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Groups Want Contractor Who Bulldozed Harpers Ferry Park Sued


    Back in August I recounted an incident in which a contractor bulldozed a 45-foot-wide by 2,000-foot-long swath through a portion of Harper's Ferry National Historic Park so he could lay some utility lines.
    Well, now the Civil War Preservation Trust, the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation want Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to take Jefferson Utilities, Inc., to court.
    The utilities are intended to serve a 3,500-home subdivision being built on the park's boundary. While the contractor holds an easement to the land in question, he apparently failed to obtain permission before proceeding with the work.
    "To ensure that these national treasures are preserved for the use and enjoyment of all Americans, alternations to national park lands must be thoroughly vetted through the NPS's permit process," says Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "In the case of this developer's proposal to alter land at Harper's Ferry, the permit review process was already under way, and it had found overwhelming public concern about the utilities and the thousands of homes they are designed to facilitate.
     "Rather than abide by that process and honor whatever recommendation the NPS would eventually issue, we are concerned that the developer in this case willfully and knowingly violated the NPS permit process. If so, this is a deliberate disregard of the safeguards we have in place that protect our nation's historic treasures."
    After the bulldozing occurred, a search of the land turned up several historic artifacts.
    "The discovery of these artifacts suggests that additional historic remains likely were destroyed when the contracts removed dirt and debris from the Perry Orchard Tract," says Joy Oakes, the NPCA's mid-Atlantic senior regional director. "Interior officials must send a clear message that such deliberate illegal actions will not be tolerated on lands held in trust for all Americans."
    You can read the groups' letter to Dirk here.


Okay, the essay is written, drawing upon a lot said here but hopefully better written and therefore more coherently expressed: "Why KKK speech is not free speech"

But, the very notion of a "national park" is by itself a "political" use; it is a political boundary set aside for a particular purpose. It would be all the more ironic for such a prohibition at Harper's Ferry! I think what you are proposing is perhaps the only one I've heard worse than allowing the Klan to speak because the power of the government is just that much more overwhelming. I don't understand what's so hard about the principle, especially as it relates to the Ku Klux Klan. Speech that is actually used as a tool of oppression shouldn't be allowed by the National Park Service, by you, or by me, whether it disturbs our vacations or not. Speech that is simply speech, however hateful or seemingly inappropriate, should generally be allowed, even at times to the detriment of our vacations. Of course, this opens up a whole load of other issues, but I'll save them for the time being. I'm working on my own essay related to the controversy here. Jim

...and no POLITICAL use...the reason for the assembly should be related to the individual park mission...visitors on their summer vacation should not have to be confronted with mobs of angry people or those with a political agenda.

A simple solution would be to deny permits to any group unless their reason for assembly is park-related. No "protests" of any kind should be allowed.

Kurt, your point is well taken. Your comment gives me good insight to my after thoughts.

My point has been that the KKK is not simply being opposed on the grounds of the content of their speech but the actual application of their speech toward oppression. They don't just speak nonsense; I have no problem with a bunch of idiots like Free Republic being allowed to speak. They wield no influence at all with their hate speech. I do have a problem with the KKK, which parades with the intention to intimidate others who have no reason to be shut up from speaking. I also have a problem, bringing us back to the original intent of this thread, the government applying restrictions on free access inconsistently, allowing an abuse of speech but not allowing an abuse of a blank check assertion of property rights. I furthermore have a problem with the government applying their free speech rules based on a permit and zoning process. That's the wrong criteria on which to limit speech. The Park Service and other law enforcement groups have managed speech as a security concern and set up security guidelines that trump freedom; they however do not base it on the way the speech is used (or not typically - they actually do; they are much harsher toward political speech than they are other kinds of speech). When it comes to the Klan, it's not at all subjective, and it's not a matter of "not liking." Oppression isn't merely an "eye of the beholder" issue. Rape and murder, for instance, are clear individual acts of oppression. Slavery is one. And, so too are racism and sexism. And, there may be all kinds of ridiculous people who have ideas that rape, murder, slavery, racism, and sexism are okay. It sucks, but people are no danger except to themselves for being wrong. When they however do more than express their ideas but use the platform of those ideas as an explicit act of power and aggression, then it's a problem. When the state apparatus supports them by driving them to their area and harrassing those who came to speak out against them, that also is a problem. I can't say anything at this moment how it relates to Hamilton, Madison, or Stalin, none of whom are heroes of mine, but I can say that the support of a government in the aid of oppression is monstrous and should be opposed and spoken out against - and that speech should be allowed. There's a big difference between an anti-war protest (though the ones on the mall might as well be social carnivals - but that's my own personal lament) on the Mall, speaking out and taking action against state-sponsored aggression, and a Klan rally whose sole purpose is the intimidation of those people whom the Klan hates. The first supports a society where freedom can thrive; the second is contradictory to it. Jim

Oh, I don't know, Snowbird, I think I'd have to side with Kath. Do we really want the government to say what is and what isn't free speech? Certainly there are laws in place to deal with inciting a riot and shouting "fire" in a theater. Kent State truly was tragic, a dark spot on our history. But I'd hate to think we need to edit speech before we hear it for fear of the ramifications of that speech. That, quite frankly, would be censorship. As for how pertinent this discussion is to national parks, I think it's fitting, not only in light of Harper's Ferry's turbulent history (ie. John Brown and his fight to end slavery) but because events such as the KKK march are, like it or not, part of our evolving history and, in this case, the march was conducted on park ground.

Kath, what happened at Kent State?... a peaceful march and demonstration...then choas! A peaceful demonstration that went amuck after the National Guard started shooting at students...I think suppression was acted here! Besides, I thought Kurts blog was about the NPS, unless I'm missing point here.

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