Free Speech, Religion, Wall Street

On The Train With Occupy Protesters As They Roll Toward Trinity Church

November 15th, 2011, there was a riot in the streets, tell me where were you? While you were at home watching your T.V., I was participating in some anarchy.

Well, there wasn’t really a riot in the streets. And I wasn’t really participating in it so much as taking the 5 train to work today. But I did bump into some would-be Occupy Wall Street protesters looking to join the movement after the main group was evicted from Zuccotti Park under the cover of darkness early this morning. The people on the train asked for my legal advice.

I laughed — then told them I could do them one better. Let’s see if we can’t crowdsource a legal recourse for the Occupy protesters now that big bad Bloomberg has put his jackboot on the movement….

Just to bring everybody up to speed, at 1:00 a.m. today, riot police evicted the protesters from Zuccotti Park for “cleaning” of the park. Nearly 200 people were arrested. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking full responsibility for the removal: “[M]ake no mistake — the final decision to act was mine.”

Bloomberg said that his decision on whether to let the protesters back into Zuccotti Park will depend on the disposition of a restraining order the protesters filed against him. You can check out the TRO from the protesters, asking that the court order Bloomberg to reopen the park, over here. The mayor said he did this because the park had become so filthy that it posed a threat to public safety. If that’s the real reason, shouldn’t Bloomberg let them back in once the park is cleaned? Why does he need to be ordered to reopen a cleaned park?

I met two people on the subway who looked, well, crunchy. I asked them if they were going to join the protests and was happy that they said yes. If they had said no, I was going to pretend that I was going to the protests so I didn’t look like a prejudicial jerk-off who assumes every dude with earrings, a full beard, and a sweater shirt is a protester. I was also going to give them some change. (But they didn’t want to be photographed or named, and one of them had an iPad, so… I think I was probably dealing with poseurs. Upon reflection, their clothing reeked more of Urban Outfitters than Goodwill.)

But whatever, they were joining in and I was not, so I gave them some respect. They view Bloomberg’s stance regarding the TRO as a delaying tactic. Somehow, they thought, it was a fait accompli that Bloomberg would have to reopen the park, and the mayor was hoping that the court process takes so long that the movement loses steam.

I’m not sure if these kids have actually met our mayor. New York City is run much more like an authoritarian monarchy than a representative democracy. If Bloomberg doesn’t want people in the park, there aren’t going to be people in the park.

In any event, the TRO should be reviewed today, so it’s a piss-poor delaying tactic, unless the movement is going to fizzle in hours. Reports indicate that Justice Michael D. Stallman drew the TRO. If you have some tips about his courtroom, let us know in the comments.

But Bloomberg’s tyrannical authority doesn’t extend to clergy, which is where we could see our next legal battle. Some Occupy protesters have moved to Trinity Church. And, for the most part, they are being welcomed. Here’s part of the message from the Rector of Trinity Church, Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper :

Trinity Wall Street respects the rights of citizens to protest peacefully and supports the vigorous engagement of the concerns that form the core of the protests – economic disenfranchisement and failure of public trust.

As a prayerful community with a deep history of relationships in Lower Manhattan, Trinity continues its pastoral outreach and welcomes any of those involved in the ongoing situation to parish spaces. Many protesters have found the opportunity for rest and revitalization in Charlotte’s Place, Trinity’s new neighborhood center, and have expressed deep appreciation for the hospitality there. We welcome any of those involved in the protest for pastoral care and reflection.

Dude, anybody who has read the Hunchback of Notre Dame knows that it’s bastardy to go after people once they make it into a church. SANCTUARY!!

The protesters broke into a lot adjacent to the church, on the theory that it was better to ask forgiveness than ask for permission. Some church officials claimed the church owned the space. But the Parks Department claimed the City owned the space.

That means fighting. The Blaze has a feed from about an hour ago (around the same time I was on the train with the “reinforcements”) as the police tried to bust up the Trinity gathering.

That’s where we are now.

So, legally, what should the protesters do? I imagine that somewhere in City Hall, lawyers are poring through lower Manhattan titles and zoning ordinances, trying to figure out who owns what where. Let’s assume that at some point Bloomberg’s people (remember, this city ain’t a democracy) will show up and tell the protesters that they aren’t allowed to be there. Whether they are or not will take some time to wind its way through the courts.

In the meantime, is there anything legal they can do to protect themselves? If one of them has a lawyer on speed dial, what should they ask him to do?

When guys on the train asked me that question, I said that if they really wanted to be part of the movement today, they would probably be asking their lawyer to find a good bail bondsman.

UPDATE (5 PM): Justice Stallman has issued his ruling.

NYC Police Remove OWS Protesters [Bloomberg]
BREAKING: Bloomberg served with temporary restraining order requiring reopening of Zuccotti Park to protesters at 7:50 a.m. [Think Progress]
Occupy Protesters Cut Through Locks on Church’s Lot — Cops Pour in & Make Arrests [The Blaze]

(hidden for your protection)

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