Siding With Mayor, Judge Rules Against Occupy Wall Street Protesters
A State Supreme Court judge has backed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the owners of Zuccotti Park, saying police had a right to enforce rules that prohibit camping at the park overnight. In the pre-dawn hours, Bloomberg ordered the removal of protesters from the park.
Earlier, another Supreme Court judge had issued a temporary injunction and ruled the protesters could return to the park with tents and sleeping bags.
As we reported, earlier, at issue here was whether the city and owners of the park were imposing "reasonable time, place and manner restrictions," which are permitted under the First Amendment.
In his ruling, Judge Michael D. Stallman said despite being privately owned, for the purposes of this ruling he would assume the owners are bound by the First Amendment. However, he said the protesters had "not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park, along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations to the exclusion of the owner's reasonable rights and duties to maintain Zuccotti Park, or to the rights to public access of others who might wish to use the space safely."
The New York Times' City Room blog reports on the hearing and both sides' arguments:
Alan Levine, one of the civil rights lawyers representing the protesters, said that not allowing the protesters to return with their sleeping bags and tents was akin to stifling their message.
"The power of the symbolic speech resides in the fact that it is a 24-hour occupation," Mr. Levine said in court. "It an essential part of their speech that they are able to protect themselves from the weather."
Despite the protesters' constitutional protections, they were violating the parks' purpose for the public, said Sheryl Neufeld, a lawyer for the city.
"It requires them to maintain it in a manner that is accessible to all, all the time," Ms. Neufeld said. "The protesters took over the park for their own means."