(by Jeremy Rothe-Kushel) On October 20, 2011, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, after a press conference on stopping domestic violence, spoke to a small group of press on the sidewalk north of the Los Angeles Police Department’s new headquarters. After answering a few questions about his stance on Occupy LA and how long people “can stay,” the Mayor appeared to make it clear that his acknowledgment of the “1st amendment rights” of the people occupying the public area surrounding City Hall and the City’s “accommodations” of them were not necessarily ongoing.
Villaraigosa implied that the City’s acknowledgement and “accommodations” were being offered as long as the “rules” were followed and peacefulness maintained, but also because, so far, OccupyLA participants have “usually cooperated, collaborated” with the City.
When asked to clarify whether he recognized the right to assemble or not, and whether the City holds itself responsible to protect the Right of the People to Assemble, Mayor Villaraigosa chose not to answer.
To be clear, unless an individual is intending or acting to deliberately disturb the peace or commit some other unlawful act, the right to assemble is inviolable by public servants or other agents of the government. And, of course, all law-abiding members of society would demand that our public servants not just unabashedly recognize these unalienable rights, but respect them enough to publicly articulate the need to legally insure their preservation.
Mr. Villaraigosa appears not to, or is intentionally unwilling to understand that the rights delineated in the first ten amendments to the Constitution are not granted under those same amendments. In fact, these Ten Amendments, popularly known as the “Bill of Rights” are openly articulated and recognized restrictions on legitimate government to prohibit or abridge these inherent, universal and enduring rights of the People.
Those that do understand these crucial concepts and principles will continue to support the ongoing movement currently occupying and assembling at spaces all around the world.