The $10,000 difference between the tea party and the occupiers in Richmond

Equality before the law is one of our nation’s highest principles. But principle often diverges from practice, and as an example of that, the RTD highlights the difference in treatment of the Richmond tea party rallies and the ongoing Occupy Richmond camp out:

The Richmond Tea Party is lashing out at Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones for what it sees as the city’s preferential treatment of the Occupy Richmond protesters encamped at Kanawha Plaza.

The tea party group is sending Jones an invoice for the charges incurred for the Tax Day rallies it has held at the plaza the past three years, arguing that the Occupy Wall Street offshoot group squatting there has been using the park illegally and free of charge since Oct. 15.

“The tea party keeps being compared to the occupiers. Well, in the way we’re treated, there’s no comparison. It’s like a slap in the face,” said Richmond Tea Party spokeswoman Colleen Owens.

Owens said her group has shelled out about $10,000 for the three rallies held there, including a rental fee for use of the park, various permits and other expenses. She added that the rallies were scheduled with the city months in advance and that the group held fundraisers to cover the required costs, which included police presence and portable toilets.

“The city of Richmond is allowing Occupy Richmond to blatantly break the law day after day while forcing other groups to strictly comply,” a news release from the tea party group said.

Given that we are talking about the Richmond city council, this should not come as a surprise.

Nor should it be odd to discover that at least one council member, Marty Jewell, wanted the city’s police force to apply the lightest of possible touches to the protesters. It was mildly shocking to see the council demur on that proposal.

Regardless of what one thinks of the tea parties, there can be no question that they obeyed every rule, followed every ordinance and addressed every quibble before staging their events on public property. And when the events were over (having a start and end point is another key difference with the occupiers), they cleaned up whatever mess was left behind. Going by Kanawha Plaza the day after the first, and largest, tea party rally, you would be very hard pressed to find evidence that around five thousand people, an array of vendors, a gaggle of pressies and a very large stage and supporting equipment had been on the site.

They paid handsomely for the privilege. That the occupiers haven’t done any of this, and are given wide leeway to keep their tent village on site in defiance of city ordinances speaks volumes about the state of equality before the law in Richmond.

Here’s hoping the tea party not only sends the city a bill for doing what’s right, but threatens to send the city to a collection agency if it refuses to pay up.

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