A New York Supreme Court Justice has upheld the order evicting protesters from Zuccotti Park, saying that while protesters can assemble to protest, they do not have a Constitutional right to camp out in the privately-owned park.
Protesters will be allowed to return but Justice Michael Stallman found the city, at least for now, can legally ban protesters from camping in tents and sleeping bags at the park between Wall Street and the World Trade Center under reconstruction in lower Manhattan.
Earlier in the day, attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild secured a temporary restraining order from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings, a veteran of the ACLU who normally handles real estate cases.
That order said authorities were prohibited from “preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents and other property previously utilized,” but the city challenged the order.
Reuters adds that officials were going to let protesters return without their tents and other belongings, but held off when they received word of the court challenge.
In his decision, Stallman wrote that protesters did not show they had a right to stay “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.”
“Even protected speech is not equally permissible in all places and at all times,” he added.
The ruling means that if activists want to protest in the park, they must abide by park regulations, which forbid overnight camping.
“We’re very disappointed,” said Daniel Alterman, an attorney representing the protesters, but Mayor Bloomberg praised Stallman’s ruling and said the park would remain open to those who obeyed the rules.
“Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others,” the Mayor said.
“The majority of protesters have been peaceful and responsible. But an unfortunate minority has not been – and as the number of protesters has grown, this has created an intolerable situation,” he added.
Protesters have been camped out in Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17.
Aaron Black, one of the leaders of the protest, told the New York Times that while their First Amendment rights were being protected, their right to assemble has been severely compromised, adding that protesters may look for another “public-private” space to “occupy.”
“I didnt’t just want to be a park occupier,” he said,”I want to change laws. I don’t have a problem with the tents not being here, but it’s the way the executed it. It was wrong.”
Police cleared the camp early Tuesday morning.
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