So, last Friday afternoon I had to run an errand to the Paper Mill and as I’ve done so many times in the past I walked by the weekly anti-war demonstration which takes place at the sidewalk in front of the mini-mall.  The demonstration took place at the curb, but on the sidewalk behind them were a couple of very angry women trying to sell rocks and gems.  By the time I arrived the conflict had been well under way, and the rock sellers were screaming obscenities and such, and showing impressive stamina in a constant barrage of noise.

The dispute:  the demonstrators have been there for years.  They had been at a spot closer to All-Sport, but it was a small portion of the sidewalk between the driveway entrances to the mini-mall’s small parking lot.  Sometimes the demonstrators tended to wander into the driveways and so they were asked to move over to the stretch of sidewalk between the mall and the gas station, where they’ve been for some time.

Enter a couple of women who have been selling rocks at the same location on weekends, and decided to expand their time to Fridays.  They were there when the first demonstrators arrived, and the demonstrators set up right in front of them.

Dilemma:  The rock sellers were there first on Friday, but the demonstrators have been there for many years.  The rock sellers say that the demonstration is preventing them from doing business (although the yelling may have played a role, and I’d be curious to see if they sold rocks in its absence).  The demonstrators deny that they’re interfering in any way, and they are not blocking the foot traffic, which they argue is where the rock sellers will make their money anyway.  But really, it comes down to which takes precedence as an issue – who arrived first on the day in question, or who has been using the same space at the same day and time for years.

The Sheriff was called twice, the second time because one of the rock-selling women thought she saw one of the demonstrators smoking marijuana.  The second time around the Sheriff deputy was a little short with the rock seller, saying “I have better things to do with my time.”

Certainly either group could move, but it is the most visible spot in town from vehicles.  Who’s right and why?  Kind of like a real life Socratic ethics exercise of the sort we used to get in high school back in the 1970s (“you only have one spare heart and the potential donees are a pregnant mom, 14 year old talented musician, a brain surgeon at the dawn of his career, etc.”).

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