In the summer of 2004, various groups were upset that the city was prohibiting them from protesting and rallying on Central Park's Great Lawn. The city argued that the Great Lawn would be damaged and there's not enough money to clean up after protests; concerts events usually had corporate backers who paid for clean up. The protesters argued they were entitled to expressing themselves where they like. And in 2004, a judge ruled for the city, saying that the city could bar protest groups (especially since they waited too long to file the lawsuit) and suggested that protesters go to Van Cortlandt or Flushing-Meadows Parks instead.
Now, a federal judge has once again ruled that the city can limit the number of large events on the Great Lawn. But Judge William Pauley III also decided that a jury can decide whether the city violated protesters' constitutional rights!
The city had been hoping the judge would make a decision instead of going to trial. The jury selection for that trial should be wild! While opposition to the war was strong in NYC back in 2004, given what has happened since then, we imagine that protesters talking about the right to criticize President Bush and the war abroad might strike a more powerful chord.
Photograph by Wally G on Flickr, who also notes the history of the Great Lawn