Eleven Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested near the New York Stock Exchange yesterday as the demonstrators continue to occupy a segregated "First Amendment Rights Area" on the stairs of Federal Hall. Shortly after the arrests, the U.S. Park Police released a six-page set of regulations for the protesters sitting on federal property.
The Times' Colin Moynihan witnessed the first eight arrests, which occurred across the street from Federal Hall, and wrote that they were prompted by the protesters' desire "to draw attention to statements made by police commanders over the last few days that protesters were not allowed to lie on the sidewalks." This interpretation of the law, despite a court ruling from 2000, has forced protesters off the sidewalk on Broad Street and onto the stairs of Federal Hall.
We arrived in front of the monument shortly before 7 p.m. and found the police presence to be overwhelming, given that there were only 25 protesters on the stairs (as stipulated by the USPP) and roughly 50 more several feet away, loudly banging drums and chanting.
An officer told a reporter for The Guardian, Ryan Devereaux, that the protesters were all about to be arrested, and the sheer number of NYPD officers and USPP officers (including two federal SWAT agents), combined with the fact that only credentialed media were allowed next to the stairs, seemed to confirm that assertion.
Protester Lindsay Nagy, who'd never been arrested before, said she was determined to stay on the steps "as long as it takes," even it meant getting arrested. "I'm standing up for human rights and everyone else's rights as well, for generations to come."
Yet by 7:30 p.m., the barricades were removed, and the protesters, tourists, and passersby were allowed to walk freely in front of Federal Hall. By 8:30, there were around 70 NYPD officers watching roughly 40 protesters.
Many USPP officers seemed intent on studying the rules, reading by flashlight, and strictly enforced them. Cardboard signs larger than 3' by 4' were confiscated, a flagpole was ordered to be removed, and officers refused to allow anyone to carry in "personal property larger than 22" by 14" by 9," " which, as the rule book adds, "is based on the generally accepted airline carry-on standards."
The cage is not unlike the barricades that were set up around Zuccotti Park following the eviction in November, and entry and exit is strictly monitored by the federal agents. However, they generally accepted that the protesters, 25 of them on the stairs at a time, could remain in the space, which had previously been dubbed the "First Amendment Rights Area," until the phrase was blurred out on the official copy of the rules.
Additional reporting by John Del Signore