Advertisement

Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2003

City wants antiwar camp to vacate park by Friday

March 27, 2003

Advertisement

City officials said they wanted a group of antiwar protesters to abandon their camp in South Park by Friday.

That won't be soon enough for Linda Shotts, 52, who believes the city is giving preferential treatment to the protesters. The village of roughly 30 tents has been in South Park since Saturday, despite a city ordinance that prohibits camping in public parks.

"Does that mean for a week they'll let my husband and I camp there?" asked Shotts, who lives in Tonganoxie but works in Lawrence. "The city would tell me to move my trailer. Somebody's giving in on them, and I don't think that's right."

Fred DeVictor, director of Parks and Recreation, said he fielded about 12 phone calls Wednesday from people expressing a similar sentiment.

"I have to sympathize with those saying, 'If they can do it, we ought to be able to do it,'" DeVictor said.

Laura Palmer, who lives across the street from the park, called City Manager Mike Wildgen's office earlier this week to complain.

"I don't believe they should be able to appropriate a section of that park for their own private use," said Palmer, 34. "I understand the city wanting to be sensitive and take this with caution, but I also am getting the impression that the city is being a little too cautious."

Wildgen said the city's handling of the protest was no different from the way it dealt with building-code violations and other infractions.

"The first thing we do is we try to communicate with them," Wildgen said. "We don't go in there and give somebody a ticket."

Lisa Roberts, Lawrence, exits her tent where she and a group of
friends, including Holly Charlton, in tent at right, have spent the
past few nights camping in protest of the war in Iraq. The
protesters' days at South Park may be numbered.

Lisa Roberts, Lawrence, exits her tent where she and a group of friends, including Holly Charlton, in tent at right, have spent the past few nights camping in protest of the war in Iraq. The protesters' days at South Park may be numbered.

He said city officials would meet today with some of the protesters to ask them to leave by Friday or risk a penalty. His goal is to clear the park without confrontation.

And, he said, the decision to ask them to leave was made before the angry phone calls began.

"We feel that now that they've made their point, it's time to move and not usurp the park any more," he said.

The encampment is causing some inconveniences -- such as cutting down on the space available for recess and physical education classes at the St. John campus of the Lawrence Catholic School, 1208 Ky. But many people who live and work near the park welcome the protest.

"They're not troublemakers," said 33-year-old Clint Wedel, who lives on Vermont Street. "To kick them all out and give them all tickets -- it's really more trouble than it's worth."

One camper, 19-year-old Lawrence resident Eric Smith, said he's not sure what he'll do if he's ordered to leave. He said the fact that the camp violated city rules was a small concern in light of "the crime" the United States was committing by invading Iraq.

"Our federal government, if you can call it ours, is giving itself all of the leeway it wants," he said. "We figured we could bend local law to our demands."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.