The birthplace of Occupy Wall Street lives on! And so does the anger surrounding the infamous eviction of protestors back in November.
Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a brief with the city’s Criminal Court arguing that Brookfield Properties, the owner of Zuccotti Park, had no legal authority to exclude people from the public space where OWS got its start.
This latest action is on behalf of demonstrator Ronnie Nunez, who was arrested in Zuccotti Park on November 15th — after allegedly refusing to leave the park when the campsite was evicted at Brookfield’s request. The NYCLU, in its brief, is arguing that Brookfield could not legally evict the occupiers the way it did last year. When private owners agree to create public spaces like Zuccotti Park, they give up their right to treat them as private spaces, the NYCLU says. (A zoning permit granted in 1968 established Zuccotti Park as a “permanently open park” for “the public benefit.”)
But the prosecution, in its papers filed against Nunez, argues that Brookfield Properties was allowed to withdraw its permission for the public to be in Zuccotti Park, and that it had done so prior to the eviction.
“We think that the city zoning [law] is pretty clear and unambiguous,” NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass, who is the brief’s primary author, told Runnin’ Scared this afternoon.
“One of the things that the Occupy Wall Street movement reaffirmed is the importance of …public space,” he said, noting that while social media has played an increasing role in protests and demonstrations, the actions at Zuccotti emphasized the impact of demonstrating in physical, public spaces.
As Occupy trudges onward, NYCLU wants to help make sure that public areas are actually available for protests and free speech, Pendergrass said. “We want to ensure that in the future people won’t be prosecuted for merely being present in a space like Zuccotti…after the private owner unilaterally decides to kick them out.”
The group says that as a space dedicated to public use, it is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
And the advocates are going to keep the pressure on, Pendergrass said. “Zuccotti is going to continue to play that role, whether related to Occupy Wall Street, the presidential elections, or one of the other hundreds of issues people care about.”
Runnin’ Scared left a message with Brookfield Properties — we’ll update if we hear back.
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