NYPD Locks 100 People Inside Tompkins Square Park to Keep Occupy Out
Animal New York
May 23rd, 2012
By Allison Burtch
In solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in Montreal, about three hundred people marched in the streets of New York City. In solidarity with repressors of democracy, the NYPD preemptively and illegally closed Tompkins Square Park.
To recap: Quebecois students have been protesting an 82% increase in tuition and the recently-passed, protest-smashing Bill 78, which they openly defied with hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. More info here.
Last night, about three hundred people met in Washington Square Park for a teach-in regarding student debt, and, like those in Montreal, wore red squares because student debt lands them “squarely in the red.”
“We left around 8:00PM and with the stated destination of Tompkins Square Park,” said Kegan Stephan, 28. He was planning on leaving, but biked by Tompkins Square Park only to find the NYPD locking the gates at around 8:30PM, hours before the legal closing time. “The march wasn’t audible or visible but the police had locked down the park in anticipation of people getting there.”
What’s shocking is that the NYPD didn’t just preemptively lock the demonstrators out. They locked people IN.
“The police locked the park with about fifty to a hundred people still in it. They didn’t let anybody in or out. The march hit the park in the northwest corner, couldn’t get in and turned west on 8th St. After the march left, the cops kept the park closed, did a sweep, and made everyone leave the park.”
The posted rules stated that the park closed at midnight. In an interview with the Village Voice, Gideon Oliver, the New York President of the National Lawyers Guild said that “the summary closure of a public park, when New York City rules require that park to be open, flies in the face of those rules, and the rule of law more generally.”
“It’s pretty upsetting to me that its a public park and they closed it to public,” said Stephen. “It’s also historically a park that has been central to activism, community struggles and squatters rights. If we don’t have the right to gather peacefully in public spaces then we can’t organize. They’re trying to deny us that right.”
Whenever any sort of Occupy event is planned in a public space, the NYPD responds with barricades and closures that directly infringe upon the right to peaceably assemble.
As the New York Times reports, “people expecting an evening stroll beneath the trees instead found the locked gates” long after demonstrators left.
Also of note is the behavior of NYPD towards the general public. Over at Student Activism, Angus Johnson wrote about the Red Square Solidarity March and an unsettlingly common experience Occupy folks have become accustomed to:
A cop with a steroid body suddenly flew out of the group around the guy and started grabbing people, shoving them, telling them to keep walking…He was a guy who wanted to do some shoving and he knew for sure that he could do it without consequences. Here’s someone walking down a New York City street just assaulting people. He knocked one guy’s phone out of his hands and almost sent a woman sprawling. And this miscreant was surrounded by cops. And they did nothing. Didn’t intervene, didn’t stop him, didn’t try to calm him down. They just let their guy go ahead and blithely break the law right in front of them. If you want to know why people get in cops’ faces on these marches, this is why. If you want to know why people get amped up, this is why. If you want to know why folks chant “fuck the police,” this is why.