Debate Forum Left, 11/22/11

The right to remain silent

By Jolene Pohl

Jolene Pohl

I am not a law student or a lawyer but I am a citizen of the United States with a nifty pocket book Constitution from the ACLU. According to that book, the First Amendment protects my right to say what I want in the form of press, speech and assembly if I have a grievance with the government. I have seen many people exercise this right regularly in Kettering in front of a women’s clinic where some have continually protested the work of the doctors at the clinic. I have seen many billboards along the highway telling the world about personal religious beliefs. I have been approached several times on a public sidewalk regarding my political and religious stance. I am not a lawyer so I don’t usually get into a discussion about the rights of the individuals who choose to dedicate their time and energy to airing their grievances. But now my community wants to discuss the rights of a group of citizens who have joined together to occupy their space on public grounds so I begin my reply with another question: What right do the people have not to address their grievances in the way they see fit?

The Occupy Wall Street movement is indeed interfering with the holiday celebration in Dayton this year. This is a year that has seen an awakening of citizens who are legitimately concerned about the sustainability of the global economic future. The supporters of the movement are camping out and demonstrating continually until they see real progress from our global leaders to address their concerns. Campers are an inconvenience that some of the people of Dayton would like to avoid over the holiday season. Although sharing public space can be problematic for a community, it is not impossible. The Dayton community is known for peaceful agreements on some of the world’s most difficult issues, so sharing Courthouse Square for the holidays is probably not going to be the final dividing issue of our city.

There is no good time or place for a redress of grievances in the eyes of the people voicing their right to freedom of speech and assembly. Occupy Wall Street is a continuation of generations of citizen action. The occupied camps are symbolic of the current economic devastation that many Americans are experiencing. The significance is similar to the nickname for shanty camps established in the 1930s which were referred to as “Hoovervilles” as a political jab at President Herbert Hoover. Dayton residents who disagree with this exercise are not in danger of being forced to participate so there should be no problem in sharing public property with fellow citizens.

Groups not normally accepted in the mainstream rely on the First Amendment to express their views and have traditionally been protected by state and federal government. For example, the Westboro Baptist Church continues to protest at military funerals in the name of the First Amendment without public approval or involvement of tear gas and police riot gear. The Occupy Wall Street movement has had no such treatment since it began which is why any camp asked to move is suspicious about the motives. Even the KKK, which does not hesitate to brag about its history of killing Americans based on the color of their skin, had police protection at Ole Miss in 2009 when its members were upset about the absence of a song from the school band lineup. The public was infuriated by the appearance of the group and it disrupted the entire town for days. The occupation of Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton is not a threat, yet the campers are being portrayed with as much disdain.

Just like any public space, the community should expect they will be safe to express themselves in a peaceful manner without incident. Authorities should not treat a family visiting a holiday tree lighting any differently than a student holding a cardboard sign next to a tent unless one of them happens to be illegally armed and threatening violence. The protection of the First Amendment is integral to the democratic process and it is the heart of the power of the American citizenry. Those who do not respect this right are simply acting without regard for the fabric of the nation. Not everyone can afford to go to Washington D.C., but everyone can speak out in one form or another to let their voice be known. It is essential to our freedom.

A compromise is not an unreasonable request by both the downtown patronage of Dayton and the Occupiers. If the city is hosting an event for over 30,000 people from the surrounding communities, then all should be welcome including the Occupiers because it is their city too. Each time a camp is threatened by their city or removed from a public space, the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement grows stronger. The recent events are just the beginning of a new era of politics worldwide. No longer will my generation refuse to question the intentions of the leaders of our nations, of our cities or our neighborhoods because it is not only our right to do so, it is our duty. You are not immune from the effects the global market has on our lives whether you choose to participate or not.

The official statement from the Occupy Dayton camp may not register with those who are still unsure about the OWS movement but it surely is a perspective every American shares: “Regardless of what the city of Dayton can do, may do, or is intending to do, they cannot stop an idea, they cannot stop principles, and they cannot stop a group of people willing to work together for the things we believe to be right.”

Jolene Pohl is a dedicated Dayton democrat volunteer/activist and a WSU grad student. Her favorite past-times include banter, debate and laughing out loud. She can be reached at JolenePohl@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Current Graduate student at Wright State University. I should finish a Master's of Humanities by fall 2012. I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio but my heart belongs with half of my family in New Mexico! "We are only as strong as the weakest link." You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter @DemWSU AND Google+

15 Responses to “Debate Forum Left, 11/22/11” Subscribe

  1. Wes Bishop November 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Spot on. Abandoning a protest every single time it may offend someone runs in direct opposition to what a protest is about.

