BY THE VILLAGE SUN | After a wild melee with police near the Sixth Precinct last weekend, protesters reportedly said they’ll be back in Washington Square Park this Sunday afternoon.
But Police Commissioner Dermot Shea warned that if they play amplified music again, their deejay equipment will be confiscated — again.
Police have taken criticism for charging into protesters near the W. 10th St. stationhouse and making arrests Saturday night. In a chaotic scene outside Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant, 12 protesters were taken into custody, with four of them arrested.
Prior to the arrests, 150 protesters had marched down from Washington Square Park to demonstrate at the precinct after police confiscated a deejay’s sound equipment in the park. According to a police spokesperson, the protesters had tried to enter the precinct, but were blocked by cops.
The protesters then blocked traffic at Hudson and 10th Sts., according to police, leading to a standoff that ended in the arrests. At the time of the arrests, however, the protesters were mainly crowded on the sidewalk outside Cowgirl, as well as standing on a traffic island and blocking the Hudson St. bike lane.
State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Deborah Glick issued a joint statement condemning the incident, calling it a “disturbing escalation of force” against peaceful protesters.
During a subsequent interview on 1010 WINS radio, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that tension had been building for several weeks regarding amplified music in Washington Square Park.
On Sept. 20, The Village Sun first reported that the Parks Department and police had started to crack down on amplified music in the landmark Greenwich Village park after receiving numerous complaints from neighboring residents.
“It really stemmed from about three weeks ago in Washington Square Park,” Shea said of Saturday’s arrests. “Actually, I wouldn’t really call it a protest to be honest. It was a party, it’s alcohol, it’s deejay equipment.
“And when it was shut down in Washington Square Park — and this is, you know, after numerous warnings had been issued over weeks, threats to Parks employees that had tried to break it up — and we got involved, and, you know, some people weren’t happy that we took their deejay equipment. But guess what? If they do it tonight, we’re going to take their equipment again.
“We’re going to have a hard stand in terms of — peaceful protests are absolutely something we support — but you cannot take over streets, you cannot cause property damage or any of the other things.
“We’re starting to see really like a core group of people now that really aren’t protesting George Floyd,” Shea added. “It’s more about gather, march around and, you know, sometimes it’s hard to see what they’re trying to accomplish.”
According to news reports, the protesters last Saturday night were dancing to deal with their grief and anger over the Breonna Taylor grand-jury verdict in Louisville that saw three police officers escape indictments in her fatal shooting during a warrant search.
Robert Jackson, a Sixth Precinct community affairs officer, backed up Shea’s comments.
“It’s something that started about three weeks ago,” he said of the parties with amplified music in the park. “This group was defiant. They got their stuff taken. They went to the precinct. This was an event that was going on for three weeks.”
Jackson explained that, to be allowed to have amplified sound in a city park, there is a process that must be followed. First, the applicant must get approval from the Parks Department for a specific date and time. Next, the Police Department has to issue the applicant a sound permit.
Asked if there is any difference between degrees of amplification, for example, if Parks turns a blind eye to smaller amps versus larger ones, Jackson didn’t draw any distinctions.
“Any amplified sound needs permits,” he said.
It is right there in the Constitution, you need a permit for a demonstration protest and you need a permit for sound, says it right there.
“According to news reports, the protesters last Saturday night were dancing to deal with their grief and anger over the Breonna Taylor grand-jury verdict” – uh huh. Isn’t that everyone’s first reaction?
I commend the Police Commissioner and the dedicated officers of the NYPD, especially those of the 6th precinct. They are always there to protect us and to dutifully enforce the criminal laws and the Parks Department regulations in Washington Square Park, where they have been especially successful in suppressing the sale of drugs, though the challenge continues. The prohibition against the use of any kind of music or other amplification without a permit has been on the books and enforced for decades, regardless of who the violator may be.