Thursday, April 19, 2012

Occupy Wall Street Moves To Federal Hall Steps Across From Wall Street

Federal Hall, the site of the swearing in of the first president of the United States George Washington. On Wednesday the NYPD divided the Federal Hall steps, and barricaded Occupy Wall Street to one side by installing metal barricades. (Photos: (Anna Hiatt /Gothamist)


Since Occupy Wall Street protesters were removed from their sidewalk sleeping space across the street from the NYSE, they have relocated themselves to the steps of Federal Hall several feet away, according to gothamist.

The situation has devolved into a strained tug-of-war between the demonstrators and the NYPD and the U.S. Parks Police, with each side at odds over the right to protest, the residents nearby, and Federal Hall, which sits on federal property. According to a Parks Police officer standing in front of Federal Hall, the barricades now bisecting the steps belong to the NYPD and were placed there with the permission of the Parks Police.

"They said this is the 'protest side' and that is the 'non-protest side,' " demonstrator Jo Robin said. "What is it about what we're saying that puts us in this box?"

A permit is required to hold events and demonstrations with more than 25 people. The Park Service offered the protesters one on Monday night, and even offered to waive the fee. But the demonstrators refused, and some expressed a desire to force the federal government to choose whether or not to remove them.

"There's no question that the Park Service can waive any permitting process that they think applies, and I don't think the NYPD would have a say in that," NYCLU associate legal director Chris Dunn tells us. "But clearly those steps aren't an NYPD-free enforcement zone. If they see anyone violate the law they can arrest them."

Dunn says people routinely stand or sit on the steps at all hours of the day without any issue, but that is generally not considered an "event," which requires a permit. On Monday, protesters were told they could not "sleep" or "camp" on the stairs, and Robin says she was told last night that if she fell asleep, Parks Police would "remove, but not arrest me."

As night fell, about 100 protesters gathered on the steps of Federal Hall, singing songs and chanting.
The night before about 100 protesters gathered on the steps of Federal Hall, singing songs and chanting. Some people who said they lived in the neighborhood also gathered on Wall Street, some of them yelling and cursing at the protesters. Several protesters were arrested shortly thereafter, including one who an officer said was making excessive noise. (Photo: Michael Appleton for The New York Times)

A dispatcher for the U.S. Parks Police office based in New York told us that their office has yet to issue a statement regarding the barricades, and that his superior was downtown monitoring the situation. As of this writing, there are around a half-dozen U.S. Park Police officers and a dozen NYPD officers monitoring Federal Hall.

Regarding the arrests of some protesters for unreasonable noise, Dunn says this is consistent with city law. "I don't know of any 10:00 p.m. cutoff, and city sound ordinances limit times when permits can be, and these protesters don't seem to have a permit. The NYPD make a judgement call about whether or not the noise is unreasonable, and they have a lot of discretion, which can be a problem in some instances."

Also unclear is the NYPD's justification for forcing protesters off the sidewalk in the first place, given a federal court ruling in 2000 that allows sleeping on half of the sidewalk as a form of political speech. According to the Times' Colin Moynihan, police told two protesters who tried to sit down on the sidewalk on Broad Street that it was a "high security area," and that they couldn't be there. Shortly after, they were arrested.

Additional reporting by Anna Hiatt

NYPD Divides Federal Hall Steps, Barricading Occupy Wall Street To One Side

gothamist - April 18, 2012 - By Christopher Robbins

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