Turns out City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez was not “resisting arrest” or “obstructing governmental administration” on the day of the infamous clearing of Zuccotti Park in November when the New York Police Department raided Occupy Wall Street at the height of its protests.
Or at least those charges have been dropped — nearly five months after he was first arrested.
Rodriguez, who represents parts of Upper Manhattan and has become a loud voice for Occupy Wall Street, was arrested on November 15th in the dramatic early morning eviction of OWS’s camp city in Zuccotti Park.
The news this morning comes on the heels of new action in another legal battle tied to that pivotal day for OWS: The New York Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of one protester, argued in Criminal Court last week that the city and the private owners of the public park did not have a right to shut down the park and kick people out. The city has said that the owners and the NYPD are legally allowed to implement rules and restrictions in Zuccotti — which is zoned as a public space but is owned by Brookfield Properties.
This sometimes confusing oversight structure for the park has at least contributed in some part to the intense police-protester interactions and continued mass arrests that have occurred recently as OWS reenergizes and prepares for its planned “May Day” actions.
Rodriguez, who today was appearing in court for the third time, said that the dismissal of his charges is a clear indication that his arrest was unwarranted and that the NYPD needs to rethink the way it is approaching OWS protests and free speech activity.
“This is bigger than me…having my charges dismissed,” he told the Voice by phone after his court appearance. “For me it’s more of a recognition of how we’ve been wasting a lot of money arresting people for peaceful gatherings in the city of New York.”
Rodriguez said he was simply an elected official watching police activity that day.
“I went to observe the NYPD eviction,” he said. “I was with other members of the media and other New Yorkers and individuals. All we were doing was being present in a public space…I was wrongfully arrested.”
Rodriguez took the news today as an opportunity to promote legislation he has submitted in the City Council that would mandate the creation of a Protester’s Bill of Rights and help protect free speech and First Amendment activity in the city.
“I’m [calling] on the mayor…to invest the same kind of energy and resources that have been invested to keep our city safe…to defending our constitutional rights, so all New Yorker can continue enjoying their civil liberties,” he said.
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