Naomi Wolf, feminist author and activist, was arrested by NYPD as she defended Occupy Wall Street protestors on Tuesday at an awards ceremony for Governor Andrew Cuomo, organized by the Huffington Post.
While the Post honored Cuomo with the game-changer of the year award at Skylight Studios on Hudson Street, a crowd of 200 Occupy Wall Street protesters were chanting there, waiting to demonstrate against Cuomo's opposition to the extension of New York State's millionaire's tax.
Wolf, who was attending the event as a contributor to the Post, attempted to aid the protesters who were pushed across the street by the police.
This happens in Britain, too, with kettling. Police keep inventing this right to barricade people in and tell people where to protest, but in the United States this is wrong: it's against the first amendment rights of freedom of assembly, Wolf told The Guardian on Wednesday.
So I walked over to where they were -- they were backed up against the wall. Police said there was a permit saying they couldn't walk on the sidewalk. There was this giant phalanx of police.
As Wolf learned that the event's permit actually allowed people to walk on the sidewalk, she encouraged -- and joined -- the protesters in marching on the street, only to find herself in the midst of dozens of police officers who then ordered them to disperse.
By this time I was surrounded by them. One of them asked me if I was going to get out of his way. I didn't think consciously that I couldn't step away, but I froze. My conscience froze me, Wolf told The Guardian. Wolf was then arrested for refusing a lawful order, and taken to the seventh precinct.
The scary part about that is that the protesters and lawyers marched to the first precinct, which handles Hudson Street, but in the van the police got the message to avoid them by rerouting me, said Wolf.
I understood later that the protesters were lied to about our whereabouts, which seemed to me to be a trickle-down of the Bush-era detention practice of unaccountable detentions.
Once released from custody, Wolf wrote on her Facebook saying, I was completely complying with the law and the permit as it was described to me by police and I was arrested for standing lawfully on the sidewalk. I will post more tomorrow. Thank you for your messages of support.
Also: some press reports say that I was arrested because I ignored police warnings to get off the sidewalk or that I was arrested for using a megaphone without a permit. Both of these are untrue. I told the protesters that the NYC permit requirement that states that using a megaphone is illegal (though the officer who arrested me used a megaphone) is an unverifiable untransparent requirement because it is basically made up by the administration, permits can be denied with no recourse for any reason, and that we have the right to freedom of speech and assembly. I also did not 'ignore' police warnings to get off the street. I DISAGREED with them because I knew the law and I knew that they were misinterpreting or misrepresenting the permit in question. There is no requirement in the permit to 'get off the street' if you are not obstructing traffic, she added.
Below is a video footage of Naomi Wolf's arrest, which she herself put on her Facebook page.