ACLU and NLG File Suit to Protect Occupy Boston

[Via ACLU website]

Civil rights advocates seek protection for peaceful protest at Occupy Boston


 Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chris Ott, Communications Director, ACLU of Mass., 617-482-3170 x322,

Howard Cooper, Todd & Weld LLP, 617-720-2626

BOSTON — Civil rights attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union went to court today

seeking to protect the rights of free speech, assembly, petition, and association for demonstrators at Occupy Boston in Dewey Square, in light of the heavy-handed police crackdowns in recent days on Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York, Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Calif.

“The Greenway is a public park and traditional open public forum and, as such, is a place where rights of free speech and assembly are paramount,” said Howard Cooper, an attorney from Todd & Weld, who filed the suit as a cooperating attorney with the National Lawyers Guild-Massachusetts Chapter and the ACLU of Massachusetts.

“It is unreasonable to suddenly and forcibly oust peaceful protestors from streets, sidewalks, and parks that have long been used as places for peaceful expression,” said Cooper.

The suit, filed in Superior Court, seeks a Declaration from the Court recognizing the right to peaceful protest and assembly under the U.S. Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, as well as an injunction to prevent police from staging another night-time raid, such as the one that began Oct. 10, 2011 and continued into the early morning hours of Oct. 11, when the Boston Police conducted a mass arrest of 141 people in the middle of the night.

Although Boston police have said that they have no plans “today” to evict the Occupy Boston protesters, Boston Police Department spokesperson Elaine Driscoll told that, “It’s difficult to say what will happen moving forward, but we will make those decisions on a daily basis.”

Meanwhile, a BBC report aired on WGBH this morning suggests that the recent crackdowns in other cities may be part of a coordinated effort. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said that she participated in a conference call with leaders of 18 cities shortly before the latest wave of raids targeting Occupy Wall Street encampments across the country were launched, although she didn’t mention Boston by name.

“What happened in Boston on the night of October 10th when the police prevented hundreds of peaceful protesters from exercising their constitutional rights could be viewed as an indication of the City’s sentiments,” expressed Urszula Masny-Latos, Executive Director of the NLG, Massachusetts Chapter. “It seems like the Courts declare our rights; however, it is up to the Mayor and the police to decide who can exercise them, when, and how.”

“The right to peaceable assembly and protest is critical to our democracy,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “We urge the Court to issue a clear statement that, in America, the public streets and parks belong to the people, and the rights to peaceful protest and assembly will be protected.”

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