November 27, 2020

Editorial: Let them stay, Slay

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay sent a message to the Occupy St. Louis protest currently taking place in Kiener Plaza. The message? Get ready to pack your things and get out.
Citing an upcoming Salvation Army tree-lighting ceremony planned for the park and a list of apparent city-ordinance violations, Slay released a statement on his blog clarifying his position.
“I know, and the Occupy participants know, that they cannot stay there forever. Bad weather and other programming for Kiener Plaza are racing each other to mark the end of their tenure,” Slay wrote. The threat may seem empty, since it didn’t involve any ultimatums or firm eviction dates, but it isn’t. The city has compiled a list of city ordinance violations to enforce a possible eviction.
The Journal finds this all to be very unusual. Mayor Slay has been highly accommodating to the Kiener Plaza occupiers until now, even allowing them to stay for the presidential visit during the baseball playoffs. In fact, when the occupiers first took to Kiener, the city offered to draft a demonstration permit on their behalf.
The group declined because they weren’t planning a demonstration. They were planning to take indefinite residence in Kiener until their demands were met. Regardless of how you feel about the occupy movement itself, it would be hard for The Journal to imagine a more clear-cut scenario of circumventing constitutional rights.
So while police officers and government officials constantly remind the occupiers that Kiener technically has a 10 p.m. curfew, the protestors shout back that the First Amendment ought to supersede such trivial regulations. And they should be right.
The Journal cannot find any justification in removing the peaceful protestors at Kiener Plaza. We would also like to politely point out the protestors released a statement on their website clarifying that they had no intention of leaving.
Those keeping watch on the news will remember what happened only weeks ago when Oakland, Calif. police and government connived to remove occupiers in the dead of night. The resulting arrests led to injuries, which led to violent clashes with the police and even further damage and injuries. The occupiers did not go quietly into that good night.
Rage, instead, against the dying of the light was their choice of action. And it would be naïve and self-destructive for Slay to take any radical steps in removing the protestors. Since the Occupy movement is a politically charged one, any choice Slay makes will be controversial by definition.
But The Journal can’t imagine support for Slay if photos make their way to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of longhaired college beatniks and single parents getting clubbed by riot police.
The occupiers have done nothing wrong and their motives and grievances are greater than this modest city by the river. Eventually, Old Man Winter or boredom or wild dogs will drive them back into their apartments and basements and away from upstanding citizens.
Let them stay, Slay.

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