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Johnson City’s ‘Protest Park’

Johnson City Press • Nov 14, 2018 at 10:35 AM

We’ve lost count of how many demonstrations have taken place at Founders Park.

Since the park opened in 2014, activists have gravitated there for rallies, candlelight vigils, memorials and marches. Medical marijuana, civil rights, gun control, immigration, gender equity, politics — it’s all been voiced along the banks of Brush Creek.

If you have a cause to promote, Founders is the place for you.

Most recently, Democrats used the park to protest President Donald Trump’s firing of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions amid the Russian election meddling investigation.

Some have even quipped that the park’s name should be changed to “Protest Park.”

With its spacious amphitheater, ample open lawn and adjacent pavilion, Founders is the perfect outdoor gathering spot for anything involving a crowd — festivals, concerts, food truck rallies, you name it. From Blue Plum to Meet the Mountains, Johnson City has taken full advantage of its potential.

And every day of the week, the park draws walkers, joggers, pet lovers, yoga enthusiasts, exercise groups and picnickers from sunup to sundown and beyond.

Interestingly, the park actually was built as an element in the city’s downtown stormwater mitigation program — a way to curb Brush Creek from deluging downtown businesses during heavy storms. The recreational aspect is a bonus. Downtown’s economic health has benefited from its presence from day one.

Talk about getting bang for buck.

The fact that activists have found a hot spot in Founders Park is part of that bang.

The town square is part of the American experience. Having a place where people can peacefully assemble to express their points of view is an essential element of our democratic process. Unfortunately, demonstrations — even festivals — can come with security concerns, and police have been required to help keep the peace. It’s to Johnson City’s credit that Founders events have gone largely unmarred.

Regardless of whether you agree with the positions of those voicing their opinions, you should be glad Johnson City has its new town square of sorts in Founders. We all gain from the free flow of ideas.

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