Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ratner Security Tries to Stop Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Protest

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods' light hearted Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Gridlock! Black Friday traffic demonstration at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenue attracted several Atlantic Center/Atlantic Terminal Mall security guards who tried to stop the protesters, even though they were on a public sidewalk and obeying the law.

We know this thanks to Atlantic Yards Report and Norman Oder, who spent his Friday After Thanksgiving doing something other than shopping. Oder writes:
In front of four reporters, the security guards told organizer Jim Vogel of CBN and several others to stop, because they were trespassing on private property, including the sidewalks outside the mall, and the sidewalks outside the Modell’s/P.C. Richard complex, formally known as the Shops at Atlantic Center.

The protesters, somewhat incredulous at the assertion, refused. The security guards, who wouldn’t give their names to reporters, called the cops. Then they waited, away from their stations, on the south intersection on Flatbush outside Modell’s for at least half an hour as the protesters continued in their quadrilateral pattern....

When a squad car from the 88th Precinct finally pulled up, the security guards had briefly moved away. I asked an officer what the rules were. A security guard materialized and joined the conversation. The sidewalks, the cop explained, were open to the public.
The bottom line is that the NYPD seems to have protected the civil liberties of the protestors from Mr. Ratner (insert irony here), but that there was enough confusion that it sounds like everyone involved needs to go back for a Civil Liberties 101 refresher course. For the record, Mr. Oder points out that if you want to distribute handbills on a public sidewalk or in a public park, have a demonstration, rally, or press conference on a public sidewalk, or march on a public sidewalk and you don't use amplified sound, you do not need a permit. If you want to use amplified sound on public property, want to have an event with more than 20 people in a New York City park, or wish to conduct a march in a public street, you will need a permit. The NYPD is trying to alter public gathering rules, which will make a confusing situation even more subject to interpretation. And none of this does anyone any good if private security employees are dancing to their own music or don't really give a darn about the law.

One of the issues with privately controlled public space and private security enforcement has always been the impact, in particular, on First Amendment rights. Consider the Attempted Black Friday Ratner Security Smackdown of Peaceful, Lowkey Neighborhood Protestors a small rehearsal for much greater things to come. It is especially fascinating given the Ratner Family's well known support of liberal causes, including civil liberties and human rights.

Irony is a wonderful thing.

[Photo courtesy of Jonathan Barkey]

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