On September 1st, 2011, activists organizing the upcoming September 17th Occupy Wall Street action decided they would test law enforcement response by spending the night on Wall Street “in a peaceful demonstration to confirm their Constitutional rights.”
Below is a video produced by Occupy Wall Street’s Arts Committee:
The nine activists were arrested for legally and peaceably assembling on a public sidewalk. According to a 2000 federal ruling, the use of
“public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression” is allowed on public sidewalks in New York City as long as you do not block pedestrians. See METROPOLITAN COUNCIL, INC., Plaintiff, -against- HOWARD SAFIR, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, et al., June 12, 2000 [99 F. Supp. 2d 438; 2000 U.S. Dist.]
It must be stressed that the NYPD violated these activists’ rights by arresting and detaining them. Furthermore, no permit is necessary for a prolonged assembly on a public sidewalk. The only prohibition is that there be no camping (i.e. use of tents) because that would obviously impede pedestrian travel. I’ve noticed, especially on the event sponsor’s website, encouragement to bring a tent to the event. Setting up tents is not a good idea.
The sense from one of the activists present was that the police didn’t want to arrest them, and that the order to detain them came from a higher source. This cannot be fully confirmed, and should be considered speculation, although it certainly isn’t far-fetched considering the very high probability that organizers are under surveillance (via US Day of Rage):
Citizens have been prevented from exercising their right to peaceable assemble in New York City because the force established to serve and protect civil society, the NYPD, has become a counter-intel paramilitary force. CIA training has turned their operations into one of the “most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies“. Just last week the New York’s police commissioner confirmed that a CIA officer is even working out of police headquarters.
The arrests and detentions, however, raise more questions: will the NYPD have the audacity to violate protestors rights en masse when they begin their occupation? And as Alexa O’ Brien (@carwinb), an organizer for US Day of Rage astutely pointed out to me, on a wider public relations level, can Mayor Bloomberg afford to be seen as defending Wall Street criminals from peaceful, justified public outrage at the American financial elite? The occupation will no doubt draw attention to the fact that no one on Wall Street has been prosecuted yet for crimes committed against Main Street. In addition, using taxpayer-funded police to defend major financial institutions, many of which pay absolutely nothing in taxes, is hard to justify.
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