Speaking of the First Amendment...

Speaking of the First Amendment, Newsday says the police are losing it. A woman was arrested for holding a sign up at a Hummer dealer.

Did the NYPD finally lose its cool yesterday?

Protesters thought so when police made 200 arrests at Ground Zero and at least three more at the New York Public Library, their actions both times seemingly contradicting verbal directions to the protesters just moments before.

And, in perhaps the day's most unusual occurrence, a lone protester -- a woman carrying a sign -- was arrested at the Hummer showroom on 11th Avenue for "parading without a permit," an officer at the scene said.


Several miles north, as 200 demonstrators gathered on the steps of the main library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, police warned those carrying a black and pink banner that they would be taken into custody if they hung it outside the library.

The two protesters carrying the banner obeyed the order, witnesses said, but police arrested them, sparking a series of scuffles.

"It was unbelievable," said Cyndy Bruce, 26, of Chicago. "The officer said you can't hang it but you can hold it. As soon as they held it up, the officers swarmed in. They incited this violence. Not us.

"This was supposed to be peaceful. What they are doing is not acceptable," she said.

Police had no immediate explanation for the arrests at the library, though a police source said officers can detain demonstrators if they are interfering with others' right of way.

Newsday is great. Meanwhile the New York Times has a more mixed record, dating back to the anti-war demos of 2003. I love the phrase "pre-empt disorder" being allowed without comment.

Many of those protesting yesterday had purposefully avoided seeking permits for their rallies but had publicized their plans well in advance, leading hordes of police officers in cars, bikes, scooters and vans to flood various parts of the city primed to pre-empt disorder before it could occur.


"Today a number of anti-R.N.C. activities failed to materialize, including a takeover of the lobby of the Warwick Hotel, perhaps because of the police presence there," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told reporters at an early evening news conference.

Protesters and civil liberties lawyers expressed concerns over what they said had been unfair and overzealous tactics in dealing with demonstrators who may not have had permits but were not violent.

"It's an example of the police suckering the protesters," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, referring to the arrest of some 200 protesters who said they thought they were abiding by an agreement they had negotiated with the police as they marched from ground zero on Fulton Street.

"It was a bait-and-switch tactic," she added, "where they approved a demonstration and the protesters kept up their end of the bargain. They undermined people's confidence in the police, and that's a serious problem as we go forward."


Responding to word that anarchists planned to somehow disrupt the morning's trading, hundreds of police officers flooded the blocks surrounding the New York Stock Exchange before 8 a.m.

Roughly an hour later, dozens of officers responded to an obscure corner near the exchange at South William Street and Mill Lane, where protesters had stretched a ball of yarn across the street.

Within minutes, 14 young people sat handcuffed and seated with their backs to a wall near the short pedestrian mall, surrounded by three or four times as many police officers. Several balls of red and yellow yarn were strewn about the street, and a boom box sat nearby with a sign on a bedsheet reading "Celebrate the Power of Money." One of the protesters wore a pinstriped suit and a beret.


Later in the afternoon, a clash erupted on the steps of the New York Public Library after two women tried to hang a protest banner over one of the lions atop the library steps. After the police pinned the women to the ground, a crowd of protesters struggled with police, answering requests to move with chants of "Oink, oink, oink."

People coming off the subways were thrown to the ground and the steps of the library were left littered with chairs and debris.

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