NYC officials argued in its brief to the court that Occupy might be stockpiling weapons at Zuccotti, and also that allowing protesters to camp again would bring back the safety issues that caused more than 50 arrests and prompted the park's closing.
The latter argument, if successful, gives Charlotte's leaders a framework from which they can impose restrictions on overnight protesters in advance of the Democratic National Convention. We don't advocate shutting down public speech, but establishing a plan dictating where and when those protests occur gives the city and county the opportunity to balance free speech, public safety and the interests of local businesses when the world arrives in 2012.
Earlier: The Occupy protests are in the news again today with a big development: New York City police cleared the movement's birthplace, Zuccotti Park. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the after-midnight sweep was conducted because of health and safety concerns. More than 150 people have been arrested, including some who chained themselves together. (Update: The AP is reporting that at least 200 have been arrested by late morning.)
In a written statement this morning, Bloomberg said that the protesters can return to the park, but not camp out overnight.
Said the mayor:
The First Amendment gives every New Yorker the right to speak out - but it does not give anyone the right to sleep in a park or otherwise take it over to the exclusion of others - nor does it permit anyone in our society to live outside the law. There is no ambiguity in the law here - the First Amendment protects speech - it does not protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over a public space.
Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.
This seems to conflict with a court order the National Lawyer's Guild says it obtained that allows the protesters to return to the park.
While protesters wait on their court-ordered future at Zuccotti Park, some took over the grounds of a nearby church by cutting the fence with wire snippers, the New York Times reports. This is a fast way to turn public opinion against you.
The New York Daily news is reporting that there are skirmishes around Zuccotti, and that protesters are "openly taunting the NYPD." Police who have not responded thus far.
Also, lots of footage available of the overnight raid. Here's some dramatic video from AP:
Cities like Charlotte will be watching the developments closely. In emails to county commissioners last month, county attorney Tyrone Wade said protesters camped out at Old City Hall were not violating any county or city laws (the city owns the land) simply by staying there overnight. We'll watch how NYC officials argue the legality of Bloomberg's edict, without an apparent ordinance backing them up. Could Charlotte and Mecklenburg officials argue something similar?
Meanwhile, expect the Occupiers to head right back to Zuccotti and challenge Bloomberg and police tonight. They'll be followed by a horde of media chronicling this potentially critical moment for the movement.
Do you care?
We've been hearing from readers lately about the amount of attention the media has given Occupy, especially locally. One regular emailer complained that the Observer gave a front page story Monday to the Charlotte protesters, despite their unimpressive numbers. We have another today about UNC Charlotte granting campus space to an Occupy offshoot. The Observer also has written about the fight for portable bathrooms for the protesters, and we've editorialized about local Republicans wanting the protesters off the Old City Hall lawn.
Never have a couple dozen scruffy folks gotten so much ink.
Is it too much? That's for readers to decide, but there's a case to be made that media locally and nationally are following the natural evolution of a story that continues to be relevant - but for different reasons. Initially, Occupy was somewhat of a novelty - newspapers wrote somewhat superficially about the young men and women blocking streets and bridges and taking over Zuccotti. As the movement gained momentum, the media began examining it in more depth - why did these populist protests resonate with the rest of America, according to polls, in a still-harsh economy? How did they compare to the tea party in message and potential?
Democratic Convention. Nationally, some Occupy movements are becoming health and safety hazards, including Oakland, where one protester shot and killed another and police now have cleared the encampment there twice in three weeks.
Today we have Zuccotti in Manhattan. Expect the day's narrative to focus not only on the future for that one park, but whether the clearing of Occupy's birthplace signals the beginning of the end of the movement - or at least the end of America's patience with it.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Closer to home
The Observer's editorial today examines why county commissioner Jennifer Roberts, who announced she's not running today, might make a better state legislator than county commission chair.
And if you haven't seen Kevin Siers cartoon on Roberts, you really should.
The Cain Campaign: RIP. After butchering his answer to question on Libya at a meeting with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cain is watching conservatives head for the door.
The Weekly Standard called a video of the question/answer "painful to watch."
The Washington Post's conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, says Cain has become an embarrassment.
As with Rick Perry's debate brain freeze, campaign chroniclers will point to Cain's sexual harassment allegations as dooming his campaign, but both candidates may already have been doomed - Perry by weak debate performances and Cain by a startling lack of domestic and foreign policy knowledge.