  2. Michael Occupy November 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Thank You Jolene!If we were all a bunch of Tea Partiers (and we have some)we would be showered in flowers by our government officials, the Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Ludifiske.

  3. George Long November 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Let’s be honest about what really is happening here. The “Occupy”
    movement’s messages about banking and financial fraud, bailouts
    for the 1%, a consolidation of power to the few, the corrupting
    influence of money & favors in politics, income inequalities, social
    inequities and injustice, political and corporate misdeeds, police brutality, and an out of control criminal justice system etc. are scaring the devil out of the affluent 1% and their political puppets. They call you a bunch of losers, hippies, bums, trash, radicals, idiots, scum etc.. They were hoping you’d tire and go away. They were hoping no one would listen to you. They were hoping you’d discredit yourselves by turning violent. When none of these things occurred, and when they saw your messages loudly resonating to the 99%, they became scared. People across the world were listening. They are desperate for ways to silence you and shut you
    down. The 1% called on their political collaborators to have you arrested and charged with crimes. They sent the police after you to scare you and abuse you. They abused you but they did not scare you. And while you are having thoughtful discussions about political and social change, and while you tweet ideas to the world and while you hold up signs that they do not like, and while you make speeches and petition the government for a resolve of issues, they continue to plan for your demise. You have held solid, you have shown restraint, you are the new leaders of the 99%. While they portray your movement as being small, they are acting small and showing signs of desperation. You are smart and talented and you
    have used social media and livestream to communicate to the world. While the world watches and listens your movement grows. You are changing the world.

    • Stacey November 23, 2011 at 3:25 am #

      As an Occupier here in Dayton, and standing in solidarity with Occupations around the world, I thank you. I thank you for the kind words, the encouragement and most of all, for acknowledging that change, however small it may be at present, is indeed happening. The world has awoken.

      I cannot express how grateful and proud I am to be a part of something so infinitely special.

      With love and solidarity,
      Stacey – the 99%

  4. George Hughes November 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    I’m fine with the Occupy Dayton group protesting about whatever they want to protest about. I am just not into them deciding to set up camp. I don’t think the city would be fine with me deciding to go sit on a public sidewalk in front of lets say Fifth Third Field for months on end. I don’t expect the city to provide those individuals with any electricity. I heard that they’d move to another place during the holidays in exchange for the use of electricity. I have to pay for my electricity for my home. They should get a bill every month just like I do and if they can’t pay the bill, well turn off the electricity. There is nothing in the Constitution that states the government has to be courteous or provide service to those who by freedom of choice desire to protest.

  5. Michael Occupy November 23, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    Hi George!

    Occupy did move to another site for the Grand Illumination because we wanted to be good neighbors, good citizens and we love Xmas. It took us a minute to come to the decision because we are large and have many people with many different ideas. Since we respect the opinions of others (including those of the general public)we needed to run some ideas up the flagpole and reach a consensus(we are a democracy). One of the ideas had to do with restoring the electricity. We have no problems paying for what we use and the electricity could easily be metered. I know it goes against popular (Fox News) belief but we really do have jobs, children, mortgage payments, car payments etc. We are not bums, we are your neighbors and we want a better America for ourselves and YOU! Please stop by and get to know us or check us out on Facebook at Occupy Dayton, Occupy Wright State, Occupy Dayton Edwin C. Moses, Occupy Eaton, Occupy Cincinnati, Occupy Columbus, Occupy Yellow Springs etc. We are everywhere and we are moving into developing neighborhoods and acting locally.

  6. Maria James November 23, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    Wouldn’t your time be better spent gathering food for the poor than squatting on public property without a permit? Camping achieves nothing in your cause. I guess you would rather camp while you whine and complain than actually do anything that could make an actual difference. Why not help out Habitat for Humanity? Why not tutor at risk children in poor school systems? What about volunteering at a soup kitchen? If you really cared about change, you could make a difference. But you chose to join a group that is accomplishing nothing, except to spread discontent and mistrust toward our police force. The most ironic thing is that your group is so mistrustful of the Dayton PD when they have been nothing but fair to you.

