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Picture the Homeless
PTH wins VICTORY FOR OWS FREE SPEECH... and then the NYPD says FREE SPEECH? OH HELL NO
Lately, several of our comrades in OWS were getting arrested for sleeping in Union Square, even though they weren't breaking any laws.
And nobody knows more about getting arrested for sleeping than homeless people. In fact, we've done quite a few sleep-out protests ourselves, over the years, to highlight the absurdity of a legal system that punishes people for having no home but allows landlords and banks to keep properties vacant in the middle of a housing crisis. When we do sleep-outs, we go armed with a copy of the New York State District Court decision in which a judge ruled that the NYPD did not have the power to arrest demonstrators who are sleeping on the sidewalk as a form of political protest, as long as they did not violate other laws like blocking pedestrian traffic or public intoxication or anything else. At our very first one, a cop in Midtown Manhattan told us "I arrest homeless people individually for this every night, but since it's a group of you it's a First Amendment issue."
So on April 5th, Picture the Homeless posted a copy of that court decision right here on our blog, and tweeted it widely to ensure that our friends and comrades in OWS knew all about it.
They got the message. The next day, the New York Times reported that OWS protesters, armed with copies of the State court ruling that we provided, successfully slept out on the sidewalk all night long, with no arrests.
Unfortunately, the NYPD has never let a little thing like the LAW stop it from violating people's rights, and yesterday New York Magazine reported that the police have begun making arrests of people sleeping on the sidewalk.
We were honored and proud to be able to share our own direct action experience with other people fighting for economic and racial justice.
And whatever comes next, we're excited to stand on the side of free speech and peaceful dissent, and push back against this latest NYPD nonsense.