To give credit where it is due, Comcast was ready when it learned protesters planned to crash its Wednesday-morning shareholders meeting at the Kimmel.
It made a conscious decision to avoid controversy and to not give itself a public-relations black eye, as protesters might have liked.
Trespassing is against the law, and Occupy Philadelphia protesters did take over Comcast’s lobby when that protest was in town. Comcast was pretty patient about it.
That protest reminded me of sit-ins in the offices of college presidents that was all the rage for a while.
I am OK with nonviolent protests like that, up to a point. The point is where you interfere with the lives of other people, the people you are supposedly trying to help. In a democracy there is no need for violent protest – and it is against the law.
On Wednesday (the protesters never really planned to “crash” – and couldn’t under the watchful eyes of police civil affairs squad) a deal was cut: Protesters would be allowed into the lobby while the meeting continued and they would present anti-merger petitions to a Comcast exec. The chosen exec was security director Joe Clancy.
When the doors were opened – I had slipped inside earlier to watch from within in case there was a disturbance – the protesters filed in and Free Press’ Mary Alice Crim presented the petitions to Clancy. It was all very civil.
The few dozen protesters turned and headed to the door but stopped when the Media Mobilizing Project’s Jeff Rousett got on the bullhorn and started giving Comcast a mild form of hell.
This was right outside the walls of the Perelman Theater where the meeting was taking place and was a mild violation of decorum.
I waited to see whether Comcast, the cops or the protesters would blink first. I figured the cops wouldn’t let it go on endlessly and I think Rousett knew that, too. He went on for a few minutes, concluded his amplified remarks with, “We’ll be back,” and departed.
It was a “win” for everyone. Protesters made their point, Comcast let them and avoided bad publicity and freedom of speech was honored.
Regardless of how you feel about Comcast’s proposed merger, its price structure, customer service or anything else, it handled this beautifully.