Gothamist’s Christopher Robbins reports that there’s been a new development on the steps of Federal Hall: barricades around the protesters that split the steps in half.
After the NYPD forced occupiers out of their sidewalk sleeping situation early Monday morning (a disputed move that would appear to contradict a 2000 federal court decision that guaranteed the protection of public sleeping as freedom of expression), the protest set up camp on the steps of Federal Hall. Technically, as federal land, the area is out of the NYPD’s jurisdiction, but that didn’t stop them from making a series of arrests late Monday night. The barricades, owned by the NYPD, came as a result of permission by the U.S. Parks police, Gothamist reports.
The arrival of the barricades reads like a power play, for both the NYPD and the occupiers. According to Robbins, the Park Service offered protesters a permit to hold demonstrations on the steps Monday night (for events with more than 25 people such a permit is required), but Occupy refused. For some, it’s very much an attempt to seek comment on the protest from the federal government or the president directly.
“It forces a comment from the president,” Liesbeth Rapp, a 27-year-old protester told me Monday evening, referring to Occupy’s presence on the federal steps. “[The president]’s done a good job of avoiding comment, although he did use our language in his State of the Union speech.”
So far, the way Occupy, the NYPD and the federal government have handled this three-day-old demonstration has been a tense balancing act. The NYPD has clearly demonstrated it still has the ability to arrest protesters, but will have to abide by orders from the U.S. Parks Police. Meanwhile, protesters are asserting their constitutional rights, which the federal government must ensure.