Lawyers Challenge Occupy Evictions

November 21, 2011
Nathan Tempey
Communications Coordinator
212-679-5100 x15

Pushing back against what appears to be a coordinated national crackdown on the Occupy movement, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is bringing preemptive legal challenges to halt Occupy evictions and other attacks on occupiers' free speech.

“From day one of the Occupy movement, the Guild has been there protecting protesters’ rights to free speech,” said NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian. “Occupiers have been saying that you can’t evict an idea. We agree, and we say further that you can’t evict protests that are rooted in the founding legal principles of this country.”

Recent NLG litigation on behalf of Occupy encampments includes:

  • In Boston last Wednesday, a local judge upheld a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) brought by the NLG, ruling that police may not evict Occupy Boston. At a December 1 hearing, NLG attorneys will argue for a longer-lasting injunction.
  • In Florida Thursday, a federal judge ruled in favor of an NLG lawsuit on behalf of Occupy Fort Myers, banning a local event permit requirement and issuing a preliminary injunction against eviction.
  • In the early morning hours of November 15, as the last of protesters’ belongings were removed from Zuccotti Park (aka Liberty Park), NLG attorneys obtained a TRO that called for police to reopen the park. Though NYPD flouted the court order for much of the day and a judge later nullified the TRO, the NLG Liberty Park Legal Working Group (LPLWG) is maintaining pressure to fully reopen the park, and will argue for an injunction in New York Supreme Court on December 1.
  • In San Diego an NLG TRO is challenging a municipal code which is being interpreted by local police to mean that it is illegal to put down any object on any public property. That interpretation that has been used to arrest and threaten protesters carrying everything from purses to potted plants. The case will be heard this afternoon.

Throughout the country local authorities are claiming health and safety concerns and invoking obscure municipal codes as pretexts for what are ultimately political crackdowns.

Fortunately, hundreds of lawyers, legal workers and law students have mobilized through the NLG’s Mass Defense Committee for the largest outpouring of protest legal support in decades. In addition to affirmative constitutional rights challenges, the NLG is coordinating legal activists nationwide to provide Occupy protests with Legal Observers®, criminal court representation, legal briefing, case law research, and often, around-the-clock legal advice.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state.

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