The Rev. Bruce Wright, who spent weeks opposing the proposal, yelled: “You are so full of (expletive) it is ridiculous.”A St. Petersburg City Council meeting turned into fist fight after two men began arguing after council members voted to cede the public sidewalk fronting BayWalk to its owners. Supporters insisted the BayWalk and downtown’s economic health complex could not recover unless the sidewalk was closed to loitering teenagers, panhandlers and demonstrators. BayWalk’s retail space is about 70 percent vacant, and the remaining tenants had threatened to leave if the sidewalk was not made private. BayWalk’s owners had promised to pump $6 million in improvements into the center if given the sidewalk.
Frederick Dudley, who is the older brother of council member Bill Dudley and who had been in favor of the idea, screamed back: “Why don’t you move?” Then Frederick Dudley, 76, and Ronald Deaton, 61, a free speech activist, briefly traded insults before Dudley rushed Deaton. Both grabbed each other by the neck and tumbled to the ground in a flurry of punches. Both men were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
Why this post, this fight is not confined to city councilmen. This attitude has worked into daily discussion about, you guessed it…OBAMA. America has seen a rise in intense debate from opponents and proponents of all issues. This case was about a “sidewalk,” many are about health town hall meeting, some about protesting. Is this the future of debate? Has Obama’s win changed the face of free speech? Who is the blame here?
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