By Fred Gates
As reported here, as well as other places, the barricades that had surrounded Zuccotti Park since November 15th and effectively created an atmosphere of a “crime scene,” as one commentator put it, seemed to violate city zoning regulations for the park.
We now know that Brookfield was, in fact, in violation of the law.
Responding almost immediately to a letter from the ACLU, the park’s owners have taken down the barricades. It’s a small victory for OWS but symbolic as pushback to the Brookfields’ and the mayor’s campaign of doing whatever they think they can get away with to pre-emptively, if not silence, at least hinder the protestors’ ability to enjoy the protection of their free speech rights as afforded by the First Amendment.
As with the attempted censorship of most things, the wrong-headed and illegal policies used by both entities has continued to create publicity for a story that might have died otherwise. Let me be the first to thank them for all the great PR work!
You can read the full text of the letter here. Here’s the letter’s summary of what was described in more detail within it:
Metal barricades, preemptive searches, and selectively enforcing ever-changing unwritten rules have become established featuresof Liberty Plaza. These practices infringe on clearly established constitutional rights, and they also violate zoning laws, Brookfield’s legal obligations under the 1968 special zoning permit, and City policy. As the Mayor has noted with regard to Liberty Plaza, “we must never be afraid to insist on compliance with our laws.” These practices violate city law and should be ended immediately, restoring Liberty Plaza to its place as a permanent open park that is open and accessible to all members of the public on an equal basis.
It’s a nice touch that they quoted the mayor.
As part of my own advocacy I filed a complaint with the city’s web site, which was never updated until — you guessed it — midnight on January 9th. Here’s a screen shot:
“No further action was necessary.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.