Citizens Opposed to Monroe Park Conservancy Lease – 2014 March 18
Part 5/7 – Citizens Opposed to Monroe Park Conservancy Lease – 2014 March 18 – Land Use – Richmond City Council – Richmond, VA from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.
In the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests in and around Richmond, NBC 12 reports that a public forum is scheduled between police and protesters.
I am not an organizer of these protests although I have participated in several and support the movement as much as I can. And I am white, and it is certainly delicate territory for me to critique organizing being done by folks of color. But in this case, I think it is necessary, as a safety precaution and because this sort of event has the potential to affect activists of all types in Richmond.
I support 110% the concept of Diversity of Tactics. No one has to organize like anyone else, as long as we have points of agreement we are working towards. However, I am highly skeptical of and concerned about a meeting with the Police.
Generally speaking, when organizing protests or events, folks I organize with operate with the idea of having as little interaction as possible with the police. This is coming from a largely anarchist organizing scene, so if these protesters are not anarchists, that might explain their different approach. But anarchist or not, it can be very harmful to a movement to have some folks deal with the police. There are many reasons for that.
Significantly, is that Police can lie. They are trained interrogators, and when involved in a conversation they can lie and manipulate you with ease. While the police can lie, you can not. It is illegal for you to lie to the police. If you want to know your rights, check out this post full of useful info, or get in touch and I or someone else will happily come to your group to do a Know Your Rights or How to Copwatch workshop. Trust me, many cops do not know your rights, and aren’t required to tell you much about them. They aren’t even legally required to give you a verbal Miranda Rights anymore. The news article says “They say they’ll be asking questions like “If an officer asks me to take my hands out of my pockets, do I have to?”” – look, you do not have to go talk to the police to find this information out. Yes, you do need to take your hands out of your pockets or else the police might think you are doing something dangerous and shoot you. When you are detained the police have the right to pat you down to feel for any weapons. They can not go into your pockets for anything other than something which feels like a weapon unless you give consent. Never give them consent to search. Always say, “I do not consent to a search”. But do not physically resist a search, just repeat loudly that you do not consent. See you do not need to go to police to get this information.
Additionally, police operate with a hierarchical system. They assume everyone else does too. I couldn’t count the number of times some cop has asked us to speak to whomever is in charge, just to receive laughter in response. No one is in charge silly cop. Of course, that is after they usually approach the biggest white male first, under the assumption that they are in charge. What this means in terms of talking to the police, is that if one person or group of persons comes to any agreement with the police, the police are liable to hold the entirety of ‘demonstrators’ to those agreements. Even though many who might protest a variety of issues had no say in those agreements.
In certain protest situations, this has resulted in protesters who had agreements with the cops, actually policing other protesters. Sometimes this means protesters trying to detain, assault, or have arrested others involved in the protest. This pretty obviously sucks. Even if things do not get to that point, any agreement with the police by some protesters basically gives the police leverage to try to hold all protesters to that agreement, and places more folks in potential danger.
The location of the forum, is at the Police Training Academy on Northside, hardly neutral ground. There are folks who might want to participate who validly do not feel at all safe in that space. There are tons of folks who do not feel comfortable sharing any space with police. And folks who do feel safe in those spaces need to be careful to not speak for those who do not. This is a highly tricky situation.
The forum is also a fairly transparent means through which the police are trying to get good media coverage. They are being nice, reasonable etc. These are still the police who terrorize men of color, engage in stop and frisk activities in Northside neighborhoods and others too, lock up all kinds of people for non violent offenses, and generally harm our communities. They do not have to be regularly murdering people in a direct manner for their very existence to be oppressive and harmful.
The article also says that questions from demonstrators will be submitted written and read by a third party. I don’t know about yall, but thats not how I imagine a DIALOGUE going. Conceivably questions might be ignored or censored as the police please. It seems that there is no assurance of an opportunity for response or rebuttal. So this might just be a forum to give the police a platform to answer soft questions and look good for the media. Not a win in my mind.
It is unstated as to whether or not ‘demonstrators’ will be allowed to bring in recording devices to capture their own take on the situation.
City Council’s new President Michelle Mosby is quoted talking about “mutual respect” between protesters and police. Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. NOPE! I speak for myself only, but am fairly certain there are plenty of folks in Richmond who do not have respect for the enforcement arm of racism, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, etc. I mean, the police!
