Sunday, February 10, 2019

Whatever happened to the bells and whistles, pots and pans, bullhorns. . .

. . . protesters chanting slogans, clever signs, colorful papier-mâché costumes, and noisemakers from the dollar store?

The absence of protests here in the City of Lake Worth has the public all over the County asking, “Whatever happened to Lake Worth?”

However, just a few weeks ago on Thursday, January 17th all the pieces looked to be in place for the first protest at City Hall since March 2016! Everyone was excited and a huge crowd showed up at City Hall. Then when the time came the protest fizzled. That potential protest was then downgraded to a “gathering”. Why? Apparently someone from the Palm Beach County Tenants Union (PBCTU) forgot to call the press and news media. It the press and news media don’t show up you can’t have a protest. It’s actually one of the rules.

The good news is there are still thirty (30) days until Election Day on March 12th. So there is still plenty of time.

This little six-square-mile City was once known as ground zero for the protest movement in Palm Beach County. Almost anyone could start a protest for almost any reason. For example, somebody from ‘Food Not Bombs’ upset about development in the Ag Reserve could rally local radical environmentalists (aka, “rads”) and fellow-travelers from places like Ft. Lauderdale and Sarasota, make a few calls to the press and news media, show up outside Lake Worth City Hall one day and . . . Voilà! A protest!

Getting 40–50 supporters to show up and protest used to be the norm here in the L-Dub until about nine years ago.

Below are newspaper clippings, examples of how it used to be, protesters circa 2003–2005 shutting down traffic and climbing up in trees!

It truly is incomprehensible there has not been a protest of any significance in the City of Lake Worth since early January to mid-March 2016, over three years ago!

Sure, there have been a few polite and non-confrontational gatherings at City Hall and at City parks and a couple of well-controlled and well-mannered ‘marches’ from one place to another, but nothing like what happened in Downtown Lake Worth in early 2016.

All the protests and marches ended after the municipal elections on March 8th, 2016. The Election Season in 2017 was quiet. And so was 2018. What gives!

One would think after what happened in November 2016 there would be protests every week here in this little City. But instead . . . it’s been peaceful and quiet. One reason could be partly due to reminding everyone about our City Charter and the holding of non-partisan elections.

Another reason could be the tradition of protesting, shutting down traffic and protesters climbing up into trees went by the wayside after PBSO took over in 2009. PBSO, one could say, is a bit less tolerant of such activities than the former Lake Worth PD was. No doubt law enforcement improved greatly after PBSO took over but the case can also be made it’s become a whole lot less entertaining.

Nine years ago after LWPD merged with PBSO the protests in 2016 were the exception and not the rule.

For example, the former LWPD had their hands full “back in the day” when the news first hit about a structure called the Lucerne in Downtown Lake Worth.

Front page of The Lake Worth Herald
datelined April 10th, 2003.

Click on image to enlarge:

Construction of the Lucerne began in 2003. Despite lawsuits and quite frequent and very creative protests, the structure was completed in 2005.

Now from the archives: Newspaper clippings from The Palm Beach Post and The Lake Worth Herald, protests and protesters circa 2003–2005.

From the Post: An Anarchist suspended from a bamboo tripod being saved by LWPD.

Click on all images to enlarge:

“. . . [W]ho was protesting downtown condominium plans in Lake Worth.” LWPD allowed the protesters a lot of leeway for Free Speech . . . but not when it came to shutting down traffic.

Back then Rodney Romano was the mayor
of Lake Worth.

Clipping from The Lake Worth Herald:

“More than 65 percent of the
condos have been sold.”

Another newspaper clipping from the Post:

“Protester goes out on a limb”: Thankfully our former City horticulturist was trained in
crisis management.

Summertime is always a slow time of year for protesters. Remember, protests are open to the public. So if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to join a protest everyone is welcome to participate. Maybe some time soon the call will go out:

“Hey! Let’s protest like it’s 2016 again!”