Do some cities treat “Occupy” protests different from the Tea Party?
The Richmond Tea Party says, yes, and is demanding the City of Richmond refund the $10,000 they had to spend in order to comply with city regulations.
“We followed the rules, we followed the law, we got all the permits, we paid all the fees, we had to jump through all the hoops that they asked us to,” Tea Party spokeswoman Colleen Owens said.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
In April, the Richmond Tea Party held a Tax Day Rally in Kanawha Plaza. They say before they could use the city venue they were charged nearly $10,000 and had to comply with a series of usage forms and procedures.
At the time, the Tea Party “didn’t complain about it,” Owens said, but now they’re “sitting back and watching these Occupiers in Richmond and they’re basically camped out at Kanawha Plaza.”
Owens says the Occupy Richmond protesters are not being asked to pay for the park they are camped out in, nor are they paying for police or portable toilets. Not only that, the Occupy protesters reportedly have not paid for permits nor are they being required to pay for emergency personnel.
The Republic reported the Tea Party also had to purchase a $1 million insurance policy.
“Everything that we were required to do,” Owens adds.
In response, the Tea Party is sending the city an invoice for the charges that were incurred for three rallies held in Kanawha Plaza over the past three years, the Republic reports.
“It’s not fair, the City of Richmond’s picking and choosing whose First Amendment rights trump someone else’s First Amendment rights and we thought–well that’s fine–then they can refund our money,” Owens said.
“If that’s how they’re going to run the city then they owe us our fees back.”
Norman Leahy writes at the Washington Post:
Given that we are talking about the Richmond city council, this should not come as a surprise.
Nor should it be odd to discover that at least one council member, Marty Jewell, wanted the city’s police force to apply the lightest of possible touches to the protesters. It was mildly shocking to see the council demur on that proposal.
Regardless of what one thinks of the Tea Parties, there can be no question that they obeyed every rule, followed every ordinance and addressed every quibble before staging their events on public property.
According to Owens, it’s “obvious,” and “blatant” that the Tea Party is being “punished for following the law.”
The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that at least one member of the Richmond City Council agrees with the Tea Party:
“I guess we’ll be writing a check to the tea party people,” Councilman Bruce W. Tyler said Wednesday. “You can’t treat one group different from the other. It’s unfair.”
For the tea party to request the “same consideration, I believe, is fair and just,” Tyler added. “We’ve now hit the slippery slope that we never should have found ourselves on.”
Tyler went on to say that by not enforcing city ordinances, Richmond is “clearly advocating what’s going on down there.”
The Times Dispatch adds:
Tammy D. Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary, declined to comment, saying that the mayor’s office had received no communication from the Richmond Tea Party but would look into the issue once it did.
Owens said that if the Tea Party is not reimbursed, they would not follow the “Occupy” protester’s lead.
“No, we’re the tea party — we don’t break the law,” Owens said. “But we may choose a different venue.”
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