With Occupy Wall Street's presence in Union Square Park diminished, there's significantly less political dissent for police to crush than there was last spring, when the NYPD repeatedly chased protesters out of the park. Still, it's important to keep busy! If this video is any indication, the cops assigned to the Union Square have found a fun way to pass the time on an otherwise boring detail: making sure everybody sits up straight:
It's worth noting that Union Square park has historically served as a rallying point for political movements in America—on the first Labor Day celebration in 1882, for instance, some 10,000 workers amassed there. Now it's essentially a bourgeois shopping plaza, with the fancy Greenmarket and other vendors regularly gobbling up wide swaths of the park. Yet a small but determined contingent of punks, skateboarders, agitators and, sadly, drug addicts remain, despite the NYPD's attempts to roust them. But if they're going to be there, the least they can do is sit properly!
Solomon Seagal, a Brooklyn resident who videotaped this interaction, tells us the officers were patrolling the park ordering multiple people to sit upright. "Then they ordered this man [in the video] to simply leave the park," Seagal tells us. "One person checked the park's rules and found there was nothing they were doing wrong, so it was clearly the police harassing them for no reason. It is ridiculous how much the NYPD think they can get away with."
Seagal tells us there was nothing preceding what he caught on video that, in his opinion, seemed to justify the officer ejecting the man from the park. The NYC Parks Department has not responded to a request for comment on the park's rules on proper sitting posture.
After viewing the video, Geoffrey Croft of NYC Parks Advocates tells us, "There are a number of ongoing quality-of-life issues related to homeless conditions in Union Square Park which has impacted the general public's use, safety and enjoyment of the park. Shown in this context—not knowing what preceded this encounter, i.e. if he had previously been laying across the steps or sleeping and the viewer is coming in at the tail end of the interaction—it appears the man the officer is engaging is not breaking the law other than smoking."
Ah yes, remember—it's illegal to smoke in NYC parks. But smoking doesn't seem to be as much of a priority for the NYPD as slouching. In fact, we've received numerous reports of NYPD officers blatantly smoking in NYC parks with abandon. If you spot a cop smoking in the park, please send your photo here!