Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jeff Rainford Demonizes Occupy STL in Anticipation of Kicking Them Out of Kiener Plaza

In case you haven't noticed, Occupy St. Louis has been camping out in Kiener Plaza since the beginning of the movement. Kiener Plaza has an official curfew of 10 PM, so technically occupying the park after 10 is illegal. The members of Occupy St. Louis believe that their First Amendment rights entail that they should be able to occupy public space, and they disagree with the curfew. This is what civil disobedience is: explicitly violating laws that you disagree with but being willing to gracefully accept the consequences of breaking the law as a way of raising awareness. Thus, I respect Occupy St. Louis's decision to stay in the Plaza.

On the other hand, I can understand why city officials might be conflicted about enforcing the rule. I'm sure they feel that it's their job to enforce the laws whether they agree with the laws or not, and this is not not an unreasonable position. In fact, you might argue that democracy wouldn't work unless police and public officials respect laws they don't agree with. Of course, as with anything, this is not a black and white issue, and there's a substantial grey area that allows for some wiggle room. My preference would be that city officials look for a way of working with the occupiers to find a compromise that allows them to continue staying in the plaza.

However, while I can understand the city's decision to enforce their laws (even if I disagree with them), what is absolutely not cool is their attempt to use overcharged rhetoric to try to demonize the occupiers. And this is precisely what Mayor Slay's Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford has done:
Jeff Rainford, Slay's chief of staff, said the camps are getting unruly, the plaza is beginning to smell like urine, and a few were recently arrested for public intoxication.
For anyone who's visited the plaza, the idea that it's "unruly" is ridiculous. They have an explicit policy against drugs and alcohol. And as far as the organizers know, the only "public urination" was from people who weren't occupiers (after all, the occupiers actually have to live there). So Rainford is trying to wage a nasty PR war against the group, which I assume he thinks will make it easier for them to remove the group without causing a controversy. It's too bad he can't just stick to the facts and say they want to enforce the curfew, rather than resorting to tea party-like smears.


  1. There is nothing else I can say but thank you.

  2. I hope city officials do not pursue escalation as so many cities have already.

  3. You made a series of reasonable points and observations and I agree with each one. Then you ruined your own argument by slamming the Tea Party, the majority of whom are *also* members of the 99%. #Occupy is for everyone - *Everyone* - who objects to the corruption of the normal economic & political processes by the 1%. Our strength is that 99% of us truly can stand together on this one point.

  4. Anon, 9:48, I see what you're saying. I think it's useful to distinguish between rank and file tea party members and the leadership. And in St. Louis, the local leadership has been going out of their way to demonize the local Occupy movement. So I really was referring to that group, not tea party members in general.

  5. Nicely done. I've been to Kiener off and on as time permits since the 2nd day. No urine, and yes there are a few intoxicated people. However these are homeless, who would be there drunk with or without OccupyStL being there. OccupyStL is open to evreyone and I have met a lot of Tea Party folks there. Also on the send day at the General Assembly it was voted on not to allow drugs and alcohol on site. So intoxicated people are not representative of the average Occupier.

  6. Good Article, We need people with the logic to look at all sides and than with the ability to make it easy to understand, so keep up the good work.
    I have been to and spent the night several times at occupy STL there has been repeated attempts while i was there where people would come and make ridiculous stuff up trying to get the occupiers to fight against themselves, or lie to people to try to get them to leave the movement, i have heard that some people would throw things at cars or hit peoples windows while holding offensive signs just to try to hurt the movement.
    But the movement have a public assembly where it is voted on by the masses present and it was concluded that only peaceful protesters who were not on or using illicit drugs or alcohol and everyone involved had to help keep it clean and sanitary.Sorry one more we also have been working with cops even when we disagree to try to be as peaceful as possible