The question of legitimacy and the process of de-legitimization is also present here. Who represents these movements and has the legitimacy to engage with the police. What does this do to others in the movements who do not want to talk to the police or support this tactic. There are certainly people of color who are not supportive of this forum, if my facebook feed is at all representative. Unfortunately, this forum will de-legitimize those protesters in the polices’ eyes.
Movements need leadership, but not necessarily leaders. If folks are perceived as in charge by the police, this also puts them in a tricky situation of being accountable for an entire movement. It can be dangerous to be a police liason. And it can put folks in a position of being pressured by police to force protesters to engage in something they do not want to do.
If you are talking to the police, be very careful. Be considerate of others involved in the movements, and make an effort to avoid speaking for or representing others. Ask tough questions if you are going to ask questions. And remember that people choose to be police, choose to enforce unjust laws, choose to engage in a system of racism and transphobia, and generally choose to be oppressive.
That’s all I’ve got right now. Just make sure this is something you want to do and that the benefits outweigh the risks.
See you in the streets.
Over n Out.
No, no – it’s not the children who need parenting that I’m concerned about, it’s the local government.
If you are a parent, or have ever acted as a babysitter, you will understand where this is going. You can’t have dessert until you finish your vegetables, and you can’t watch T.V. until you’ve done your chores. The #blacklivesmatter action at City Council follows the same logic. Mayor Jones and City Council can’t have football stadiums, baseball stadiums, or breweries until they finish their vegetables and chores. And as activists in Richmond have been saying for years, we need the basics taken care of here before the public boondoggles – I mean developments.
Mayor Jones’ concept of making Richmond a Tier One city is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. He and City Council seem to be continually interested in doing the fun stuff, while neglecting the hard work. Their general practices are the same thing as when your mom tells you to clean your room so you shove the mess into the closet. Well at the City Council meeting, everyone who’s tired of the mess spoke up.
A motley crew took action at the first city council meeting of 2015, presenting a list of grievances, a list of demands, and an ultimatum. The subject matter of the demands is very intersectional, including environmental, no stadium in Shockoe Bottom, public transportation, the schools, and protecting the right of the homeless to be in Monroe Park.
There has already been public reaction – why would anyone threaten the UCI International Bike Race? Trust me, it’s not because we hate bikes, or fun. It’s because we can not build a strong community or a tier one city without the items listed in the demands. And if you don’t do your chores, you get grounded. Frankly, it is surprising it has taken this long for residents of Richmond to put the Mayor and City Council on notice.
For folks who do not understand the #blacklivesmatter thing, well that’s a whole other article. But for this instance, calm down and take a gander at the list of demands. If everyone can take off their angry goggles for a minute, it is pretty easy to see how all citizens of Richmond, regardless of race will benefit from these demands being fulfilled. Can you imagine if our schools had the funding to maintain buildings and build amazing curriculums? And if our bus systems was affordable and effective, creating more job access?
For all the grandstanding and puffery by public officials, Richmond is still in a very bad position to host a major bike race. We apparently can not currently manage our own parks, schools, buses, social services, etc. And for a bike friendly town, we aren’t that bike friendly yet. We need a better foundation in order to host awesome events, like bike races. You have to clean the house before you have company over.
To Mayor Jones and City Council, I say, get your chores finished and then let’s all enjoy a bike race come September. You can do it.
To everyone else in Richmond, help out your buddies the Mayor and City Council. It’s always nice when your friends help with your chores so you can all hang out afterwards.
The threat of boycotting and disrupting the 2015 UCI International Road Championships is akin to your parents threatening to ground you if you misbehave. It is the kind of discipline Richmond needs to get the local politicians in line.
Let’s do this together,
ALL the money!!!
Richmond seems to have access to ALL the MONEY!!! For any stupid, classist, racist, sexist, etc. idea that comes down the pike. This is what half of my articles are about as is, but I could not let the $53,000 for a fence to keep homeless people from possibly sleeping under a new bridge pass without comment.
News story here if you hadn’t heard about this bullshit.
And if you’ve missed about all the other crap we spend public funds on, check out this article I wrote recently recapping some bad investments.
Just remember- the people who run this town (for now), think it is perfectly reasonable to spend Fifty Three Thousand Dollars to build a fence to prevent homeless people from having the shelter of a bridge if they choose it. But they privatized a major park, want to build a baseball stadium, neglect the schools, built a football stadium for a racist team, are funding a brewery and restaurant, don’t have a central homeless shelter (more coming on that from a group of us soon), fail to maintain public housing in good conditions, etc. Basically – what the hell!
