Members of Occupy Laredo went before city council tonight to hash out the details of organizing at local parks. The group is looking to camp out in public spaces to speak out against income inequality, Wall Street malfeasance, and other corporate tactics that alienate the working class. But Councilman Juan Narvaez was suspicious about Occupy's motives and he proceeded to push the members around.
My district's representative, Alex Perez Jr., was so moved by the discussion that he decided to chime in with his usual terse blandness. But his concern revolved around the possibility that Occupy Laredo's actions may "open up a can of worms."
Gawd forbid you should open up a can of worms when Freedom of Speech is concerned.
Not to be outdone, Mike Garza proposed exiling Occupy Laredo to the Park & Ride facility, all the better for the group to appreciate the vapor trails of planes flying overhead. His rationale was that the parking lot/bus stop would serve as a more secure outpost for Occupy. Naturally, the rest of city council went along with his idea.
This motion is reminiscent of a Bush-era gem: free speech zones.
I'm really astounded by the council's actions tonight. In essence, they pushed the group out of sight, and out of mind. Occupy's plan of camping out seemed too complicated, troublesome, and abstract for council, and in particular for Mr. Narvaez. It's OK for Mayor Salinas to symbolically camp out for three days, as he does every year to collect money and toys, but according to city staff, it's unproductive when the community wants to do the same.
Alex Perez, at the last meeting, said, "The people have spoken," as he agreed to deny a conditional use permit for the opening of a daycare in the Heights neighborhood. But in handling a Free Speech issue, he speaks out against the will of the people. I understand that public speaking is not his forte, but it's amazing how he would equivocate Free Speech with "opening up a can of worms," as if the thought of granting people one of their most basic rights would be a detriment to society, and Democracy.
This performance speaks volumes about all of city council. Troglodytes would have more sense and courtesy than our elected officials. Occupy Laredo was seen as a nuisance and inconvenience, and council did their best to cast them out.
I applaud the members of the group for standing up for themselves.