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General News    H1'ed 9/26/11

Occupy Wall Street: Day 10 - Legal Cloud Over Occupation Remains

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Spitting your toothpaste just anywhere after brushing was banned by the occupation's General Assembly as was casual disposal of cigarette butts.   The Sanitation Working Group said they would be providing pails for both types of disposal.   As a member of the group announced, "We are not your Mother!"

A heavy throng of Sunday visitors to Ground Zero consistently made Liberty Plaza a second stop.   They were welcomed by occupiers celebrating the positive outcome of Saturday's actions that resulted in well over 100 arrests.

The general public, most unaware of the Occupy Wall Street action, asked questions, read the plethora of picket signs splayed on the granite floor of Liberty Plaza, enjoyed the music, ate lunch and signed a petition in support of the occupation remaining in the park.

A much decreased police presence was calming. A smattering of two to four NYPD officers on each side of Liberty Plaza was unobtrusive.   The NYPD surveillance crow's nest was up, and several police vehicles were parked across the street, but all streets leading to Liberty Plaza were open and all of the police barricades around the park had been taken down.  

Legal issues that continue to hinder the security, activities and longevity of the occupation remained ambiguous as of yesterday.  

Bullhorns and public address systems are banned.   Amplification over a certain volume requires a police permit.   The permit process is detailed, requires a fee and can be drawn out.   The occupation gets around this impediment by using the "Peoples' Microphone."

It works like this: A speaker or facilitator yells, "Mic check!" and the crowd response in same.   This may be repeated until they are in sync.   The speaker than yells out his/her message in up to 5 word phrases.   The crowd that can hear the speaker yells the same words so that all can hear.   It's laborious, fun, some speakers are better at it than others but it works.

The park's owners, Brookfield Properties, are tacitly letting the occupation stay.   Under a NYC building code arrangement there are several such private parks in New York City, mainly in Manhattan. 

Prior to construction, building owners agreed to provide additional open public space, which they maintain, in exchange for the right to increase the number of floors they can build.  

But, over the years buildings that committed to additional public open space have been making them less and less accessible by adding fencing and limiting the hours they are open.  

Someone circulated unsigned eviction notices at Liberty Plaza on Saturday.   Under advice of their legal counsel the occupiers did not handle the eviction flyer. Someone scooped them up and returned them all to the person passing them around.  

That such "private" parks are, in fact, contracted to be fully available public spaces may be an issue left to the courts to decide.  With the Occupy Wall Street action,  Zuccotti Park may become the test case.

At yesterday's General Assembly the legality of sleeping in the park was raised with the suggestion that the occupiers should be sleeping on the sidewalks, which is legal.  

The speaker's point was "tabled" and ignored.   By not sleeping in the park the occupiers might be de facto surrendering the park.   This reporter wondered if the speaker was an operative of the police or park owner as the comment was not germane to the discussion of the meeting at the time.

Many of the police bans are still being disputed including those on tarps, tents, umbrellas, etc.   Those who have been staying over night told me there was not a ban on camping equipment per se, contrary to previous reports.   The umbrella bans seem to be on again, off again, though the media team was hopeful they could use theirs in times of rain.  

There seems to be deliberate ambiguity. "Yeah, the police are screwing with us, pretty much," reported a media working group member.

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Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration (more...)
 
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