Forget about the grass

by YES! Weekly staff

Four months have gone by. Most of the protestors have been hustled off the streets, their encampments destroyed or swept away.

In Lower Manhattan, where the Occupy Wall Street movement began on Sept. 17, 2011, the protestors have assimilated back into the citizenry, surfacing for flash-mob protests like the one at Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 3 against the new defense act.

In Greensboro, the remains of the movement continue to meet at a Glenwood bookstore, sporadically demonstrating publicly to show solidarity with the larger movement while plotting their big next move.

And in Winston-Salem, a drama plays out between protestors and the city, one that is being replicated across the country as municipalities try to contain the masses of malcontents who are not yet ready to come off the streets.

As Keith T. Barber reports in this week’s issue (see page XX), the Winston-Salem City Council is grappling with the problem of fire-in-thebelly types airing their grievances in font of City Hall — which, of course is not only perfectly legal but also, depending on who you ask, the American way.

It is laughable for an elected official to care more about trampling on grass than trampling on people’s inalienable rights.

The question as to why council needs to enact new provisions to an existing open-air meeting ordinance that has served the city for decades has not, in our minds, been sufficiently answered. Southwest Ward council member Dan Besse’s “keep off the grass” proposal, which keeps protestors confined to paved areas of the property and also restricts protest hours to between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., shows a sort of tone-deafness that is out of character for the veteran representative.

It is laughable for an elected official to care more about trampling on grass than trampling on people’s inalienable rights. Even more disturbing is that the establishment is reacting to the protestors themselves rather than listening to the things they are protesting.

Occupy, like the tea party, the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement before it, faces an uphill battle in trying to wrestle the status quo from the people who have a vested stake in keeping things as they are.

And those who choose to ignore the movement — particularly elected officials — do so at their own peril. The message of Occupy — which extends into corporate greed and malfeasance, the monetizing of policy and elections, and more equitable distribution of income — is not going away. It is, in fact resonating, flavoring the discourse in elections that go from the county level all the way to the Republican presidential primaries and beyond, spurring conversations in coffee shops and offices, even coloring the media coverage of the day. We, for one, are listening very carefully to the protests, mainly because they make some damn good points — check out this week’s cover story (page XX) for the authoritative word in income redistribution in the Triad over the last decade. And then tell us if you’re still worried about the grass at City Hall.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration