Friday, July 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Philly rips a page from the George W. Bush playbook

"Free speech zones" at City Hall? No thank you.

Philly rips a page from the George W. Bush playbook

Chris Christie hasn't crowded out every other news story in the world:

But one slide in a March 2011 Center City District presentation, overlooked until now, would certainly have given protesters pause: On City Hall’s north side, there is a plan for a “Speakers’ Corner,” riffing on the original in London’s Hyde Park.

“The design of the Plaza contemplates incorporating a ‘Free Speech Zone’ on the north apron of City Hall, much like the area on Independence Mall designated for the exercise of free speech,” Paul Levy, CEO of the Center City District, wrote in an e-mail. “We are seeking to balance all related interests with the programming and public events that will occur with great frequency in this renewed public space.”

Could their possibly be a more Orwellian turn of phrase than "free speech zones", which flourished in the Bush-Cheney years? Call me naive, but I always thought there was one giant free speech zone called the U.S. of A.

Back in 2011, I was actually at the press event where city officials initially said that Occupy Philadelphia would be allowed to set up shop on Dilworth Plaza, and they involked the city's long, cherished tradition of free speech. Just weeks later they were conspiring with other cities to shut down Occupy (and arrest, without justification, its participants) so I guess basically we believe in unfettered free speech, but only for a few weeks until we get bored. Having a speaker's corner like London's Hyde Park is a jolly good idea -- but there's only one free speech zone in this city...and it stretches from the Delaware to City Line Avenue.

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About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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