After ordering the eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday explained that the park would temporarily remain closed due to a court order that restrained the city from closing the park.
A ruling issued by Judge Lucy Billings in the hours after the park evictions said that the city is “prohibited from: “(a) Evicting protesters from Zuccotti Park and/or (b) Enforcing the “rules” published after the occupation began or otherwise preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents and other property previously utilized.”
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Bloomberg said that protesters had only been “temporarily” asked to leave the park “to reduce the risk of confrontation and to minimize destruction in the surrounding neighborhood.”
“We are now ready to open the park but understand that there is a court order, which we have not yet actually received, enjoining us from enforcing [park owner] Brookfield’s rules,” the mayor explained. “And so the park will remain closed until we can clarify that situation. But I want to stress that our intention was to reopen the park and to let people go in and express their first amendment rights to protest.”
He added that protesters would “not be allowed to use tents, sleeping bags or tarps and going forward, must follow all park rules,” something that seems to contradict the court’s restraining order.
“The final decision to act was mine, and mine alone,” Bloomberg admitted. “Some protesters might use compliance with our laws as a pretext for violence. … There have been reports of businesses being threatened.”
He went on to insist that “no right is absolute, and every right comes with responsibility,” suggesting that the First Amendment “does not allow tents and sleeping bags to take over public space.”
The mayor estimated that there were as many as 200 arrests during the overnight police action.
Update: National Lawyer Guild vows to fight for protesters’ rights
“This is a victory for everyone who believes in the First Amendment,” Liberty Park Legal Working Group (LPLWG) attorney Daniel Alterman said of the judge’s restraining order. “We will continue to fight for everyone’s right to continue the occupation.”
“The LPLWG has been fighting to ensure their right to free speech from day one of the occupation. The occupiers right to free speech is based in our most core legal principles and we will be here till the end to fight for those rights.”
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Nov. 14, 2011.