The campsite constructed by fringe-left Occupy Columbus protesters in front of the Ohio Statehouse may soon fall under stricter rules, according to a City of Columbus official. Occupy Columbus has been paying to maintain a city sidewalk permit since October of 2011, although the “occupation” site has frequently been unoccupied.
The city’s right-of-way code “was originally set up for construction permits and did not deal with all of the other types of organizations that might request a permit in the right-of-way,” said Columbus Department of Public Service Assistant Director Rick Tilton in response to a Media Trackers inquiry. During the past several months Occupy Columbus has been allowed to leave unattended tents, tables, garbage cans, and scaffolding on the High Street sidewalk.
“Rules aren’t as stringent regarding occupation of this area because the area to be permitted would normally fall under construction and not [be] used for political messaging,” Tilton told Media Trackers. “We have been working on updating our code to rectify this situation.”
While Columbus officials review the city law governing right-of-way permits, Occupy Columbus leaders continue using the group’s Facebook page as a clearinghouse for socialist propaganda, including this May 27 graphic suggesting the violent overthrow of capitalism:
On June 5, an Occupy Columbus leader posted a political cartoon calling for the release of convicted domestic terrorist Oscar López Rivera, accompanied by the comment “Free all political prisoners!” Rivera is serving a 70-year sentence for his involvement with the Puerto Rican separatist group FALN and a subsequent prison escape plot. Rivera declined the reduced sentence offered to him by President Bill Clinton when Clinton pardoned the FALN terrorists in 1999.
Occupy Columbus leader Jesse Kloth, a self-proclaimed socialist who goes by the name “VerbZ Vegas” online, complained on June 7 via Twitter of “Chicken shits @ tiptop scared of real talk of revolution,” presumably referring to Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails in downtown Columbus. Kloth has publicly fantasized about violence against rich people in addition to expressing anger at the lack of “revolution,” and appears to be one of few Occupiers actually using the sidewalk space permitted to Occupy Columbus.
Occupy Columbus is issued a permit “to hand out literature,” but the site in front of the Statehouse generally serves as a vacant street-level billboard for the causes favored by ProgressOhio, the far-left group that hosted Occupy Columbus meetings and sent a staff member to coordinate with Occupy Columbus from November 2011 through mid-March 2012.
Internal complaints from Columbus Police officers and Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board staff — to say nothing of red flags from Kloth and other members – suggest removal of the Occupy Columbus tent is long overdue.