Martin Luther King’s family asked US Park Police to eject a group of 32 Occupy Wall Street protestors from an Atlanta based memorial center that was named after the civil rights leader on Sunday.
The OWS protestors, who left New York City November 9 to march roughly 880 miles to Atlanta through Washington, and through the south, planned on holding a press conference at the Atlanta based Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change “to honor Dr. King.” The press conference was scheduled for 2 p.m., but within minutes, private security for the center asked the demonstrators to leave the outside area that was part of the MLK center.
According to the center’s online page, it was established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, and is the “official, living memorial dedicated to advancing the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our programs and partnerships educate the world about his life and his philosophy of nonviolence, inspiring new generations to further his work.”
“The police want us to leave?” an OWS protestor asked.
“The King family is asking you to leave,” the security officer said.
“Why?” the protestor asked.
“They don’t want the center to be used for any kind of outside event or press conference for your group,” the security officer explained.
Shortly after that exchange, two armed federal U.S. Park Police officers from across the street came over at the apparent request of the King family. The federal police told Big Government they sometimes voluntarily assist the King family at the center at their request since they are based across the street at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Site, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
According to various OWS protestors who were interviewed, the group had planned to hold a press conference at the King center. The group’s designated leader for the day–Tim Franzen–who was Atlanta based told the federal police he was disappointed in their decision to stop the so-called press conference.
“This is just ridiculous,” he said. “This is just sad, you know that? It’s pathetic. What about the First Amendment? Have you heard of that? The First Amendment?”
One of the US Park Police patiently explained the law to the demonstrator.
“The US Supreme Court says that local jurisdictions can pass laws that allow police to breakup events with 25 people or more when they don’t have a permit. You have 32 people, and this is what the King family wanted.”
Franzen sought another avenue to remain.
“What if there’s no actual press conference?” he asked the officers. “I mean right now it’s just people hanging out and talking.”
“As long as there are no news trucks or professional media photography going on,” you can probably stay. The King family just didn’t want an actual press conference or official event held on this property.”
“Well, the news trucks aren’t here anymore,” Frantz complained. “You guys chased them all away.” Big Government arrived at the King Center at 1:30 p.m. and no news trucks or other professional media except two (other) lone reporters showed up.
US Park Police allowed the activists to remain as a group, but no press conference occurred. One OWS activist from Atlanta who left the city to join the movement in Manhattan last year told Big Government the next phase will be nationwide marches (see Big Government tomorrow for further details).
When the federal police were asked questions about the protestors rights and the King family wishes, one of the officers explained, “We work across the street for the Martin Luther King Historical Site, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Occasionally, the King family asks us to intervene when something happens over here at the Center and we always do what we can to help them out. They didn’t want this happening here today and that was their decision so we’re here now–end of story.”