Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free Speech Zone?





Being a reasonably big city, Grand Rapids has its share of folks trying to get your attention and sometimes your money. Salesman, the homeless, street performers and street preachers.

There is one persistent street preacher that I've seen twice this year at big crowds. The first time was at the local Festival of the Arts. He was out with the same sign and a big crowd on a Friday evening. The crowd had to number at least a hundred. There were even 3 or 4 GR police to make sure things didn't get out of hand. I saw him several times that evening, usually in a heated discussion with someone, trying to sell them his brand of religion.

The second time was this past week at the blues concert put on by a local radio station. He was there and once again had attracted a crowd. It was a much smaller crowd, but he was trying to convince them with the same zeal he showed earlier. I passed the crowd several times that evening and it never was very big, especially considering the thousands that were listening to the concert just yards away.

It looks like the radio station finally figured he was a big enough nuisance and tried to kick him out. Several security guards with the radio stations logo on them appeared and asked him to leave. He didn't want to go and they finally called the police, who "convinced" him to leave.

I would consider the area he was in, Rosa Parks circle near the new art museum to be the closest thing the city has to a public commons. The fact that someone can rent it and effectively change it to a private area bothers me.

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