Uhurus to protest at World Series

10/21/08 Seán Kinane
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Several groups plan to challenge two new St. Petersburg ordinances before the first World Series game tomorrow night. One ordinance calls for a “Clean Zone” surrounding Tropicana Field, and the other forbids handing out fliers and other activities in street medians. Some groups, including the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee, said this morning that the success of their leafleting campaign to challenge what they call the cover-up of Dawson’s murder by a St. Petersburg Police officer in June is one reason for the latter ordinance.

Kobina Bantushango is the southeast regional representative of the African People’s Socialist Party. At a press conference at the Uhuru House in south St. Petersburg Tuesday morning, Bantushango said there will be at least three protests this week.

Before Game 1 of the World Series at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, groups will intentionally disobey the two ordinances, which they call “antidemocratic.” On Friday and Saturday, the groups say they will commemorate the 12th anniversary of the October 24, 1996, police killing of TyRon Lewis with a march, rally and protest.

Becky Steele with the West Central Florida Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the two ordinances generate “a number of really serious constitutional problems. If the city interprets its Clean Zone as a First-Amendment-Free Zone, then we’ve got a problem.”

The ACLU doesn’t encourage civil disobedience, Steele said, but if people are arrested for activities that are protected by the First Amendment, the ACLU is “very interested in those issues.” Steele said that “there are a lot of really overbroad provisions” in the Clean Zone ordinance. “There’s almost unbridled discretion given to the POD to decide who gets a permit or not.”

Other groups that will take part in this week’s protests include the Refuge Ministries, the Poor People’s Campaign and St. Pete for Peace. Kitty Riley is with another participating group, the African People’s Solidarity Committee. Riley pointed out that the budget for the St. Petersburg Police is $86 million, Tropicana Field gets two-and-a-half million, but the city only spends one million dollars on Midtown economic development.

The ACLU’s Becky Steele was asked if she thinks that with these ordinances, the city is trying to balance free speech with public safety.

“No, I don’t.”

Steele said Americans will only have rights if people stand up for them by challenging laws that violate the Constitution.

The Clean Zone ordinance expires at the end of Monday, Nov. 3. WMNF contacted the St. Petersburg Police and the St. Pete City Attorney’s Office for comment, but they did not return our calls by deadline.

The groups plan to express their first amendment rights beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday near the south entrance to Tropicana Field. Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

“Clean Zone” ordinance

St. Pete Police

St. Pete For Peace

African People’s Socialist Party

International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement

African People’s Solidarity Committee

The Refuge

ACLU of Florida

Letter from ACLU

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