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FLASHBACK: Free Speech Doesn’t Allow Protesters To Camp Out For Months, New York Supreme Court Ruled

The New York State Supreme Court ruled against Occupy Wall Street encampments in 2011, stating free speech is not a justification to camp somewhere for months on end.

Occupy Wall Street — a series of demonstrations protesting economic inequality — had its epicenter in privately-owned Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Protesters maintained the idea that their continued presence in the area was an expression of free speech, but top brass judges in the Empire State ruled it was permissible to remove them, according to a 2011 CBS News report.

“The Court is mindful of movants’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and peaceable assembly. However, ‘[e]ven protected speech is not equally permissible in all places and at all times,’” the court ruling said. “The movants have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park…Neither have the applicants shown a right to a temporary restraining order that would restrict the City’s enforcement of law so as to promote public health and safety.”

The NYPD raided their illicit compound in the middle of the night under the direction of then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, recording over 200 arrests. Protesters were allowed to return to the park so long as they did not erect dwellings, CBS reported.

Similar sweeps were conducted in Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California encampments following the Empire State’s initiative, the 2011 news report detailed.

Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest better known as CHOP has seen thousands of demonstrators — some of whom are armed — occupy a 6-block zone around the city’s abandoned East Police Precinct for over a week, CNN reported. The self-proclaimed police-free commune has advocated for racial justice, following the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes, viral video showed.

CHOP has expressed no interest in leaving the area, which boasts numerous private businesses and housing communities — a landscape similar to the private atmosphere in Zuccotti Park. Instead, demonstrators have released a list of demands including the abolition of the Seattle police force, a ban on youth jails and reparations for victims of police brutality, among others, according to a publicized list on Medium.

Democratic Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called the encampment that bears resemblance to Occupy Wall Street “a place for free speech” on Twitter last week.

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