Earlier this week members of the Occupy Wall Street movement were evicted by the New York Police Department (NYPD) from Zuccotti Park. Protesters have been allowed to return to the park but with several restrictions put into place:
Hundreds of protesters returned to the park as night fell on Tuesday, but they will now not be allowed to pitch tents or use generators in the plaza.
Police said there was no official curfew, but that protesters would not be allowed to sleep at the park. Protesters with backpacks and large bags were not allowed inside.
Many of the occupiers are claiming these new restrictions are a violation of their First Amendment rights. Once again I find myself scratching my head as this issue doesn’t seem to be one involving the right of free speech by the right of property ownership.
Zuccotti Park is privately owned by Brookfield Properties. As Zuccotti Park is owned by Brookfield Properties they should be able to set whatever restrictions they desire on the use of the property. If Brookfield Properties wish to allow camping on the property then camping is allowed, if they wish to prohibit camping on the property than camping isn’t allowed. This situation would be different were the land publicly owned as everybody can claim, rightfully, to be a partial owner and therefore a debate over the use of the property could ensure.
The occupiers in Minneapolis were smarter in my opinion than the New York group. Occupy Minneapolis chose publicly owned land to hold their occupation and thus the rules over who gets to determine what can and can’t happen on the property are incredibly muddy. While Hennepin County will claim that right as declared owners of the property the occupiers can rightfully claim that the tax dollars spent on the property were procured from Hennepin County residents and therefore everybody living in Hennepin County is a partial owner.