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April 18, 2003

Sarosh Kumana & Michael Denny Discuss the New Proposed Ballot Initiative to Discourage Public Disruption

Dear Mike,

I believe that the liberty and freedom of protestors to protest peacefully (even in public places) should be supported -- but with the important proviso that it not interfere with the freedom and liberty of those others who also want to use the same public places for the peaceful conduct of their own lives.

There were many thousands who were unable to go home, to to their place of work, or otherwise move around. Traffic was blocked and stalled for hours.

Do you support and respect freedoms (like the freedom of movement) for those non-protestors who were directly and intentionally and unnecessarily curtailed by the actions of the protestors?

The rights of protestors do not and can not supercede the rights of non-protestors.

The exercise of the rights and freedoms of one group should not result in the abridgement of liberty of another! Is a non-protestor's freedom any less important than the freedom of the protestor? Are liberty and freedom to be selectively applied?

How can it be a net increase in liberty if 1,000 protestors prevent 10,000 from peacefully going about their own lives?

There are solutions: Let protestors be allotted a public space for expressing their protest -- for example, Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park, or Crissy Field, where they will not disrupt the lives of others.

The rest of us should not be held hostage by those who want to express and celebrate their own freedom by limiting the freedoms of others.

Sarosh Kumana (Saroshk@aol.com)


Dear Sarosh,

Thank you for sharing your perspective. And once again, please know that I am very sympathetic to those whose lives were disrupted by the protests. And know that I personally don’t appreciate reckless activity that wastes my time and makes life more difficult as these protests did. But that is a condition of a free society with lots of public property. And to be honest, while I was inconvenienced I never felt personally threatened or in need of the police.

In English society they have the old English Common Law concept of the "quiet use of the commons." The protestors violated this concept when they blocked the roads and sidewalks. They did not allow others to quietly use the commons, which is everyone's right including the protestors. However this is the USA, born in rebellion, where we celebrate the destruction of tea in protest against government authority. It would be nicer if all the protestors would go quietly to their approved places but that wouldn’t seem like America to me. I’m glad our country’s founders didn’t just go to some quiet corner and peacefully protest the British as this country wouldn’t what it is today despite our problems. I’m glad the founders got pissed off and took to arms and fought the authorities tooth and nail. I want to encourage a bold America and I think this war is an abomination worth getting angry about.

Once again, the problem is not the protestors, our feelings about their behavior, or the war. The problem is that it is impossible to define the “proper use” of property when it is owned by everyone and when the public in a free and open society have widely differing views on its proper use. Draw the property lines out to the middle of the street, and let the property owners work it out with the pedestrians. The use of more government and police to support one side’s view over another’s will only make it worse for everyone. And in my opinion, it undermines the values our founders fought and died for.

Yours in Liberty!  
Michael F. Denny
Libertarian Candidate for San Francisco Mayor