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Appealing judge's ruling could be tough task for Occupy Wall Street


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If protesters appeal a judge's ruling Tuesday banning them from camping in Zuccotti Park, they will have a tough time getting it overturned, observers said.

"If you see the history here and see how courts have interpreted the First Amendment in terms of demonstrations, picketing and things in public places -- you know that the court drew a line," said Bennett Gershman, a constitutional law professor at Pace University. "They can protest ... but you can't sleep there. There are too many legitimate public concerns."

A letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg from Zuccotti Park's owner, Brookfield Properties, said the camp violates zoning law granted by the city. New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman cited that in his ruling.

Gershman said lawyers for Occupy Wall Street, however, have several arguments that they can make in an appeal.
Attorneys for the protesters were unsure Tuesday if they would appeal, reports said.

"They can try to argue that [camping out] is the most effective form to convey their message about the disparity in wealth. It really does show it in a visual way," he said.

In addition, lawyers can argue that the demonstration is relegated to a certain space and is not disrupting traffic, Gershman said.

Finally, the city has already allowed the protesters to stay there for two months, he added.

"The city in a sense conceded that staying in the park doesn't really undermine public interest, and if the city wants to clean it up from time to time or inspect it, it can still do that," Gershman said.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Bloomberg's decision to raid Occupy Wall Street puts a damper on people's right to protest.

"There is no reason why the Bloomberg administration cannot embrace a more expansive understanding of freedom of speech and allow the protesters and their tents back into Zuccotti Park in a way that is consistent with public safety and health. It should immediately do so," she said in a statement.

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