The police captain, bullhorn in hand, paid no mind to the heckler gesturing and yelling in front of him. His stern command was clear: the young man, and with him the crowd of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators assembled at the plaza on the southern tip of Manhattan, would all have to move. And fast.
They were, the captain told them, breaking the law by standing in a New York City park after closing time. They would be given a little time to vacate the premises, but after that, "anyone who does not disperse will be subject to arrest under park rules."
That was the scene last Tuesday at the public space known as the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, where about a thousand demonstrators had descended following a day of street protest called by the loosely organized movement against social and economic injustice known as Occupy Wall Street. It was the end of May Day, and the protesters -- who had flooded the park and conducted an improptu forum earlier -- were now surrounded by hundreds of NYPD officers, who had followed the Occupy march from Union Square.
The captain's threat wasn't hollow. Within minutes, 12 people who had refused police orders to evacuate had been arrested and were being marched, in plastic handcuffs, to a blue-and-white NYPD paddy wagon. They were charged with "remaining in a New York City Park after closing without permission," a crime for which late-night joggers, amorous couples and mischievous teenagers are more commonly cited.
Like us on Facebook
The officer's authority to issue that threat, however, is less certain. As it turns out, protesters were not standing in a New York City park at all when they were told to disperse.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
at 4:02 PM |