Writer Naomi Wolf attended a HuffPo event in NYC where Governor Andrew Cuomo was expected to attend, and which had attracted a group of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who wanted to address the governor. Seeing the demonstrators penned up far away from the area where it would be lawful to protest, Wolf asked the police to clarify what the demonstrators should be allowed to do. Once the police had clarified that it would be legal for demonstrators to picket out front of the event, providing they didn't impede pedestrian traffic, she led a group of protesters back to the sidewalk. A "white shirt" (senior NYPD officer) told her she was breaking the law in doing so, and when she asked him to clarify how this was so, he had her arrested. The NYPD continue to insist that the public sidewalk out front of the event was off-limits, but have not, to date, produced the alleged permit that established this.
Another scary outcome I discovered is that, when the protesters marched to the first precinct, the whole of Erickson Street was cordoned off – "frozen" they were told, "by Homeland Security". Obviously if DHS now has powers to simply take over a New York City street because of an arrest for peaceable conduct by a middle-aged writer in an evening gown, we have entered a stage of the closing of America, which is a serious departure from our days as a free republic in which municipalities are governed by police forces.
The police are now telling my supporters that the permit in question gave the event managers "control of the sidewalks". I have asked to see the permit but still haven't been provided with it – if such a category now exists, I have never heard of it; that, too, is a serious blow to an open civil society. What did I take away? Just that, unfortunately, my partner and I became exhibit A in a process that I have been warning Americans about since 2007: first they come for the "other" – the "terrorist", the brown person, the Muslim, the outsider; then they come for you – while you are standing on a sidewalk in evening dress, obeying the law.