Occupy Wall St: Naomi Wolf condemns ‘Stalinist’ erosion of protest rights

Thursday, October 20, 2011
By Paul Martin

Author was arrested alongside Occupy Wall Street protesters after she disputed police claims that they had to clear sidewalk

• Naomi Wolf: how I was arrested at Occupy Wall Street

Matt Wells

The feminist author Naomi Wolf has criticised the erosion of the right to public protest in the United States after she was arrested alongside Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in New York.

Wolf was led away in handcuffs after addressing protesters outside an awards ceremony held to honour New York’s governor, at which she was a guest.

The author had disputed claims by police that a permit granted to the event – organised by the Huffington Post website on Tuesday night – allowed them to clear the sidewalk outside the venue in the Soho district of Manhattan.

Inside, the New York state governor, Andrew Cuomo, was being presented with the “game-changer of the year” award by the Huffington Post. A group of protesters had arrived from the Occupy Wall Street group’s camp in Zuccotti Park to demonstrate against his opposition to extending New York State’s “millionaire’s tax”, and his support of the contentious process of extracting natural gas from shale, known as fracking.

Wolf, who staged an attempt in 2008 to read the US constitution using a megaphone in New York’s Union Square and discovered it was illegal, emerged from the event to lend her support and advice to the demonstrators.

She told the Guardian on Wednesday: “When I came out, the protesters had been pushed across the street. 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.

“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.”

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