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Judge Rules Against Occupy Wall Street Camp

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 15, 2011 4:11 PM

New York's Zuccotti Park will remain clear of tents following Judge Michael Stallman's ruling against the encampment. Stallman's decision declares that the Occupy Wall Street protestor's First Amendment rights do not extend to indefinite camping in the plaza.

The ruling came down hours after Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings issued a temporary order allowing protestors back onto the grounds.

There was a lot of legal wrangling going on in New York. The timeline of the events is as follows:

  • Early Tuesday morning: Police forced Occupy Wall Street protestors out of Zuccotti Park.
  • Around 6:30 am on Tuesday: Justice Lucy Billing signed the temporary order that allowed protestors to re-enter the park with tents.
  • A few hours later: Judge Stallman who was earlier selected to preside over the hearing on the temporary order, listened to arguments for both sides. He ruled against the protestors, finding that the city can stop protestors from bringing in tents and other camping equipment onto park grounds.

Protestors declined to appeal the decision immediately, according to the New York Daily News. But after they weigh their legal options it's likely they will.

Some might wonder if this ruling infringes upon an Occupy protestor's First Amendment rights.

Citizens are given the right to freedom of speech and for peaceful assembly. But these rights aren't limitless. There are boundaries, and the government can place reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner of protest so long as they are "content-neutral."

For example, a rule put into effect to ensure a protestor's health and safety might qualify as a "content-neutral" restriction. From Judge Stallman's order, it seems that he considered the ban on camping equipment as reasonable for the owners of the park to keep the premises safe and clean.

And, Occupy Wall Street protestor's First Amendment rights only cover peaceful assembly. If crimes or fights break out, the protest may no longer be constitutionally protected. For now, so long as Judge Stallman's decision holds, Zuccotti Park will remain cleared of tents.

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