Richmond, Va.–This city, like a number of American cities, is trying to figure out what, if anything, to do about the “occupiers” camped out on public property. But now Richmond’s City Council has another issue to resolve. It has received an invoice for $10,000 from another group that used the site—Kanawha Plaza, near the James River waterfront—for its own demonstrations but had to pay rent for the privilege.
These rather more orderly protestors, from local tea party organizations, took pains to schedule their rallies in full cooperation with city rules and regulations. They conducted fundraising events to pay the required fees, which covered police protection, medical emergency staff, and port-a-potties. The occupiers have done none of that, tea partiers say, and if the anti-Wall Street crowd didn’t have to pay, they shouldn’t have to, either.
“The tea party keeps being compared to the occupiers,” says Colleen Owens, a Richmond Tea Party spokesperson. “Well, in the way we’re treated, there’s no comparison.” Tea partiers have held three rallies on the site, the last on Tax Day this past April, and the total charges for the different events, they say, come to $10,000. By the time the city received the tea partiers’ bill, the occupiers had used the park for two weeks without paying a nickel.
“I guess we’ll be writing a check to the tea party people,” Councilman Bruce Tyler says. “You can’t treat one group different from the other. It’s unfair.”
Hats off to Owens for making her group’s feelings known and to Tyler for responding. We’ll let you know how the rest of the city officials react, but you can say this for local officials, unlike their congressional counterparts: They’re accessible. Tyler, for example, can be seen almost any day of the week at the downtown Y, working out in his sweats and chatting casually with constituents. If you’ve got a complaint, he’ll hear you out.