And, this involves Venture Richmond, who LOVE to act like they are nice people, and Dominion Resources – the fuckers behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Venture/Vulture Richmond has mega ties to Dominion and McGuire Woods Law Firm who is representing Dominion to sue landowners etc. It’s basically all connected, from environmental issues to homelessness to eminent domain etc. We have to pay attention and call out this stuff constantly.
This has been a rant.
Getting interviewed by journalists and reporters gives me an insider perspective on certain aspects of the media in Richmond.
Lately, I’ve noticed a common issue with the people who are interviewing me; they are new to town. From VCU’s Commonwealth Times paper to ABC 8’s tv reporters, I’ve spoken with reporters who were practically brand new to Richmond, and reporting on issues for which they had no background. I’m pretty sure that some of my interviews have turned into lectures, with me trying to fill in for instance, the past 4 years of struggle around Monroe Park to someone who did not realize the 2010-11 campaign against the renovation plans existed. I’ve given reporters names, websites, and more to look into. But with the high speed of today’s media and short attention spans of many audiences, it is unrealistic to expect anyone to be able to cram much research in before ‘Tonight at 11″.
To be clear, this is not likely the fault of the journalists. In fact, it is more symptomatic of the sad state of journalism and the media in the United States of America today. Journalists today are notoriously underpaid, overworked, and it seems have fairly unstable career paths compared to their predecessors. One of the results of this, is that it seems journalists move around more than they once did.
I tried to ask a wide swath of Richmond’s journalists and reporters about their home town, experience in journalism, and time spent in Richmond. I wanted to confirm my suspicions that many of the journalists who had interviewed me, and produced articles on current political issues in Richmond, lacked adequate knowledge and understanding of the history around those issues.
There are of course, the old heads (sorry for calling you old yall – but really, you are), who have been around Richmond for a while, like Chris Dovi, Michael Paul Williams, Mark Holmberg, Jason Roop and more. I don’t want to age them too much, so no need to flaunt their time spent in Richmond here. Let’s just say they are well versed in the going-ons in Richmond.
But then there is a large crew of people who have only been in Richmond since 2012 or as short as 6 months. These journalists include some names you see all over the media-
Ned Oliver (Style Weekly and in Richmond since September 2012),
Graham Moomaw (Richmond Times Dispatch and in Richmond since January of 2013),
Tom Nash (Style Weekly and in Richmond for 6 months),
Tina Griego (Style Weekly and in Richmond since August 2012), (more…)
If you weren’t at City Council tonight, here is my recap.
Before the meeting I spoke again with Michelle Mosby (9th district), who informed me that per our agreement after the last meeting, she had gotten the Public Comment period moved to earlier in the meeting’s agenda. I had made the request because I feel that Charles Samuels intentionally pushes that comment period later in the meetings to avoid having more attendees hearing what the public has to say. Typically by the end of the meetings many people have filtered out. It also seems that the public should have their say before votes happen, in case their information might be influential to a council person in some way. In exchange for the moved public comment period, I agreed to yell less and be more ‘respectful’. This all came about as I tried to explain to Michelle that when Charles Samuels refused to allow public comment on agenda items, the public was going to have their say one way or another, which was what we saw at the earlier April meeting. I hope that public comment stays early on the meeting agendas. Although the new 6 month trial of 1 meeting a month seems likely to cut into the ability of the public to speak.
About 16 RPS students came to express dismay at the refusal by the administration to fully fund schools. Their presence was a follow up to this morning’s walkout protest where around 200 students from 5 different Richmond Public Schools left school and marched to City Hall to protest the lack of full funding for schools, and the poor condition of many of the schools. #rvawalkout was the tag used for this campaign.
Isabella Arias, a student at Open High, spoke in the public comment period, but essentially had their concerns dismissed by Charles Samuels. Isabella made several salient points, including that to be a first tier City Richmond needs first tier schools before stadiums.
The other major issue I picked up on tonight was item 10 on the consent agenda. The way the agenda was written was very deceptive, and the ordinance sounded vague. Charles Pool tipped me off that in fact the ordinance had to do with giving Venture Richmond money.
“Ordinance Number 2014-80 (Patron: President Charles Samuels – To approve the Work Plan and Budget for the fiscal year ending Jun. 30, 2015, for the provision of services in the Downtown Richmond Special Service and Assessment Districts. “:
That ordinance is about, well, it is hard to tell by the little bit of information put on the agenda.
