Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Columnist Bob Tis: Enjoying a tolerant, cosmopolitan city on a Saturday morning

In response to Bob's question in this excellent column, I would say it became thattaway since June 7, 2005, when a federal court ordered Rainbow flags to fly on our Bridge of Lions June 8-13, 2005, in a major First Amendment and GLBT rights victory grounded in Gay history here, including the first anti-Gay hate crime in American history (1566, on orders of founding murderer PEDRO MENENDEZ de AVILES. Ever since 2005, activists have been activating and winning, empowered by David v. Goliath odds and winning victory after victory, more than 64 and counting. Keep asking questions, demanding answers and expecting democracy.

Posted April 24, 2017 12:01 am
By BOB TIS Smooth Sailin’
SMOOTH SAILIN’: Enjoying a tolerant, cosmopolitan city on a Saturday morning

1 Comment

Don’t get me wrong. I am not campaigning for a seat on the Tourist Development Council. But I would like to share a brief story about how cool we are as a collective community.

We go slow in Treasure Beach. While the crack of dawn signals hustle and bustle in many neighborhoods, we sort of ease into the day the way molasses crawls uphill on a cool morning in my hood. Especially on the weekends.

So when one of our neighbors rang the bell and said we needed to attend the Indivisible St. Johns County “Show Us Your Taxes” event on a Saturday morning in the middle of downtown St. Augustine, there was considerable consternation. It was just the usual balderdash in attempt to avoid anything strenuous. “Where will we park?” “What should I wear?” My concern was where we were going to have lunch because there was no time for eggs and bacon on this beautiful Saturday morning. No. We would be hustling up our folding chairs, filling water bottles and eating bananas in the car on the way to this political event.

Well, sometimes the universe just provides. We found a legal, free parking space just a short walk from the Plaza de la Constitucion. There was a buzz in the air. People had some pretty creative signs imploring President Trump to release his tax returns. The Peacenik band, a political offshoot of Lonesome Burt’s ensemble, was killing it from the bandstand in the plaza. This wasn’t a protest, it was a love-in. There were some speeches, which were mostly lost on me. One friend had some bumper stickers printed up. One said “Facts Matter” and the other just read “Resist.” He was giving them away. There was a sign explaining that if you did want to contribute, he would buy even more bumper stickers and give them away. I remember clearly the face of a well-dressed man I did not know. He put a $20 bill in my hand for the bumper sticker man. I told him that was too much. “No,” he said. “This is important.”

There were a lot of people in the park. But probably more tourists on St. George Street. At one point during the rally a guy in a red truck began driving around the plaza. He had erected a large sign in the flatbed of his truck. It read something to the effect of, “Trump pays more taxes than all of you Jack Rabbits put together.” A guy behind him had an American flag and a sign on his truck that said, “Get over it, Trump won.”

Even some of the more grizzled protesters smiled at these two guys. They had their point and certainly their right to free speech, which includes making fun of old hippies. As the event wound down the band came back for their rendition of a Jesse Colin Young classic. They got everybody singing, “C’mon people now, everybody get together, we got to love one another right now.” It was a beautiful morning. Everybody was smiling, even the guys in the trucks. The dappled light played through our big oaks made the park seem like a wonderland. Imagine just 50 years and change ago Andrew Young was getting beat up right there just because of his skin color. Maybe we have figured something out over the past few decades.

It was really time for lunch after all this heavy political lifting so we braved the crowds on St. George Street. We found a new place just off the main drag. It wasn’t crowded and we were able to sit outside, drink Arnold Palmers and feast on some perfectly fried butterfly shrimp.

On the other side of the country, in Berkeley, a similar event was playing out in a regrettable way. Rival protesters were scuffling, there was tear gas and arrests. Conversely, we were discussing ideas and enjoying the architecture from a streetside cafe. I am not sure exactly when St. Augustine became the Paris of the American South, but the people and the place certainly wear it well.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.


Thank you Mr Tis. You nailed the spirit of the Tax Day Rally by Indivisible St Johns. In light of the violence the previous week in Jax, 35 of our members underwent professional peacekeepers training in advance to mitigate any disturbances. It worked perfectly. And little St Augustine turned out over 200 people on the Saturday before Easter in a beautiful but crowded little town. Kudos for capturing the spirit of the day. We got over 200 postcards signed to mail to Mr Trump demanding release of his taxes, with hundreds more signed and sent since then. And who doesn't love the Peaceniks?

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