Occupy Wall Street demonstrators won a major victory on Friday when Mayor Bloomberg and Brookfield Properties, the owners of New York City’s Zuccotti Park, backed down on their demand that the activists temporarily vacate the park for a cleaning and subsequently abide by new rules banning sleeping bags, much gear and even lying down on the premises.
Demonstrators in numerous other cities weren’t nearly as fortunate. The same morning that New York City activists were cheering their win, dozens of state troopers in riot gear cleared out Occupy Denver protests, and in cities across the country like Phoenix, Boston and Des Moines, Occupy protesters faced police violence, arrests and forcible removal.
At the same time, some legal scholars and activists are arguing that as long as the actions stay peaceful and law-abiding there is no constitutional grounds for removing protesters from public spaces. As a new public letter circulated by RootsAction notes, the only “permit” Occupy protesters need is the First Amendment, which affirms “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In the past year, when people across the Middle East occupied public squares, leaders in Washington cheered them on and warned other governments against using force. (See the video below.) Those other societies didn’t even have a First Amendment to cite. Yet official Washington affirmed the universal right to assembly and protest.
Now, it’s time for the pols to stick up for democracy here in the US. Sign on to RootsAction’s petition to the nation’s mayors and police chiefs affirming your support for the right to unfettered peaceful protest. It’s what made America great.
‘I Am Not Moving’