Bloomberg's Statement Says First Amendment Covers Speech Only, Not "Tents and Tarps"
Here is the statement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who by all accounts coordinated a massive, coordinated police operation this morning that raided Zuccotti Park, and seriously obstructed the press's ability to witness beatings and evictions within the park's perimeter.
It is chillingly well-constructed for maximum PR value and includes this memorable line: "no right is absolute." However this statement in no way addresses the police brutality that has marked this operation, nor the fact that members of the press (including the mainstream media) were absolutely blacked out from witnessing this operation. And with all its concern for the "health and safety" of New Yorkers, nowhere does this include the health and safety of the pepper-sprayed and beaten protesters, the homeless occupiers who now have no place to go tonight.
At one o’clock this morning, the New York City Police Department and the owners of Zuccotti Park notified protestors in the park that they had to immediately remove tents, sleeping bags and other belongings, and must follow the park rules if they wished to continue to use it to protest. Many protestors peacefully complied and left. At Brookfield’s request, members of the NYPD and Sanitation Department assisted in removing any remaining tents and sleeping bags. This action was taken at this time of day to reduce the risk of confrontation in the park, and to minimize disruption to the surrounding neighborhood.
“I have become increasingly concerned – as had the park’s owner, Brookfield Properties – that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community. We have been in constant contact with Brookfield and yesterday they requested that the City assist it in enforcing the no sleeping and camping rules in the park. But make no mistake – the final decision to act was mine.
The park had become covered in tents and tarps, making it next to impossible to safely navigate for the public, and for first responders who are responsible for guaranteeing public safety. The dangers posed were evident last week when an EMT was injured as protestors attempted to prevent him and several police officers from helping a mentally ill man who was menacing others. As an increasing number of large tents and other structures have been erected, these dangers have increased. It has become increasingly difficult even to monitor activity in the park to protect the protestors and the public, and the proliferation of tents and other obstructions has created an increasing fire hazard that had to be addressed.
“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. There have been reports of businesses being threatened and complaints about noise and unsanitary conditions that have seriously impacted the quality of life for residents and businesses in this now-thriving neighborhood. The majority of protestors have been peaceful and responsible. But an unfortunate minority have not been – and as the number of protestors has grown, this has created an intolerable situation.
“No right is absolute and with every right comes responsibilities. The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out – but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others – nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law. There is no ambiguity in the law here – the First Amendment protects speech – it does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.
Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Mayor. It's going to be a rough end of term for "Mayor 1%" with the press furious at their lack of access and thousands of New Yorkers on the side of the raided protesters.