August 09, 2006
It's Time For Leadership In Southampton
The situation in Southampton Village has gotten out of hand.
Every Saturday morning demonstrators who are opposed to the massive influx of illegal immigrants to our shores square off against scores of Latinos — many of whom legally live and work here.
Emotions, understandably, run high on both sides, and the situation is exacerbated by outside agitators who don't belong here.
Understandably, this has become a huge embarrassment to Southampton Village. It is unsightly, it is ugly, and especially now at the height of the tourist season, a black eye for a village that prides itself on its quaint charm.
We understand it is a headache for the police and village government, but that said, there is an embarrassing lack of leadership coming out of village hall and a number of situations where the police are making unilateral decisions that seem to be based on what is the least amount of work for them.
Make no mistake — this is a powder keg waiting to explode, and when it does, the blame will be placed squarely on those who let the situation get out of hand.
What is needed is leadership. The mayor and village board should issue strict directives concerning the demonstrators' rights, responsibilities, what will be tolerated and what won't be.
Permits should be issued that strictly define parameters, and if they are violated, permits should be revoked. Those who gather without a permit should be dispersed.
There needs to be an overwhelming police presence: those who harass need to be taken downtown and charged, on the spot. Those who put signs in the faces of people trying to get a cup of coffee should be cited. There should be no tolerance of any kind shown to either side.
The village is to blame for allowing the laborers to gather for so many months, creating large crowds where none existed and creating a place for those with opposing views to vent.
Let's face it: the situation at 7-Eleven was way out of control for far too long, and now a backlash has started that is equally over-the-top.
Let's put these asinine demonstrations to bed by using existing village laws, a strong police presence, and most of all by getting those gathered on the street off it and into a meeting hall where ideas can be exchanged and opposing views vented in a civil manner.