Monday, October 31, 2011
We're having our own mini-controversy here in Athens over the Occupy Wall Street-related protests. The Occupy Athens protesters are stationed outside The Arch, known as the "front door" to the University. It's the entrance to the historic north quadrangle, and the main entrance from downtown Athens.
As outlined in this article from the local paper, the UGA police chief has been warning the protesters not to block The Arch or the stops leading up to it. I've passed this protest on foot and in my car several times, and while protesters have been standing on the steps and near the Arch, I've never had my way blocked, nor seen them block anyone else, but apparently there have been complaints. Now a UGA law professor has weighed in to say that the University is violating the protestors' free speech rights.
There have been arrests and violence at Occupy protests all over the country, mostly notably in Oakland. I doubt very much we'll see anything that dramatic here - we tend to be polite and quiet here in Athens, even in our protesting.
Jamie Baker Roskie
UPDATE: Some interesting parallels between the situation in Athens and controversy over Occupy London's site on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral - as reported in The New York Times. The City of London Corporation is suing to have the encampment removed:
Last week, the corporation went to court to seek an order dismantling the St. Paul’s camp as a breach of the historic right of unimpeded access to the country’s “highways.” Though the St. Paul’s encampment is concentrated on the cathedral forecourt, a pedestrian area in normal times, a corporation executive, Michael Wellbank, overlooked the distinction. “Protest is an essential right in democracy, but a campaign on the highway is not,” he told reporters. “Encampment on a busy thoroughfare clearly impacts the rights of others.”