If you were watching the local news today, an interview was ongoing with several of the Occupy Binghamton protestors over the failure of the debt supercommittee in Congress. Once again it was shown that the protestors continue to use the city property for their personal use. But the image suddenly reminded us of another similar visage, the shanty towns of Brazil and other nations. Which led to questions…
IF a group of homeless people set up tents on City of Binghamton property, would they be allowed to stay? What if they had a sign protesting rents in Binghamton? What if it were not homeless people but young adults? What if anyone gets hurt or decides to sue?
Based on the actions of the City of Binghamton, ANY group of people should be able to set up tents on ANY park controlled by the City of Binghamon, for an unspecific, undetermined period of time. Which seems absurd. Since the City of Binghamton is setting a legal precedent, the residents of Binghamton are legally liable to pay for any lawsuits. Which is aggravating.
We looked over city ordinances on the matter:
It shall be unlawful for any person to willfully and unlawfully cut, injure, deface or tarnish any public building, bridge, sign, fence, tree, awning, useful or ornamental improvement or any public work in the City
It can be argued that several tents and numerous political signs deface and tarnish the improvement of the park Occupy Binghamton currently is squatting on.
City Hall, other municipal buildings, sidewalks, streets, and real property owned and managed by the City are for the benefit of the public and as such certain areas are made available for use by private persons and that such use of public property by private persons should be on a consistent, content neutral basis and subject to such requirements and restrictions as may be adopted by City Council from time to time.
No expansion of use of public property by private persons beyond what is currently permitted by the Code, including this Chapter, will be permitted without the consent of City Council.
The park is real property, but Occupy Binghamton has prevented private persons from being able to benefit from the park they currently inhabit. Further, to be consistent and content nuetral (which political signs of a singular political preference is not) the City of Binghamton appears to require that another park be filled with signs and protestors of an opposing view, also for an equally unknown period of time.
This would also seem to provide precedence for homeless and other persons to strike up temporary, yet time unspecific, residence in any park of their choice. Or all of them.
Which brings up the question of consent of the City Council. We will get to that in a moment.
It shall be unlawful for persons unnecessarily to assemble in or upon any public highway or part thereof, in such numbers as to obstruct traffic, and no public meeting shall be held and no crowd shall be assembled within any congested district of the City within 100 feet of a street intersection.
It shall be unlawful for any person or organization, within the corporate limits of the City of Binghamton, to engage in any of the activities as herein set forth without first having obtained and paid for and having in force and effect a permit therefor:
F. Use of City parks for normal, ordinary park activities.
Those activities and events not set forth above in § 327-4 shall be permitted only upon the express direction of Binghamton City Council by ordinance.
Occupy Binghamton is perhaps 10 feet from an intersection, which violates the code (emphasis added). There is no permit for Occupy Binghamton, which further means that the public and City of Binghtmon is deriving no benefit from this unlawful action. Nor is this normal or ordinary activities.
Again we are brought to the question of the requirement of the express permission of the Binghamton City Council. Mayor Matt Ryan has been very public about his support of Occupy Binghamton, but that does not meet the above requirements. In fact the office of the Mayor has stated,
City Council President Charles Kramer, D-6th Ward disagreed. He stated, “I don’t think it sets a good precedent,” which mirrors our thoughts on how the City would react to a homeless tent city – as long as they had a political sign up as well. Democrat Martin Gerchman, Councilman for the 2nd District on Nov 2nd highlighted the problem
So it would seem that neither the City Council, nor the City Ordinance allows for Occupy Binghamton, just as similar laws and city council’s across the State have not – resulting in removing the protestors. So why is Binghamton different?
We wonder (and will post VERBATIM any response from ANY member of the Binghamton City Council or Mayor’s Office) how city officials will react if and when squatters take up residence in another city park. How will they react when and if someone is injured or raped, as has happened at several Occupy locations across the country. How will they explain the increase to city residents and homeowners when taxes are forced higher to cover the inevitiable lawsuit from the continued presence of Occupy Binghamton.
In closing, we don’t care what the people at Occupy Binghamton believe; in fact we support speaking out against political inaction and waste. We support the First Amendment, and anyone that would use it to let their voice be heard. At the same time, there is a rule of law. We do NOT believe in imposing political views on others, or in violating laws simply because a politically partisan view agrees or benefits from such imposition.
The longer Occupy Binghamton maintains its illegal residence in Binghamton, the potentially worse the situation will be. They are breaking the law, and being protected – which is discrimination in our opinion.
Perhaps turning Binghamton into a shanty town is the most equalizing and socialistic option available, but it is NOT the most desired or legal.
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