Anti-War Protestors Lose Appeal On March Past U.N.
FEBRUARY 12TH, 2003
In an emergency hearing Wednesday, a federal appeals court denied anti-war protestors’ bid to stage a march past United Nations headquarters this weekend.
Finding no fault with a judge’s decision earlier in the week, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the city, by denying a permit for a march by “United for Peace and Justice,” did not violate the group’s right to free speech. The lower court had said the NYPD’s decision was appropriate during “this heightened time of security.”
“This is a stunning blow to democracy, to the liberties we all thought we could rely on, even in times of hostility,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which brought the issue to federal court last week.
When asked if organizers would appeal to the Supreme Court, Lieberman said they “are considering all options.”
Protestors are allowed to hold a contained rally at 49th Street and First Avenue. A spokesperson for the city’s Corporation Counsel said the alternative location will give protesters a chance to exercise their first amendment rights without jeopardizing public safety.
The NYPD says it can’t provide proper security for a march and instead issued a permit for a stationary rally outside the U.N. on Saturday. The NYPD said organizers did not give enough notice or good estimates of the crowd, but officials also admitted it is now policy to reject such requests for marches.
The appeals court noted that its decision applies only to the specific demonstration planned for Saturday and does not necessarily mean it would be constitutional for the city to ban protests on Midtown in all instances.
Meanwhile, many of the city’s labor unions are calling the court decision a blow to democracy. A group of more than 25 unions protested the decision in Midtown.
“We stand here today and ask Mayor Bloomberg, ‘What is your notion of patriotism? Are you a patriot if you are trying to tae away the fundamental right to assembly and protest in this country?'” said Jonathan Tasini, President of the National Writers Union.
“The threat to working people in this country is not Iraq, but our own government that is perpetrating these policies,” said Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against the War. “Nothing makes that clearer than recent events here in New York City. The Bush administration’s plan to spend hundreds of billion of dollars to control Iraqi oil, together with massive tax cuts to the rich, have nearly bankrupted our state and city.”
As many as 100,000 opponents of war in Iraq are expected to protest in New York Saturday, coinciding with nearly 300 planned demonstrations in Berlin, London and other cities.