Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Making the Corner Safe for Weed-Eating

It was as hot as hell, hot as only Oklahoma can be hot, at the corner of Main and Flood last evening about 6:30 p.m. Gathered there in the stifling environs were about 10-12 people, almost all of whom could be described as middle-aged, although those much younger might consider some of us geezers. Gathered there we were to protest publicly our country's involvement in Iraq with signs and flags. It's a weekly Monday afternoon thing. Our usual number of local protesters, about 4 or 5, was swollen by a contingent from Oklahoma City, who brought a bunch of great big signs--we need to get some of those for ourselves!--that said "Honk for Peace" or "Peace is Possible" and other subversive sentiments.

Also present was one each lawn-mowing, weed-eating guy. I spoke to the gentleman right after arriving and he allowed as to how "I don't care" but that we should wait until he was finished with his work before we deployed our flags, signs, and selves on the corner. Let me set the scene for you: we're talking the sidewalk and grassy area in front of an abandoned Grandy's, one of those monuments to late 20th century futility that you can find anywhere in the dying American empire.

Well, to make a long story short. Said weed-eater got pissed off because we didn't wait. (I have to tell you that the area where we were had already been mowed, and we were not preventing weed-eating anywhere as far as I could tell. I also should add that I have no doubt that Mr. Weed Eater was probably having a crappy day. Who knows how long he'd been toiling in that ridiculous heat at minimum wage? And maybe this wasn't even his last job. He's got my sympathy.) And he called the cops on us. Two of Norman's finest soon appeared and shooed us off the corner because our cars were parked in the abandoned Grandy's parking lot. It's private property, you see, by definition an object of worship. Which means, of course, that this parking lot can summon armed guardians of the temple in a matter of minutes to prevent its defilement by a ragtag bunch of radicals with families, jobs, and mortgages who believe in peace.

One of the cops was apologetic, and both were nice. But we had to leave nonetheless. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it, how easily the exercise of First Amendment rights can be blunted.

P.S. We'll be back on the corner next week. Lots of people are honking.
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