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Letter: Quibbling Over Semantics (Middletown Times Herald-Record)

To the Editor:

Village Attorney Joe Eriole’s quoted response to the New York Civil Liberties Union’s call to dismiss prosecutions against four Occupy New Paltz protesters amounts to quibbling over semantics (“NYCLU says drop Occupy charges,” July 18).

Whether the village prefers to characterize the charges as “trespass violations” (as the Village Code explicitly references) or as “violations of a village ordinance against camping overnight” (which does not exist in Village Code) does not change the fact that it is using scarce public resources to prosecute four peaceful protesters on the grounds that they didn’t have permission to be in the park.

Notably, the village attorney does not, and cannot, dispute that the protesters had the village’s prior permission to be in the park after curfew, and that this permission was purportedly revoked only based on a series of unwritten, confusing and ultimately unconstitutional requirements imposed on the protesters.

The village attorney is absolutely right that the village has been responsive to free-speech issues in the past. The NYCLU is now urging the village to be responsive again here by dropping these protesters’ charges.

Daniel E. Berger
Director of the New York Civil Lberties Union’s Lower Hudson Valley Chapter

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