BayWalk in Downtown St Petersburg Florida was considered the hub of the revitalization of the city. It brought in shops, restaurants, and events that would bring in thousands of patrons a day. And all of this is now gone. In its place is a nearly empty plaza that is begging for its survival. The cause of its demise falls into two categories, the first is public safety and the second is public enjoyment. The plaza became the site of protesters during the day and a hot spot for loitering teenagers at night. This two prong attack created an atmosphere that made the Plaza a less than enjoyable place to visit.
During the day, you would have to walk through protesters to get into the stores or the theater. These protesters ranged from the polite informer to the violent instigator. The instigators would grab people, spit on them and then scream at them. These activities are a turn off to patrons to the Plaza causing many of them to never return.
At night, their greatest threat occurs. Groups of people, usually teenagers, would congregate on the sidewalks and start acting up. Some would horseplay and bump into people walking by, others would victimize people they didn’t like and then some would start situations out of boredom. The police are powerless to stop them since they are on a public right of way and are not committing any crimes at the time. And when they do commit a crime, it is now too late to act.
BayWalk has suggested letting the Security Department deal with these groups, however it would require that the city vacate the sidewalk to their property. It is this proposal that has caught flak by the protest groups as being a violation to their right to free speech. This claim is false, and is primarily a smokescreen for them to protect the most important tool they have to make the news. That tool is harassment.
Claim: The vacation would take away the protesters right to free speech.
Fact: The protesters are being asked to move across the street to protest so as to not block the walkway and sidewalk for pedestrian traffic. This means that they can still be seen and heard, they just can’t be close enough to touch.
Claim: The city would create a precedent to prevent groups from protesting.
Fact: The precedent has already been set by three other annexations in the city as well as the fact that New York City has been annexing sidewalks for over 6 years successfully.
Let’s stop believing in the smoke screen and help bring the BayWalk back to its former self, a business hub in the middle of Downtown St Petersburg. For every day we wait, the more likely they are to lose another tenant, which means people will lose their jobs. In the end, what is the point of the protesters fighting for a sidewalk when there is no one there to use it?
We, the undersigned, have a right to take our families to BayWalk without being harassed, assaulted, insulted, pushed, punched, shot or stabbed and request the City Council takes the steps to protect those rights.
We, the undersigned, have the right to not lose our jobs because of the actions of protesters and loiterers who frighten away our customers. We, the undersigned, have the right to make a living and support our families and request the City Council takes the steps to protect those rights.
We, the undersigned, call on the St Petersburg City Council to put away the politics and take action to protect our nearly $20 million dollar taxpayer investment. We, the undersigned, call on the dissenting voters of the City Council to not make a decision based on their re-election campaign or financial ties to protest groups and decide to protect the once shining jewel of the city.
We, the undersigned, are tired of the YouTube videos, the news articles, and the internet reviews on BayWalk being about crime, violence and protests instead of movies, shopping and eating. We, the undersigned, are ready for the City Council to take the same steps as previous Councils and help St Petersburg recover from this grueling economy and to work with BayWalk to revive Downtown once again.