think this Ohio case perfectly illustrates the political and legal cross-currents that an organization like the ACLU must navigate.
Thu, May 3, 2012 12:51pm
I'm with MFD on this one. The ACLU has done more than any other organization to destroy religious freedom in America.
Add your comment: Attention: In an attempt to promote a level of civility and personal
responsibility in blog discussions, we now require you to be a member of
the WDEL Members Only Group in order to post a comment. Your Members
Only Group username and password are required to process your post.
You can join the WDEL Members Only Group for free by clicking here.
If you are already a member but have forgotten your username or password, please
Please register your post with your WDEL Members Only Group username and password below.