The Canadian company that manages Zuccotti Park on Wall Street wants to oust the protesters on the pretext of cleaning the park.
By Lorenzo Somma
Published October 14, 2011
While are more likely to hear about car bombings in Bagdad than word on the growing Occupy Wall Street movement on your local and nation news networks, a recent development has left me scratching my head.
Most of us (I hope) are at least vaguely familiar with the 99% vs. 1% nature of the movement, and it is fair to say that most of us likely agree that the freedom to peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right. (If you don't agree, you might be living in the wrong country, as it is not only an opinion, it's also the law.)
The freedom to assemble, tied in with the freedom of speech, is what sets our government and society apart from many of the other nations of the world. These freedoms allow us to speak out against the government or powers that be, when we disagree or need to criticize their actions. It is a right that allows us to maintain such large nations.
This freedom acts as a social lubricant that keeps our legal system ever-evolving and minimizes the need of a nation to directly control the will of its people. We all agree to certain rules and get along as a larger family because of this.
But it only works when these fundamental rights are protected by the state they stand for. When people are angry, they need to demonstrate it peaceably, because the alternative is revolutionary.
When tens of thousands, if not more, people unite in peaceful anger, the reaction must always be to take them seriously, protect them and above all: Actively listen to why they are angry.
As this movement goes and spreads into other countries - Occupy Bay Street starts tomorrow - it will become more important that we ensure all players protect the rights of these citizens to assemble and have their voices heard.
Also, we must not allow loopholes to hamper freedom, as is taking place on Wall Street right now, at the hands of a Canadian firm.
The main centralization of the Occupy Wall Street movement is located in Zuccotti Park. This site houses the tarps and sleeping bags of the denizens that make up the movement. Brookfield Asset Management owns and maintains the physical land this park occupies, and now this Canadian firm is threatening to oust the protesters, citing that the park needs to be cleaned.
This tactic has been used before as a loophole to break up popular protest in the past. That a Canadian firm, whose history is literally set in bringing light to the peoples of the world, should use such a ploy to break up a popular movement, is disappointing to the highest degree.
There are a few cut and pastes I would like to throw at you right now, the first is from the Brookfield Code of Business Conduct & Ethics [PDF]:
LEGAL AND REGULATORY COMPLIANCE
COMPLIANCE WITH LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS
Know and comply with all laws, rules and regulations applicable to your position.
Many of the company's activities are subject to complex and changing laws, rules and regulations. Ignorance of the law is not, in general, a defense to an action for contravention. We expect directors officers and employees to make every reasonable effort to become familiar with laws, rules and regulations affecting their activities and to exert due diligence in complying with these laws, rules and regulations and to ensure that those individuals reporting to them are also aware of these laws, rules and regulations. No director, officer or employee may enter into any arrangement contrary to applicable requirements or laws. Our objective is to restrict willful or negligent violations of these laws, rules and regulations.
Now, take a look at sections from these two important documents: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2:
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
And the United States Bill of Rights, Amendment I:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I'm no law professor, but I am pretty sure that constitutional laws that are entrenched to a nation's legal code trump any city ordinance law requiring to keep a park clean. By their own code of conduct:
No director, officer or employee may enter into any arrangement contrary to applicable requirements or laws.
Take your pick, Brookfield, us or the U.S.: either way, you need to step down and allow citizens their right to assemble. (An apology to the citizens in Zuccotti Park wouldn't hurt, either. Nothing says you're sorry like buying everyone lunch.)
I encourage all citizens to demonstrate their outrage at this threat by a Canadian firm, by signing this petition. Further to this end, I would like to see the United Way back our human right to peaceful assembly and commit to breaking their charity ties to this organization, should Brookfield fail to do the right thing.
Keep checking up on the websites of this fundamentally important movement, and keep asking the questions our news media do not seem to be asking. We are the 99%, this is about YOU.
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