John Wisor doesn't own East 11th Street. He doesn't own Mound Street, either.
In fact, the proprietor of the bar and restaurant 11th Street Precinct owns none of the sidewalks and public right-of-ways in East Village.
They belong to the taxpayers of Davenport, regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation.
Wisor clearly forgot high school civics on Friday when, onlookers allege, he erupted into a gay slur-ridden tirade aimed at volunteers setting up Davenport's first Pride Week festivities.
Wisor's alleged comments might be what brought attention to the row in East Village, hateful smears that several witness claimed he yelled. Wisor is free to say whatever he likes, so long as it doesn't threaten, harass or defame. Hate speech is protected speech and, no matter how offensive or small-minded, it's every American's duty to defend Wisor's right to make a fool of himself, should the numerous accounts prove accurate. But everyone enjoys those same rights and nowhere does the First Amendment shield Wisor from the public scorn and financial damage he brought upon himself with his outburst.
Wisor's sense of privilege is the real issue here.
Wisor offered many excuses when Quad-City Times columnist Barb Ickes interviewed him about Friday's fracas. He didn't feel included in the planning, he said. The city didn't meet his demands for 20 police officers on site throughout the festivities, he complained. Volunteers dared erect portable toilets and an HIV testing tent on the street outside his business, he squawked.
It was those portable johns — placed on public property in the vicinity of his bar — that drove him to freak out on Pride Week volunteers.
Wisor's many excuses are neither believable nor justify his behavior on Friday that resulted in a police response. City officials held meetings with East Village businesses throughout the planning process. Police were on site during Friday night's kickoff. And, frankly, the portable toilets had to be placed somewhere.
It's also notable that just this past month, Wisor permitted parking during the Kwik Star Criterium. For Pride Week, his lots were taped off.
Either due to prejudice or business interests, Pride Week didn't meet Wisor's personal standards. And he stained an event celebrating the expansion of American rights — the inaugural event in Davenport — with a meltdown.
These are the actions of a man who, due to his wealth, is accustomed to getting his own way. Yet, no matter how many deeds in East Village Wisor holds, he does not own its public right-of-ways. He cannot lord over who walks on its sidewalks. He cannot dictate who drives on its streets. And he does not have the unilateral authority to decide what class of people are fit to throw a party in East Village.
It's this basic tenet of public property that should overrule Wisor's demand that East Village businesses — not Davenport's elected officials — determine who can hold a festival there. No doubt, Pride Week's 11th-hour move to East Village was a bit of a rush job after a vehicle plowed into the original location, Mary's on 2nd. But nowhere in the city charter does it say that East Village is reserved for straight, moneyed white folk with 2.5 children and a minivan.
Handing over permitting power to the likes of Wisor would be tantamount to city-sanctioned segregation.
Due to his wealth and force of personality, Wisor is used to wielding outsized influence. And that might fly within the confines of his businesses or in meetings of East Village business associations. But whether he likes it or not, Wisor's property is within the city of Davenport, where about 100,000 citizens also have a say.
And it's that fact which Wisor clearly couldn't handle.