Saturday, March 10, 2007

Civil Disobedience and Consequences

Henry David Thoreau

Our Plaza is a place where all are welcome. This is the first and oldest "public space" in the nation. A part of the artist's assertion of freedom of speech rights has to do with the fact that our founding fathers specifically stated that the public "fora" is the prime place for freedom of expression. Only recently (Bery v. N.Y.C. 1997) has the court decided that visual art qualifies as protected speech.

This federal court did not leave this open for interpretation by local or regional courts. The language is clear. Interpretations continue on both sides. Here in St. Augustine we have hair wrappers and bead stringers insisting that they are protected under the First Amendment. They are correct in that respect. No one can stop them from practicing their expressions. The collection of money as compensation for their expression is another thing. Art In The Market has always wondered why those "artists" who whine about their constitutional rights at Commission meetings do not simply exercise those rights and accept the consequences of being cited and go to court to defend those rights. Do your reasearch first !

Last Friday, a woman unknown to the rest of the artists set up a table at the eastern end of the Plaza. She had somehow come to the conclusion that if she attached jewelry to Barbie dolls and teddy bears she could skirt the "is it art" issue that confounds some. Ok , nice try ,but this action was based on misinformation. When the police informed her that this wasn't going to work she became combative (extremely so) The officers did their best and asked her to leave, she would not. @&?##^ filled the air of the Plaza. Parents were hustling their little ones away, the homeless scattered,and the gawkers couldn't help but watch the drama. The poor woman had to be led away kicking and screaming in handcuffs. Yes ,she obviously she felt strongly about her position but the argument that she gave was delusional and wrongheaded.

The civil disobedience espoused by Gandhi.Thoreau and Dr. King does not involve taking a swing at police officers.

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