Back to All Press Release

NYCLU Urges City To Keep Central Park Open For Political Protest

As New York City’s Parks Department announces it will close the Great Lawn of Central Park to all large protest gatherings, the New York Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Department to abandon this restrictive and possibly illegal policy. The NYCLU believes it is wrong and unlawful to single out protest activity for exclusion from Central Park. The Parks Department plans to limit annual events gathering on the Great Lawn to just 6 events each year, 4 of which would be for classical concerts. The remaining events pointedly would not be available to any large scale protest.

“The parks in New York City are the quintessential forum for protest and demonstration—the town hall of a large urban area like New York,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “Closing Central Park to large political protests would mark a dangerous departure from this City’s proud tradition of public spaces being used for demonstrations. Protesters in Central Park will cause no more damage to the grass than concertgoers.

The most recent debate over the use of Central Park by protesters occurred last summer prior to the Republican National Convention. Then, the NYCLU expressed concerns about closing Central Park to political rallies because of expressed concerns about possible damage to the grass. This raises fundamental questions about the use of public space in New York. While New Yorkers broadly support the restoration of the parks, what has made Central Park so great has been the huge variety of events that have taken place there, including large political events.

The consequences of closing Central Park to large protests would force large groups to march and demonstrate on City streets where tens or hundreds of thousands of people stretched over miles of Manhattan pavement would push participants far from the stage and require organizers to arrange for hugely expensive sound systems for their message to be heard. In addition, participants face the prospect that access to such events becomes much more complicated in light of the NYPD’s practice of using barricades to close streets and sidewalks leading to large demonstrations. None of these problems exists for events held in open park areas.

Said Christopher Dunn, NYCLU Associate Legal Director: “Closing Central Park to political protests would mark a dangerous departure from this City’s proud tradition of public spaces being used for demonstrations. The Parks Department needs to seriously rethink this policy”.

The NYCLU will testify against the rule change at the May 20th Parks Department hearing on this matter to impress upon the City the importance of keeping Central Park open to political protest.

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
© 2024 New York
Civil Liberties Union