However, a closer read of the full text of the ordinance revealed that it would give $700,000 to Venture Richmond for their programming, including Canal Cruises, Friday Night cheers, Tredegar Green, their ‘ambassadors’, and more. The full text of the ordinance was not in the agenda, and was not among the papers placed on the ledge to be distributed. I found it only with the help of Silver Persinger, in the giant binder of ordinances down in front.
I asked City Council members to vote no on this item. The sneakily worded ordinance was very misleading to residents. An additional problem at this meeting was that, as usual, there were not nearly enough agenda’s printed to go around. Many people in the audience wanted agendas, and could not get copies, and therefore had a very difficult time following along.
One reason to vote no on giving Venture Richmond money or tax breaks is their Tredegar Green amphitheater plan. Residents of Oregon Hill, neighboring Tredegar Green, overwhelmingly object to the project, and Council should not support this funding.
The ‘Ambassador’ program which is also funded through this grant, says that Venture Richmond’s ambassadors “discourage behavior that threatens the future prosperity of downtown”. To my ears, this sounds like a gentrification patrol, using their authority to promote a set of standards which residents have not had a say in. I question who’s standards and who’s prosperity are being kept in mind and promoted by these ambassadors, and seriously question why tax payer money should be supporting their agenda.
The $700,000 also funds events like Friday Cheers and Canal Cruises. Friday Cheers is the Venture version on an event which used to be free on Brown’s Island, but now costs $5-10 depending on the show. Somehow getting public money for the event has resulted in them charging attendees. The Canal Cruises are another money making enterprise for Venture Richmond, but subsidized by the taxpayers. The tickets for the cruises cost $5-6 depending on your age.
Additionally, Venture Richmond has used their money to fund the sorts of political lobbying campaigns that non-profits are not actually supposed to engage in. As of February 5, Venture Richmond had stated they spent $32,500 on the Loving RVA campaign, a transparent support campaign for Mayor Dwight Jones’ Revitalize RVA baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom plan. Dwight Jones is also the President of the Venture Richmond Board of Directors. City Council President Charles Samuels (2nd district) and Vice President Ellen Robertson (6th district) are also on the Board.
The bottomline here, again, is that City Council is spending tens of thousands of dollars on plans that are not fairly bid, not wanted by residents, and not beneficial to residents. Parker Agelasto (5th district) and Reva Trammell (8th District) have both supported the idea of getting the $40,000-50,000 necessary to open one library location on Sundays for a year. Currently no City libraries are open on Sundays. Well, shoot, with $700,000 we could keep 14 libraries open on Sundays for the year, more than 1 per district.
$700,000 could also go a long way towards fixing the roof of school, and other urgently needed facility repairs on school buildings. In fact, $700,000 is exactly how much money the School Board is looking for in order to repair the roof of one elementary school and one middle school. While City Council and the School Board play pass the blame, but not the buck, students pay the price.
Firefighters have also recently come to council to ask for more financial support, specifically for their career development. These folks help our communities to stay safe, and deserve support.
The 3 million needed to be raised by the Monroe Park Conservancy, who recently landed a 30 years for $30 lease on Monroe Park, is basically just over 4 times that $700,000. Maybe if we kept that money for our park system Council would not feel the urgent need to privatize our public spaces.
The leasing of Monroe park and this grant to Venture Richmond are both examples of essentially no bid auctions of public resources. These are plans designed for 1 specific group. In the case of Monroe Park, the call for public bids was a technicality followed only when Caroline Cox pointed out their illegal no bid process. My bid was the only competing bid, and it was a protest bid. While the Monroe Park Conservancy had over 3 years to develop a plan and then a bid for the plan tailored for them, I had 30 days. For Venture Richmond’s 700,000 grant, which they receive year after year, the issue isn’t even up for a bid at all.
We have the money for our parks. We have the money for our schools. We have the money for our libraries. We have the money for our firefighters. We have the money, City Council just consistently chooses to spend it on corporate welfare and the rich instead of the things the rest of us want and need. Vote them out in 2016.
(hey that’s me!)
As always, never ending thanks to Silver Persinger for being an amazing activist and documenting so much of public process in Richmond.
2014 April 9 – Special Meeting of Land Use To Consider Monroe Park Bids – Richmond City Council – Richmond, Virginia from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.
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