Trampling Free Speech

By Nigel French

”What did they do?” asked a middle-aged woman out walking her dog. It was about 9 pm and I’d been waiting at the corner of Irving Place and E16th for a couple hours—hoping to get a glimpse of my friend who was being arrested, with several hundred others, on that block. “They didn’t do anything,” was my impatient reply. And they didn’t—they were ensnared, along with bystanders coming or going from homes, on their way to a dance class or to a restaurant, when the cops blocked off the street at both ends. There was no order to disperse. “Oh, I don’t believe that,” she responded dismissively, as if it were incomprehensible that New York’s finest would ever arrest someone who hadn’t done anything illegal.