Monday, November 7, 2011

Occupy STL Responds to Mayor Slay: Will The St. Louis Media Cover the Response?

Update: Looks like David Hunn wrote a story about the response for the Post-Dispatch. Glad to see it. Chad Garrison at the Riverfront Times also had an interesting take on the developments. Jo Mannies at the Beacon also covered the response.

The media in St. Louis reported excitedly last week on Mayor Slay's blog post indicating that the city was planning on kicking the Occupy St. Louis group out of Kiener Plaza (at least for overnight stays). Part of the Mayor's PR campaign included releasing a list of alleged violations by the occupiers (without any evidence to support the claims). Now Occupy St. Louis has responded with their own list of "violations" by the Slay administration, and I'll be curious to see if our enthusiastic media provides equal coverage for these grievances. I don't necessarily agree with every point on the list, but surely many of them would be part of the discussion in a healthy democracy, no? And it seems like it should be the media's job to provide equal coverage to both sides of the issue.

Here's the first part of the Occupy St. Louis response:
Occupy St. Louis is one of many cities that exist as a solidarity movement with the Occupy Wall Street movement, which formed to publicly attest to the fact that corporations control far too much of our economy and political life. This movement has received vast support across the country. How ironic, then, that Mayor Slay has decided to stop listening to the complaints of the people and instead heed the complaints of the corporate groups who control the city. This week, Downtown Partnership met with the mayor’s office and told him to shut us down. He responded to their call. No more fitting example could illustrate who is pulling the strings. (For a list of who voiced the words behind the Mayor’s blog:

The Occupy St. Louis movement is further disappointed that the mayor has chosen to hide behind false accusations to sway public opinion and to indicate that he has spoken to Occupy St. Louis. There has been no conversation from the Mayor’s office to Occupy St. Louis, only blog posts that have not been sent to Occupy St. Louis. The mayor’s chief of staff is quoted as saying that Kiener Plaza “reeks of urine.” Anyone is welcome to come to the site to see that this is not true. The occupiers have done a remarkable job of maintaining a clean and orderly space. The other allegations issued by the Parks Department are equally untrue in blaming the occupiers for a host of grievances, ranging from the ridiculous, (glass bottles) to the obscene, (public urination). Occupy St. Louis has always adhered to the idea that public spaces are public spaces and we have no grounds to tell people to leave, other than to encourage everyone to adhere to our safe space policy. The Mayor blames Occupy St. Louis, (which is not an organization but a group of autonomous individuals coming together to make decisions collectively) for behaviors that are almost universally the actions of individuals not participating in Occupy activities and would most likely have occurred regardless of our presence. The mayor’s other concern, that the occupiers must give way to allow for other events, is equally unfair. We have shared the Plaza with other groups on several occasions so far; it is everyone’s space and everyone is welcome. On the other hand, a Macy’s display with the occupiers evicted might just be enough to convince many in the area to Occupy the Holidays by shopping only at smaller local businesses.
And here's a general description of their criticisms of the city:
To put these accusations in perspective, we are issuing today our own list of violations committed by the city, of which Mayor Slay has been the chief executive for eleven years. Some of the violations cited illustrate the inconsistent application of laws that the mayor now wants to use against Occupy St. Louis. These are cases of hypocrisy and raise serious questions about unequal protection under the law. Other violations show the city’s cooperation with Big Business and demonstrate complicity in the economic oppression being raised by Occupy St. Louis. And of course, the violations include the incredible disparity and racial injustice that this City has long been guilty of towards African Americans. In total, these violations make the trivial and untrue accusations raised against us pale in comparison.
To read the full list of "Violations" by the city, see the Occupy STL post. I should note that I can't verify that the Downtown Partnership has anything to do with Slay's decision, and my guess would be they'd deny the claim.

Update: It looks like Mayor Slay has also updated his blog, with what sounds like a pretty reasonable response to me:
I expect the loudest critics of this measured approach to be those whose political agendas are most opposed to the Occupy protestors and who would love a provoke a confrontation to “prove” some prejudice about the groups that make up the Occupy coalition. That’s not my plan.
It's hard to evaluate for me, because some times the Mayor's office says reasonable things like this, and other times they engage in clear provocation and demonization.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to say(as being one who witnessed events at Kiener Plaza) that there are 3 portable toilets at the OccupySTL site so there is no need for anyone there to heed nature's call anywhere else. I visited the site the day after the Cardinals won the World Series and the area in front of the port-a-potties did smell like urine but that was because many of the people downtown for the game(either as a ticket holder or celebrating outside the stadium) appropriated these toilets for their own use and left them completely trashed! The protestors had worked hard to keep them clean and had to take extraordinary measures to wash out the johns when they woke up the next morning! I want Mayor Slay to wake up to facts instead of issuing baseless statements about the protestors. Yes, there was a period during the first days of the protest where there was a problem with alcohol and drug use at the site. But people within the group stood up and issued a policy that no alcohol or drug use would be tolerated by protestors there. I heard(but did not fully verify) that there was a protest rally held by some anarchists who were joined by a small group of OccupySTL protestors. There was damage done to cars in the downtown area. The leaders of the group quickly worked to disavow any participation by the main group and are still working to identify who was involved and to see that this type of incident does not happen again.