Monday, November 21, 2011

Loudly Protesting Park Eviction, if Not Outside Mayor's Window as Planned


November 20, 2011

Loudly Protesting Park Eviction, if Not Outside Mayor’s Window as Planned


The sounds of snare drums, bongo drums and bucket drums, a familiar and frequent annoyance to those who live near Zuccotti Park, moved uptown on Sunday to the East Side home of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Well, not exactly.

The intention of the Occupy Wall Street protesters was to stage a 24-hour drum circle in front of the mayor’s town house on East 79th Street. But the protesters were blocked at each corner by a line of police officers and metal barricades.

The police not only kept the drummers away; they also restricted access to all except those who lived on Mr. Bloomberg’s block.

Norman Siegel, a civil liberties lawyer, said that the decision to bar protesters from Mr. Bloomberg’s block was contrary to the law, which allows people to walk on a block as long as they do not block entrances, exits or other pedestrians.

“In effect, the police have created a no-First Amendment zone on 79th Street,” he said.  “It’s an example of an abuse of power by the N.Y.P.D. because that’s a public street, and the fact that Michael Bloomberg lives on that street doesn’t change the principles and values of the First Amendment right to protest.”

The drummers then set up behind barricades on Fifth Avenue near Central Park, about half a block down from the mayor’s town house. By 4:30 p.m., the crowd on Fifth Avenue, banging iron skillets and shaking rattles, had swelled to about 300.

It was unclear if the mayor was home; two spokesmen for the mayor declined to say whether he heard the drums.

Some passers-by, finding their way onto 79th Street blocked, seemed inclined not to blame the city for the closed-off street, instead focusing their irritation on the drummers. But Dana Johnson, a 33-year-old lawyer from the Upper East Side, said she supported the rights of people to hold a demonstration even if she did not agree with all of their political aims.

“This is part of democracy,” she said. “Go bother your leader.”

On Oct. 11, Occupy Wall Street protesters had gone on a “Millionaires March,” visiting homes of Rupert Murdoch, Jamie Dimon and David H. Koch — but bypassing Mr. Bloomberg’s residence. On Sunday, less than a week after the city forced protesters out of Zuccotti Park, the mayor’s home was singled out by the group.

The protest was in response, participants say, to the city’s move on Tuesday morning to clear the protesters’ tent city at Zuccotti Park, which had been the base of the Occupy Wall Street movement for nearly two months.

While clearing the park, the Police Department arrested some 140 people in the park, and the Department of Sanitation seized tents, sleeping bags and other property.

While protesters have since been allowed in the park, they are no longer allowed to sleep overnight or set up an encampment. On Saturday, for instance, a woman was arrested for bringing a blanket into the park after being warned by private security guards, the police said.

But the protesters are still smarting over the enforcement action last week. Some of those gathered on Fifth Avenue had brought with them items that they said were badly damaged after being seized by the police at Zuccotti Park on Tuesday morning.

Sean Allingham, 30, a landscaper, showed a laptop and a Kindle e-reader that had both belonged to a library collective, of which he is a member.  Both machines were bent and warped, with the cases cracked open and the innards of the machines visible. Some protesters said that hard drives had been removed from computers.

For the last few days, protesters have been retrieving the seized property from a Sanitation Department garage. So far 44 protesters have reclaimed 505 items, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, Stu Loeser, said in an e-mail.

Mr. Loeser characterized the property as having been “abandoned in Zuccotti Park” by the protesters.

In a letter addressed to Mr. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly on Sunday, Mr. Siegel and State Senator Eric Adams made several criticisms of the city’s conduct while clearing Zuccotti Park .

The letter particularly takes issue with the decision to move into the park at about 1 a.m., a time when the city slept and few would be able to witness the conduct of the police officers.

“It’s like they thought there was a life-threatening emergency here,” Mr. Siegel said at a news conference. “There wasn’t. It could have been handled differently.”

At East 79th Street and Fifth Avenue, protesters once again took issue with the police’s dictating where they could protest. Nonetheless, they felt that they were making their presence known.

“He sent the N.Y.P.D. to visit us the other day at 1 a.m., so now we are visiting him,” Aaron Black, 38, said of the mayor. Mr. Black, a photographer who helped organize the event, added that he wanted to open a dialogue with the mayor. “If he’s in town, he should come downstairs and talk with us.”

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