Members of the Occupy New Paltz movement held a press conference last Thursday, one week after four of them were arrested for refusing to leave Hasbrouck Park after the 9 p.m. curfew. The encampment has been relocated to 173 Huguenot Street, on property owned by Michele Riddell, one of the arrestees. Riddell says the new encampment is temporary until the group is allowed to return to Hasbrouck Park. Others arrested on Feb. 9 include Amanda Sisenstein, Margaret Human and Brent Stewart.
When the Occupy New Paltz movement arrived at Hasbrouck Park in December, several of whose members had been kicked out of the Poughkeepsie encampment, the Village Board welcomed them with open arms. There was a caveat in the Village Board’s approval that if “issues arose,” it would “revisit” its permission to stay in the park. According to New Paltz mayor Jason West, issues did arise. As a result, the Village Board, after consulting with its attorney, asked the Occupiers to fill out a park-use permit and gave them a drop-dead date to turn it in. When the park permit was not filled out, the Village Board said that they could no longer stay in the park after hours, and that if they did, they would be subject to fines and arrest.
According to a press release submitted by Occupier Sisenstein, the group declined filing the paperwork because it felt that requiring a million-dollar liability insurance policy that costs approximately $600 for the purpose of exercising the First Amendment is an unreasonable financial restriction. The members of Occupy New Paltz also view the curfew on the park as a restriction on the First Amendment.
“The last time I read it, the First Amendment didn’t have a curfew,” said Riddell in the release. “I was arrested for standing up for my constitutional right and refusing to leave the park. If I need to assert that right again, I will not hesitate.”
The four arrested Occupiers are working with attorney Valeria Gheorghiu of the National Lawyers Guild. The group is considering asking for a jury trial on their appearance tickets. Their arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21 (too late for this edition of the New Paltz Times).