NEW YORK (PIX11)—An incredible legal drama played out today after Occupy Wall Street protestors were rousted out of Zuccotti Park at 1a.m. by the NYPD. And even though a judge sympathetic to the cause signed a temporary restraining order initially getting the protestors back in to Zuccotti by 6:30 a.m. complete with all their gear, the City chose not to obey the judge's orders, instead opting to push for another hearing with a new judge to see if they could keep out the 300 or so protestors who've called Zuccotti home for two months.
Newly displaced Occupy Wall Street protestors were sounding off at the foot of NY's Supreme Court even as a judge inside was hearing from all sides about whether protestors have a right to live in tents and sleeping bags to give voice to their cause.
Aaron Black told his tale to the crowd that gathered around the sculpture in Foley Square. "Last night they came in with pepper spray. They beat us they treated us like common criminals," recounted Black, his voice alternately cracking with emotion and gathering force with his anger.
Gideon Oliver, counsel for the NYC Attorneys' Guild, one of the group of attorneys representing the protestors said, "What were talking about is an occupation and occupying requires staying in space 24 hours a day and you can't do without some sort of shelter."
But the City was unsympathetic. Corporate counsel for New York City made a brief statement, "The actions the city took today were appropriate to protect the public safety," said Sheryl Neufeld.
The core issues of public/private space and the right to occupy a park continuously are at issue. And it could have far reaching consequences as there are hundreds of these types of parks across New York City. Although many of them have renegotiated new deals with local community boards or the city to close for a few hours each day to prevent encampments like Zuccotti is dealing with. The City and Brookfield Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park, say public safety, human waste and garbage have all become increasingly larger issues with each day that passes with protestors in the park.
As Neufeld pleaded her case in court, she stated simply of the crowd encampment, "If there were a fire, people could not get out."
Attorney Oliver countered with the First Ammendment argument that the encampment was intrinsic to the occupation and that, "It is an essential part of their speech to protect themselves from the weather."
And while many of the 300 who were evicted say while their occupation may have been disrupted, their spirit has not been broken. Protestor Aaron Black stood with everyone's rapt attention outside while the hearing transpired inside. "We were a bunch of angry people who showed up on Wall Street a couple of months ago who wanted to be heard and we are not going away. We are here for you!"