Tents are free speech, too, attorneys argue

Photo by Jason B. Nicholas

A protester held a judge’s temporary restraining order allowing Occupy Wall Streeters to return to Zuccotti Park with their tents and sleeping bags as a helmeted officer stood guard at the park Tuesday morning. The T.R.O. was soon overturned, but police allowed protesters back into the park, though without tents or sleeping gear. Attorney Arthur Schwartz, president of Advocates for Justice, joined National Lawyers Guild attorneys Tuesday morning as they argued to extend the T.R.O., but Judge Michael Stallman rejected them. Schwartz and the N.L.G.’s Gideon Oliver did most of the talking on behalf of O.W.S. during the hearing, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes. The N.L.G.’s Yetta Kurland spoke for about a minute at the end, answering one of Stallman’s questions. Schwartz said that, since Stallman has shown his opinion, it’s pointless to continue the case before him in State Supreme Court, and that a new First Amendment case should instead be filed in federal court. “The idea is that the tents facilitate the free speech and therefore they are a part of it,” Schwartz explained. “If you want to demonstrate in the winter or make it through the night, you need a sleeping bag. Sleeping itself may not be an expression — but it facilitates free expression. And the camp itself is a statement — having the camp and tents and squatting facilitate it, and it was a statement in and of itself.”

Lincoln Anderson