For two weeks, the Occupy Richmond group camped out in Kanawha Plaza in downtown Richmond. They acquired no permits, followed no regulations, paid no fees, and broke the law for their continued presence. In contrast, the Richmond Tea Party held three separate Tax Day Rallies in the same location, for which we acquired every permit, followed every regulation, paid every fee, and adhered to every law for the few hours we remained. We did everything the City of Richmond asked of us; the same city, though, asked nothing of Occupy Richmond.
On October 26th, the Richmond Tea Party decided we had had enough.
From our press release that day:
“In keeping with the principles of our founders the Richmond Tea party has decided to rectify this blatantly unequal application of the laws—including punishing us for being law-abiding citizens and rewarding the Occupiers for ignoring the law—by sending an invoice to the Mayor’s office of the City of Richmond for a full refund of all charges we paid for our three previous rallies. We hope the city will honor the trust people have empowered them with and faithfully adhere to the principle of equal application of the law by refunding our money for the use of Kanawha Plaza in the past.”
On October 28th, we hand-delivered an invoice for approximately $8,500 to Mayor Jones’s office, along with a form for him to complete by listing all City of Richmond laws that are optional so we can have it for future reference. At least two Richmond City Council members already stated that we are owed a refund. We are told we will receive a prompt response to our letter, but if it doesn’t adequately address our concerns, we will continue to pressure the Mayor’s office.
This issue of unequal application of the law is not unique to Richmond: it’s happening all across the nation. But what the Richmond Tea Party is doing to combat it should be replicated wherever a Tea Party paid a fee for demonstrating while an Occupy group has not had to pay for the same space. This is not an attack on the Occupy groups, but on the governments who are selecting winners and losers based on political preferences, punishing the Tea Party for observing the law and rewarding the Occupiers for ignoring it. This type of injustice cannot go unchallenged; Tea Parties should call it out wherever and whenever they encounter it.
To this point, the peaceful, law-abiding Tea Parties (still no arrests after two and a half years of enormous protests and rallies) have been maligned by the media and career politicians—the same people now favoring the Occupy movement that has openly called for violence and produced thousands of arrests (so far) and even some rapists. We have a chance to reverse the narrative now, though, as RTP’s call to be refunded blew up into national news within a day (see here, here, and here for starters, and here for our own Colleen Owens on Fox News Business discussing it) and ignited a bonfire of support for our cause hotter than I’ve seen in a long time, including personal offers to help both financially and legally in our battle for equality under the law.
Our little press release has served to highlight the clear differences between the approaches of the Tea Party and the Occupiers and the double standard in dealing with the two groups by those in authority. And the public is seeing it clearly. Polls are now turning sharply against the Occupy groups.
If the rest of the Tea Party movement replicates our approach and forces the issue of equal application of the law wherever possible, we will win this argument handily and take another step closer to restoring our nation to its founding principles.
Cross-posted at richmondteaparty.com