In response to the unlawful, overnight eviction of Occupy Buffalo demonstrators from Niagara Square, the New York Civil Liberties Union today issued the following statement attributable to NYCLU Western Regional Office Director John A. Curr III:
“The unlawful eviction of protesters from Niagara Square is an affront to free speech. Occupy Buffalo had fully complied with its agreement with the city to remain in the square. For more than four months, the city had set a good example by accommodating the protest and accommodating the agreement. It’s a shame to have spoiled that good work by raiding the park in the dead of night, tearing down tents and arresting peaceful demonstrators.”
In December, the NYCLU had helped broker the agreement between the city and demonstrators to allow the encampment to remain in the park subject set of rules meant to provide safety and allow all persons access to the square. That agreement afforded the demonstrators the right to renew as long as they remained in compliance with the terms of the agreement. At no time did the city activate the mutually agreed upon process to establish that demonstrators hadn’t complied with the agreement.
“The First Amendment sets the floor, not the ceiling, for the protection of free speech,” Curr said. “The city had made a heartening effort to respect the spirit of the First Amendment, which makes this eviction so disappointing.”