  7. Michael Occupy November 23, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    Maria!

    Again, I remain amazed at the lack of knowledge some people exhibit with regard to the Occupy Movement. Lets take your statements one by one. First, we are not squatting. Squatting implies we are trying to acquire the property, we are not. Second, No permit is required. Third, The camp is one of our public faces and it has brought hoards of people to our cause. Fourth, We are not “whining and complaining”, we are attempting to fix what is wrong with our (and the worlds)economic system. Fifth, We are, in fact, engaged in multiple activities aside from Occupy which benefit our local community. Have you even heard of the Sustainable Community Project? Have you heard about our donations to local groups? Have you heard about all the things individual Occupy members are doing in their community? Sixth, It is YOUR opinion that we aren’t accomplishing anything. Unfortunately, that opinion is shaped by YOUR lack of knowledge, YOUR lack of due diligence, by the media YOU chose to watch/read and YOUR preconceived notions about what the movement is all about. The truth is I pity you and your stated ignorance. As for the Dayton PD, again, you have NO IDEA of what you are talking about. We support the DPD and they support us. We have worked since day one to build the relationship. We have posted signs showing our support, we were heavily involved in issue 2 and we have made friends with several officers. Wake up Maria, the Matrix has you!

  8. matt FAYGONINJA richards November 24, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    ok Maria, here we go. i assume that your referring to the video i shot with our first encounter with DPD. first off, yes the officer was attempting to “inform” us of the laws. which is not his job by the way it is to enforce the law. that being said, when i see police of any kind “choosing” which laws they enforce, i have to question their motives. i asked the officer if his personal choice would be to hassle protesters over stopping real crime. he said “my personal views do not effect how i do my job”. wow, i dont know about you but i would like an officer who thought the law or laws he was enforcing were petty, or just plain wrong, i would like that officer to stand up for what he believes. after that, i did ask the officer if he would follow an order given to him to disarm the american people. he said “i follow the orders im given”. that should be a clue as to just how clueless some police may be in regard to the laws of this country, and i see that you are similarly clueless. you can in dayton get a failing score on the peace officer exam and still pass and become an office on our streets. FACT. now with most being unqualified to do their jobs, and thinking its not their job to stand up for injustice and enforcement of the law, then we all should be concerned. they are our protectors, security, and neighbors. i hold them to a higher standard than most and for good reason.

    as for OCCUPY, come down sometime and talk to me in person and we will see if you truly want to attempt to understand what and why we do what we do. i know and have had many conversations with opposing points of views. i understand them and debate them, and will continue to do so. that is what this country is about. oh and by the way i would brush up on your facts cause i have successfully trashed most facts misrepresented to me. there are not too many that hold water. if you dont see this country needs drastic and fundamental change, then perhaps, you didnt pay attention to all the sacrifices for our freedoms that were made in the history of this country. it was stated by one of our founding fathers that upholding them is the task of each generation that comes after. we have let enough privacy slip away. we have let inequality in many aspects flourish in our society. enough is enough. the revolution will take place with you or without.

  9. Michael Occupy November 26, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Well said

  10. Annie B December 2, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    Maria, I’ve struggled with that question myself but I think there are two concerns that have to be addressed separately.

    1 – There is the need to immediately do something to help the homeless NOW (an important and immediate concern many of us share, Occupiers or not). That may mean feeding people, temp housing, raising money, volunteer work, etc. Individual people have been doing that for ages – we’re affixing band aids – super sized important ones, but band aids – to a deeper problem.

    2 – the deeper problem is the need to fix a system that is making homelessness a situation for more and more people, as homes are foreclosed on and the “trickle down effect” means rents go up and the poorer are pushed down and out.

    To me, that’s what the Occupy movements are doing. Raising attention, shining lights, screaming if need be to get all of us up and out there doing something BIG to let politicians and those money makers who are putting profit over people know that we are going to find a way to make them stop. And we’re working together on figuring out how to make those powerful people stop. That’s why we need more people to help us do that – we operate as a direct democracy which means people who work together to suggest new ideas because the old ones (letter writing, voting for the ‘right’ politician, etc.) don’t seem to be working.

    One thing doesn’t override the other but Occupy as a movement is here to make some noise and shake things up.

    I am afraid there will always be the homeless but we claim to be the greatest country on earth – we should as a country be able to really make some powerful changes so that people aren’t living under bridges and families are living in cars.

    People tell us to “get a job” or “take a bath” – when most of us have the former and do the latter – I wonder if the same people shout that at the homeless, and I wonder how they think they can do that with the economy so bad, employment so good, mental health not available to all, housing prices going up, etc.

    In short (I don’t do short well), we can help the homeless a lot by demanding changes in who our politicians and governments are working for – the mighty dollar or all citizens of the United States of America (bring me your tired, your poor.. etc.)

  11. Annie B December 2, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    (that should be families *aren’t* living in cars :(

  12. Daniel December 21, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    very nice write-up. spot on. and very nice and poignant responses. congrats fellow 99%ers. we do not forgive, we do not forget, expect us.

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