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.'"
Update at 6:39 p.m. ET. Live From The Park:
Tim Pool, of the The Other 99 Percent, which has been covering the protests is live-streaming from the park using his cell phone. You can find his stream here. While it's unedited and raw, it gives you a feel of what's going on at the park.
Update at 6:27 p.m. ET. What's Next?:
The Nation talked to a few of the protesters outside of the courthouse, earlier today. They spoke to 31-year-old Alejandro Varela who had this to say about the future of Occupy Wall Street:
"Varela explained that physical space was a crucial factor in Occupy Wall Street's ability to attract supporters. 'We're reclaiming the commons. These parks were designed as places to talk, to share ideas, perhaps over a meal.' He added that the location of Zuccotti Park in the financial district gave it a chance to send its message directly toward its intended recipient: Wall Street. 'We disrupted
"business as usual" by being there,' he said. 'We were a reminder that what Wall Street does is negative society.'
"But with or without the park, most Occupy supporters do not appear ready to back down from the momentum the movement has gained through laborious organization, ongoing outreach and visible public actions. 'No one piece of this movement is indispensable, except people—not even the park,' said Varela. 'We need people most of all. Without the park, we'll just have to be more creative.'"
Update at 6:16 p.m. ET. The New Rules:
The New York Civil Liberties Union is keeping tabs on what the new rules of the park are. The organization is tweeting @nyclu and they report:
So we have it confirmed from a white shirt that folks can stay the night, as long as no tent or sleeping bag
No musical instruments either now. They rejected an accordion and guitar
People are being denied entry because of "large" bags. One guy rejected for having a football.
Update at 6:08 p.m. ET. Park Re-Opens:
Mayor Bloomberg announced that Zuccotti Park is now reopen. Protesters are allowed back in, but they can't camp out. The mayor released a statement that read in part:
"The court's ruling vindicates our position that First Amendment rights do not include the right to endanger the public or infringe on the rights of others by taking over a public space with tents and tarps. The City has the ultimate responsibility to protect public health and safety and we will continue to ensure that everyone can express themselves in New York City. Zuccotti Park will remain open to all who want to enjoy it, as long as they abide by the park's rules."