Your Safety, Stop Dissenting
City of New York snubbed protestors and civil-liberties advocates
by refusing to grant antiwar rally organizer United for Peace
and Justice the right to march in the city’s streets on Saturday
What New York City representatives are calling security concerns
set off a legal battle between city officials and protestors
in the changed climate of post-Sept. 11 New York. Protestors
and the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is representing
UPJ, see it as a struggle for their First Amendment rights.
The rally in New York, where organizers expect protestors
to turn out in the hundreds of thousands, coincides with more
than 350 rallies in cities globally.
The decision came from the New York Police Department in the
form of testimony from Michael D. Esposito, Assistant
Chief of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, in Federal District
Court in Manhattan. Esposito appeared in court on Monday to
explain why the NYPD didn’t want to allow protestors to march
in Saturday’s rally. The judge, Barbara S. Jones, did not
contradict the department. “The court,” she told The New
York Times, “will not second-guess or substitute its judgment
for that of the NYPD.”
The court’s decision, while prohibiting any movement, does
allow for a protest confined to an area on First Avenue stretching
north from 49th Street. While no one from the NYPD would comment,
Katherine O’Brien Ahlers, spokeswoman for New York City Law
Department, legal counsel for the NYPD, said that the NYPD
was concerned about the large group of people expected to
show up at the rally.
O’Brien Ahlers said the NYPD was concerned that it wouldn’t
have “the ability to provide a safe environment for a protest
of over 100,000 people.”
But Chris Dunn, senior staff counsel of the NYCLU, said the
issue is not about safety.
absolutely a speech issue,” he said. “The very people that
have organized this march have organized safe protests in
the past. There is no reason to believe that this march couldn’t
happen in a safe and orderly way.”
Despite what she calls “an assault on the right to assemble,”
Erin O’Brien, a local organizer for Women Against War, said
preparations for the rally are continuing as planned. Though
tickets have sold out for WAW’s chartered buses, O’Brien said
other transportation arrangements are being provided and can
be found at the United for Peace and Justice Web site, www.unitedfor
people are carpooling, taking Amtrak, taking Greyhound,” O’Brien
said. “We’re anticipating at least 1,000 people from the Capital
Ihlenburg can again speak freely about his frustrations with
the Columbia County Family Court System.
At a contempt hearing on Feb. 7, surrogate Family Court Judge
Christian F. Hummel dismissed the gag order barring Ihlenburg
from sharing information about his struggles in Columbia County
Family Court with the press, his pastor, even his own parents.
gag order was very broad in that it limited every aspect of
free speech for George,” said Anita Thayer, Ihlenburg’s attorney.
As previously reported in Metroland (Newsfront, Nov.
14), Columbia County Family Court Judge Paul J. Czjaka gagged
the Hudson plumber last June 19 for violating an order of
protection held by Ihlenburg’s ex-wife. Ihlenburg violated
the order of protection by participating in Hudson’s Flag
Day parade where his wife was also present.
At last week’s contempt hearing, Ihlenburg said he willfully
violated Czjaka’s gag order by speaking with Metroland,
among other local media, about his struggles with the county’s
family-court system. Ihlenburg also acknowledged that he took
part in a community forum discussing family court issues at
Time & Space Limited art warehouse in Hudson on Jan. 18.
At the meeting, Ihlenburg expressed his frustration with the
family-court system via video as he was serving part of a
year’s sentence of weekends in jail, also stemming from the
Flag Day incident.
Hummel held Ihlenburg in contempt of court at last week’s
hearing, but waived the resulting six-month jail sentence
under the condition that Ihlenburg share no specific information
about his case, his ex-wife or their children with the press.
Under the revised gag order, Ihlenburg will be allowed to
vent his frustrations about family court and family law in
At the outset of the trial, Hummel announced that Czjaka would
no longer oversee Ihlenburg’s court proceedings, as the judge
had recused himself. Ihlenburg, who has long been asking Czjaka
to step down from his case, said he was elated that Hummel,
a family court judge in Rensselaer County, will oversee all
trusting that [Hummel] will offer a clean slate,” Ihlenburg
said. “This is all I’ve wanted for four years. There is some
light at the end of the tunnel.”