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Police Claim Ground Zero Sidewalk Is "Private Property"
On February 7th, 2004, four activists from the "No Police State Coalition" were arrested at Ground Zero when they refused a police order to move from in front of the World Trade Center Path Train Station. The police claimed the sidewalk directly in front of the train station was "private property" of the Port Authority.
I overheard an officer say to one of the onlookers witnessing the arrests, "This is private property, they were asked to leave and they refused. They're not being arrested for what they have to say. If they would have went to the other side of the street, that would have been fine".
But the Port Authority is only partially a private entity. It is also a public entity, receiving public funding to create public spaces such as train stations and sidewalks. The sidewalk should constitute a public forum, meaning it is not a privately owned store or home, and therefore the rights of free speech are guaranteed.
Dennis Griggs, Joel Meyers, Geoffrey Blank and Jason Blank were charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, refusing to disperse and refusing a lawful order from a police officer, but they contend the order given by the police was completely unlawful. They say there was no lawful reason given for them to disperse and the request was in direct violation of their constitutional, inalienable rights of free speech and assembly.
"We weren't arrested for trespassing on the sidewalk, we were arrested for holding signs", said Geoffrey Blank, one of the four activists from the "No Police State Coalition" arrested on Saturday.
"Going forward, I feel good about this", he said.
According to Geoffrey, there is a law that bans exhibiting a sign or banner in the World Trade Center. This is the law he claims they will be charged in violation of, but Geoffrey contends the law itself is unconstitutional on its face. He was very confident when he told me they are going to "see this to the end".
FTW readers will recall on January 3rd, 2004 the NY Truth Movement began its visibility campaign at Ground Zero with the controversial sign "THE BUSH REGIME ENGINEERED 9-11". On that date, Nico Haupt and Geoffrey Blank were physically removed from in front of the WTC Path Train Station. Since then, the NY Truth Movement has set up shop directly across the street every Saturday.
"Getting educational material to the public and making space for discussion about 9-11 is our priority", said one 9-11 Truth activist named Cristian. He continued, "I have no problem cooperating with the police as long as my rights of free speech and assembly aren't violated. I'm not coming here every Saturday to piss-off the cops. I'm here to get a dialogue going that is critical to save our country".
No one from the NY 9-11 Truth Movement was arrested.
The NY 9-11 Truth Movement has worked with the "No Police State Coalition" on various occasions. This group does not back down for anyone, and often their strategies do not gain popular support. Nevertheless, these arrests may prove to be of major significance. The courts must now rule if free speech is allowed on the sidewalk in front of Ground Zero. This has been repeatedly denied to the NY 911 Truth Movement. I myself have been told by Port Authority police there was no way they would allow me to display our sign on that side of the street.
I have always complied.
The four activists received a summons to appear in court on March 18th, 2004. Since they only received a summons and were let go after 4 short hours, it appears the police didn't want to arrest them, just shut them up. It is likely the judge presiding will dismiss the charges based on "facial insufficiency", but since Geoffrey contends the law is unconstitutional on its face this will not be an acceptable resolution. The case will likely go to criminal court.
The arrest came after a successful "March for 9-11 Truth" down Broadway ended at Ground Zero with two banners reading "THE BUSH REGIME ENGINEERED 9-11" and one reading "STOP THE POLICE STATE". When those carrying the banners set up right in front of the WTC Path Station, the police were taken by surprise and left unsure how to react. There were too many people for them to react as quickly, and illegally, as they did over a month ago. A crowd of onlookers quickly formed.
Regardless of how the legal issues work out, it was a powerful display that lasted over an hour. Educational literature was dispersed to many who passed by. The majority of people seemed to feel this is what makes New York great, while a minority felt differently. When the arrests happened, one local resident was almost in tears as he said, "I can't believe I just saw these people arrested for free speech in my own neighborhood".
I was there covering the event, which will be included in an upcoming documentary on the NY 9-11 Truth Movement. I don't know if I agree with the tactics of those who were arrested, even though I believe they were well within their rights the entire time. I certainly know it is not how I would have handled myself. But what is clear is that this is only the beginning of a long battle to bring Truth into the consciousness of Americans everywhere, starting at Ground Zero, and now in the courts.
One thing is certain - the NY 9-11 Truth Movement will be back at Ground Zero next Saturday, at noon, with our signs and literature to disperse to the public. We will remain on the other side of the street, where the police have basically left us alone for the past month, until the legal issues are worked out.
With the Republican National Convention scheduled to be in New York in September, one wonders if there are plans to rid Ground Zero of the dangerous truth being presented by concerned citizens. This bold move by the "No Police State Coalition" is an offensive move in a game of social-justice-chess, and at stake is the essence of what it means to be free. The "No Police State Coalition" is not asking for their rights, they are demanding them.
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Michael Kane is a member of the NY 9-11 Truth Movement who has been forced into journalism since no other "journalist" will cover the Movement. He is an associate producer of Shadow Government TV
© Copyright M Kane 2004. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement.