Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Protest welcome, just no tents

The tent city in New York City's Zuccotti Park, maybe more commonly known now as Liberty Square was dismantled on the 59th day of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Protestors were surprised around 1:00a.m when police dressed in military style riot gear arrived unannounced and and encircled the park.  "I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world," Mayor Bloomberg later said.

Those inhabiting the park were handed the notice shown below and given an hour to vacate the premises.  Afterwards, sanitation workers cleared the space private belongings, discarding them into dump trucks.

On the eviction Bloomberg argued, "the first amendment protects speech, it does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space."  Protesters may return to the park after it is cleaned, but this time without the tents and sleeping bags. "Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments," said Bloomberg.

Is a tent protected speech?  The morning following the eviction one judge said yes, offering a temporary restraining order prohibiting the eviction.  Lawyers from Brookfield Properties and lawyers representing Occupy Wall Street spent the rest of the day in court fighting over the meaning of a tent.  By the end, it was decided that the eviction was in fact justified.

Tents are typically seen as a symbol of poverty (when not used for recreational purposes), but maybe more appropriately in this case as symbols of civil disobedience.  Regardless, their presence in the city always seems to perplex the public, resulting in contentious debate.  Several other cities are now moving to clear Occupy encampments that they had once accepted and it appears the movement will have to move forward without these awe-inspiring spectacles.

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