You Want to Occupy? Pay Up!
Never has America’s 1st Amendment rights been so radically distorted. Occupy Wherever protesters continue their protests across the country and around the world citing the U.S. Constitution and our right to “freedom of speech.”
Your 1st Amendment rights do not give you license to impose yourself or your views on others. This right was codified by the American framers specifically to assure that citizens were not prevented from participating in political discussion or criticism of the government. It does not grant the right to assemble or speak wherever and whenever you want to, especially if your actions are denying other citizens their fundamental rights to live and work peacefully.
Fundamentally, the 1st Amendment grants you the right to assemble and air your gripes with the federal government or more specifically, it simply prevents congress from enacting any law that would prevent you from doing so.
When you have a gripe with the government, you have the right to speak your mind. You also have the obligation to pay for any associated expenses. In other words, you can criticize the government, but it’s not the government’s obligation to pay the bill for your protest.
Cities with already strained budgets have picked up most of the cost to the tune of over $13 million and counting in the States. Let’s look at the tab so far…
- Los Angeles: Over $1 million
- Oakland: $2.4 million
- Portland, Oregon: $1 million
- Boston: $2 million
- New York: $7 million
Even the small city of Eugene, Oregon reports over $100,000 in extra expenses directly attributed to the Occupy encampment there. Most of the expense is police and fire overtime and now sanitation and clean-up expenses.
When these figures started to come to light there was an immediate comparison to the costs of Tea Party protests. There was one highly examined incident where Representative Michelle Bachman used government funds to pay some expenses for a Tea Party rally to the tune of about $14,000. While I’d argue that she should have found other means of funding, it turns out this expense was ruled legal, ethical and appropriate. That is a rule that should be scrutinized.
The similarities end there. Nearly all Tea Party rallies obtained permits, paid fees for their assembly and as cited in numerous reports, left the scene cleaner than they found it. In Richmond, Virginia Tea Partiers are now demanding a refund of nearly $10,000 in fees they paid the city for their rallies. They contend that the City of Richmond has given a pass to Occupy which has been camping for free without permits throughout their demonstration.
I don’t want to get into the tit for tat petulance over which group did this and didn’t do that. If the core belief of OWS is sincerely to end government/corporate corruption and reduce government control over personal life, I frankly don’t understand why they condemn the Tea Party; the two should be natural allies. Of course, if that was the original intent of OWS, this intent has long been overshadowed by those who seem to thing even greater state control and redistribution of wealth is the solution rather than grass roots participation in the democratic process.
The important thing is to understand why it’s appropriate to charge reasonable fees for public demonstrations and why no group should expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab.
City, county, state and federal funds are assets owned by the people – all the people in that particular jurisdiction. You have the right to speak your mind, but you have no right to speak for everyone. There are those, despite the proclamations of OWS, who do not agree with you. We do not allow public funds to be used to support a particular point of view because it’s not the obligation of those who disagree with you to pay for your expression of your personal opinions.
If you want to blow your horn, you pay the band!
The arrogance of the OWS movement is apparent in this petulant expectation that they can do whatever they want, wherever they want and expect others to pick up the tab. At least they’re consistent in their theme; after all they are demanding free college tuition, free housing and free credit among other things.
OWS claims to represent the “99%” and purports to be the voice of the working man. Among their demands is a job for every able person. I’m wondering if anyone associated with OWS has considered how many municipal employees could be added to the payrolls for $13 million.
To be fair, the Occupiers in Eugene have given this some thought. According to the Register Guard:
…Occupy Eugene participants say the city’s cost is just one side of the story, and that the encampment in Washington-Jefferson Park benefits Eugene.
The more than 100 tents and canvas and tarp-covered structures provide a place for homeless people, which gets them off the streets and cuts crime, the activists say.
“There are a lot of people who are here who are homeless,” said Silver Mogart, an organizer.
“Because of the camp, “They don’t have to use city facilities, the Egan Warming Centers or the Eugene Mission.”
“We have cooled down a lot of crime in downtown,” he said.
Not so much.
In addition to municipal expenditures on OWS demonstrations what about the direct costs to other citizens? Across the country OWS protesters squat in restaurants disrupting business, use private restrooms without permission and without patronizing the establishment, they throw their garbage and human waste in private dumpsters and they prevent other citizens from using the parks and public spaces we all pay for.
New York, Boston and Oakland now report that several small businesses have been severely affected and may close due to the Occupiers. That’s how they represent the 99%? By closing them down?
Individual freedom is the foundation of American liberty. The 1st Amendment is one of the most important safeguards protecting that liberty. However, with individual freedom comes responsibility and the obligation to be respectful of the rights of others.
Occupiers seem to want the freedom without the responsibility.
You’ve got something to say; say it. Just don’t expect me to pay for your privilege.