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Uprising

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012, 1:39 am

NYPD Disrupts ‘Sleepful Protest’

By Bhaskar Sunkara

The law was on their side. The police weren't.

Yesterday morning, the NYPD arrested four occupiers and dislodged others near the New York Stock Exchange. More than eighty activists had been sleeping on the sidewalk there overnight, invoking a 2000 federal court ruling which barred police from stopping protesters from "using public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression."

As Rebecca Burns reported last week, demonstrators adopted the new tactic after the short-lived Union Square encampment's demolition.

It is not clear why authorities suddenly reversed their posture towards the "sleepful protest" or deemed the Metropolitan Council, Inc. v. Safir case did not apply to it. Their complaints falling on deaf ears, encircled occupiers chanted, "Changes every day, we get confused with the law!" Last night, a dozen more were arrested.

Writing for New York MagazineJoe Coscarelli speculates that the legal ramifications of the NYPD's actions may have been worth the cost for the city:

Controlling the narrative seems important for the city in the wake of last fall's turbulent clearing of Zuccotti Park: Stamping out this new trend before it grows — and gains widespread media attention — is ideal, lest an Occupy Wall Street renaissance seem possible to not just the protesters, but to the public. For the city, fighting a few demonstrators in court might be preferable to facing growing numbers of them on the streets again.

Pushed from the sidewalks, some protesters regrouped on the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial—the site where the Bill of Rights was first introduced.

Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor of Jacobin, is an In These Times senior editor. Follow him on Twitter: @el_bhask

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