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Lawyers for Occupy Wall Street wade through 'legal morass' of First Amendment rights at Zuccotti Park
In the past, the fact that the park is privately owned but mandated to be open to the public 24 hours a day, has made it a relatively simple matter for city authorities and the private owners to treat the ongoing protest as a hot potato. The city regularly issues statements supporting the First Amendment rights of the protesters, and pointing out that any attempt to remove them from the park would be at the behest of Brookfield.
But the question whether there can be a First Amendment claim on behalf of the protesters that could keep them there despite efforts by the city or the owners of the park to remove them is a murky one, lawyers researching the case on behalf of the protesters said in interviews with Capital.
"We’re researching it as we speak," civil rights attorney Margaret Ratner Kunstler, who is working with the Guild on behalf of protesters, said.(2)
Brookfield's chief executive officer Richard Clark said a woman complained to the company that she had been "verbally abused in front of her 5-year-old child" and "that she had a package stolen from her as she tried to cross the Park." He also said the area was unsanitary.
"In light of this." Clark wrote, "we are again requesting the assistance of the New York City Police Department to help clear the Park so that we can undertake work at the earliest possible time. We will defer to the Department's judgement on how best to accomplish this, but the Department intervention is necessary both to ensure our ability to comply with our obligations as owners and to make the Park safe for the neighborhood and public."(19)
The end-game at Zuccotti Park? According to the NYPD, the landlord has to 'push the political button'
In public statements, the park's owners have gently suggested to the city that it is past time to restore the space to its normal use, and has posted signs in the park objecting to the sleeping bags, tarps, and use of benches as beds throughout the space by Occupy Wall Street protesters.
But they've stopped there, according to a representative of the New York Police Department who attended a community board meeting last night. He said that Brookfield Properties would have to formally declare the protesters trespassers. It's something the real-estate company hasn't yet done, but when and if it does, it is likely to result in the clearing of the park by police.(3)