The Fight for Free Speech
in Central Park
Faced with a federal lawsuit that originally exposed and is seeking to prevent the City of New York’s plans to privatize Central Park and banish mass assembly protest from Manhattan, the City is speedily moving to cover its tracks and push through "new regulations." The City Council and the Parks Department are holding hearings this week on the proposed new regulations. The proposed regulations limit assemblies on the Great Lawn to 50,000 people and only six events per year will be permitted with four slots already pre-reserved for corporate-sponsored and Bloomberg-approved assemblies of the Philharmonic and Opera. In short, Central Park would be off limits for First Amendment protected mass demonstrations. Everyone who believes in Free Speech rights in New York and across the country should join in and support this struggle.
The attempt to set new regulations is a thinly veiled political maneuver to shield the City’s contradictory legal and factual positions that were originally uncovered and are being exposed by litigation filed last summer prior to planned protests coinciding with the Republican National Convention. The Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild filed the lawsuit on behalf of the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition.
NCA and A.N.S.W.E.R. initially brought this lawsuit last summer during the Republican National Convention when the City of New York denied the right of the Arab-American and Muslim communities and the anti-war movement to come together in solidarity on August 28 to stand up for civil rights and civil liberties on the Great Lawn of Central Park. This was the anniversary of the historic 1963 civil rights March on Washington.
Mayor Bloomberg Tries to Dodge Deposition
At the same time that the City is moving to adopt these unconstitutional regulations, the City’s attorneys are trying to shield Mayor Bloomberg from answering questions under oath in a deposition by our attorneys. The City has announced that it is seeking a protective order so that Mayor Bloomberg, who was happy to speak to the media opposing Free Speech activity in Central Park while he demonized protestors, is now unwilling to explain and defend the City’s position in a constitutional rights challenge.
Federal Lawsuit Continues Background
The Federal lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to prevent the City from closing off the Public Parks from mass protest and other free speech activities. The Central Park litigation's Complaint and Memorandum of Law have been posted online and are available at www.JusticeOnline.org To get low volume updates and breaking alerts on this fight and other important First Amendment and free speech litigation from the Partnership for Civil Justice, you can sign up here. The case is being litigated by constitutional rights attorneys Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo of PCJ and Carol Sobel, all also on behalf of NLG Mass Defense.
Parks Department Hearing Friday
Show your support for freedom of assembly in New York City Parks at the Parks Department hearing on Friday, May 20 at 11:00 am. The hearing will be held at the Chelsea Recreation Center located at 430 West 25th Street. You can sign up as a speaker when you arrive at the hearing.
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National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-533-0417
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