Will St. Pete privatize a popular protest spot near Baywalk?
Our guest is Dwight Lawton, a spokesperson for the St. Petersburg chapter of Veterans for Peace and a member of St. Pete For Peace. The group is concerned about tomorrow's St. Pete City Council vote, which could result in the privatization of a sidewalk in downtown St. Pete. The group recently issued a press release which said in part:
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The proceedings will take place at St. Petersburg City Hall beginning at 8:30am, at 175 Fifth Street N (map). There will be a public hearing to discuss the issue prior to the vote. So, whatever you can do to be there, please come out. There will be a demonstration prior to the meeting on the steps of City Hall beginning at 8:00am. We have plenty of signs.
As you know, the rationale for the sidewalk vacation encompasses much more than demonstrations at Baywalk. A primary reason Baywalk's owners are coercing the city into vacating the sidewalk is because they apparently don't want black kids hanging out in front of the main Baywalk entrance. Since it's not politically correct to say this out loud, they use euphemisms such as "loiterers" and try to blame protesters. This was essentially confirmed when the chief assistant city attorney of St. Petersburg told numerous people in July that he didn't go to Baywalk because he didn't like to be “hangin’ with the bros,” and because he didn't want to be around people who were “jiving.” St. Pete for Peace, as an antiwar group, recognizes that a true lasting peace is not possible without also opposing the violence of racism, as well as social and economic injustice.
Instead of facing the reality of harsh economic times, in which the unemployment rate in the Tampa Bay area has tripled in the past 6 years and addressing the mismanagement of Baywalk, the city is considering discriminating against black youth and giving away the First Amendment rights of demonstrators in exchange for a possible infusion of up to $6 million into the complex. This is another case of putting (potential) profits for a few over the rights and freedoms of many. We believe that we need more freedom and democracy in this country, and will not tolerate any more of our rights being stripped from us.