Demonstrators will no longer be permitted to conduct die-in protests at Grand Central Terminal. The Wall Street Journal reports that the protests have occurred there every night since December 3, when a Staten Island grand jury decided not to charge a white police officer in the death of unarmed black man Eric Garner. But on Tuesday night, the MTA put a stop to them.
According to MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg, there have always been rules against lying down in the train station. In an email to ANIMAL, he writes:
We have been flexible since the protests began, even though sitting or lying on the floor of Grand Central Terminal violates the rules, since the protests were on matters of major public concern and the protesters were not impeding customers or otherwise violating laws.
However, Lisberg says last night’s protesters went too far:
But yesterday a group laid placards all over the floor of the main concourse, and we can’t allow that kind of obstruction. The MTA Police Department made them remove the placards, and let them know we can no longer tolerate them violating the rule against sitting or lying on the floor. Then, when two separate protesters put their hands on the arms of police commanders to try to stop them from doing their lawful duties, we had to make the first arrests since the protests began. We cannot and will not tolerate that.
“What’s going on is a direct attack on freedom of speech,” says Lucy Sun, one of the people who has been organizing the daily protests from 7-10PM. She says the protests will continue. “Lying on the floor is not our only tactic.”
In a text to ANIMAL, famed civil rights attorney Norman Siegel asserts that the rules being imposed by the MTA aren’t constitutional. “Assuming the die-in does not interfere with pedestrian movement, the MTA policy is unconstitutional,” writes Siegel. “The policy is overly broad and violates the First Amendment right to peaceful protest.”
(Photo: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)