Mr. Mayor and members of the City Commission:
Greetings! I write to you as a concerned citizen of Gainesville. Occupy Gainesville stands in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City and is now in its 8th day. It is after 1am and I write to you from the perimeter of the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. Most of you are familiar with me and my family. I’m sleeping here and making the sacrifice of being away from my family for the night to show support and empathy for this profound grassroots movement.
From getting corporate money out of politics to restricting the economy-destroying process of derivatives trading, the Occupy movement stands for the 99 percent of Americans who have seen their finances decimated by irresponsible financial practices from certain corporations and from a lack of government regulation. The movement has spread nationwide and worldwide, with occupations in over 1,000 cities, including ours.
Occupy Gainesville has garnered negative national and international attention early on, partly due to the arrest of Bo Diddley’s son on the plaza here that bears his father’s name. The City Manager told Occupy Gainesville that they could spend one night in the plaza last Wednesday and then proceeded to arrest four citizens on five criminal cases last Thursday evening. The City Manager has also allegedly stated that costs totaling up to $5,000 per day could occur if Occupy Gainesville continues to stay overnight at the plaza. The basis of how these expenses are calculated is suspect at best.
Since that time, members of this movement have camped out on the perimeter of the plaza, often sleeping on the hard sidewalk or mulch-covered dirt.
I’m writing to urge you to make some small concessions to Occupy Gainesville similar to those that the cities of Philadelphia and Los Angeles have made to their respective Occupy movements. First, I would urge the State Attorney to drop, or nolle prose, the charges against those who were arrested on the plaza last Thursday evening.
Second, I would urge you to consider a temporary amendment to the city ordinances that restrict citizens to be in the Bo Diddley COMMUNITY Plaza after hours. Occupy Gainesville has many working groups, including sanitation, that have kept the park immaculately clean in the past week, with city workers admitting as much. All supplies and provisions used by Occupy Gainesville have been cleared from the plaza at the end of each day, with much respect paid to other citizens who enjoy the plaza and its amenities throughout the day. By allocating at least a small, grassy area of the plaza to be used overnight for sleeping, the City will certainly be the shining beacon of progressivism that it has been in other areas.
Thank you for your time. With your cooperation, I hope that a healthy relationship and be fostered between the City of Gainesville and Occupy Gainesville.