Sometime in April of 2012, shortly after occupiers started their “sleepful protest” of bedding down on or near the doorstep of the New York Stock exchange, NYPD had chased protesters away, making them seek refuge on the steps of Federal Hall – which is under the jurisdiction of the US Parks Department, not NYPD – the Freedom Cage was born: After a night of several arrests and a large crowd of 100+ protesters congregating on the steps a well-designed (some think) and strictly enforced fenced in area was erected covering half the steps outside the birthplace of the Bill of Rights, allowing 25 or less protesters to be present in what was, in federal plans handed out by NYPD when the barricades went up, referred to as the Free Speech Zone. Thomas Jefferson and his brothers in arms, under the watchful eyes of the bronze statue of George Washington, had given birth to a zoning regulation.
Soon lovingly nicknamed the Freedom Cage, occupiers made it their home, spending days and nights in groups of at least sometimes 25 or less along with a contingent of NYPD and US Park Rangers to keep them safe (and awake). At first, K-9 and SWAT units guarded the area, but as time went on, and cops got bored watching people talking to each other, they disappeared, until finally the Park Rangers stopped showing up completely, and two lowly beat cops sitting in their car around the corner was all that remained.
After the nightly wild-cat march in solidarity with student protests in Quebec on Saturday June 2nd, a group of occupiers had marched down from Washington Square to Zuccotti Park and found its way to the Freedom Cage, ready for another night of quiet but good conversation; face to face with an enormous American flag, placed there by the 1% to remind us who the true patriots were in this country.
But then the magic suddenly happened: By a slight of hand George, ye George of Washington, who had watched over his occupiers night after night, whisked away the front row of the barricades, opening, liberating even, the Freedom Cage and it’s denizens. As is usually the case in open spaces, people and ideas soon flowed freely amongst themselves and with those passersby who were sober enough to notice.
But, as is the norm, with firm regularity the beat cop must emerge from his four-wheeled dwelling, stretch his legs, and stroll to the nearest watering hole for a coffee-refill. On one such journey, our guard noticed, rather unhappily, that an essential part of the Freedom Cage had gone missing. After a gently presented friend request, the hastily called-in supervisor did, after much deliberation, what intrepid leaders do: He called for back-up …
Back-up came in the form of Captain Brooks, a light-hearted variant of his species, who easily connected with the dwellers of the Freedom Cage. He even remembered to place his coffee order for his return a few hours later. And yes, he happily accepted the offer of having a donut included.
So rebuked, Captain Brooks’ troops soon withdrew, making for an entirely peaceful night in what now truly was a free Speech Zone.
And lest we forget our not-so-peaceful encounters with the shirts of white and blue Eric appeared and told the group what he had just been through. The night before he had suffered a seizure while walking down the street, and as he came to he noticed two cops beating him up and placing him under arrest for lying in the street. He tried to stand up and walk away but was thrown down again, tried to stand up again, and was yet again thrown to the ground. Bleeding, he was taken to the hospital where it was confirmed that he had indeed had a seizure and after he was administered five staples into the back of his head (sans sedative or pain-killer, mind you), he was unceremoniously dismissed both from hospital and arrest. He is currently looking for legal representation …
Alas, the freedom of the cage was short-lived. After the near-by picketing protest outside Trinity Church the following morning, the barricades have been restored to their full force. But as the Queen of the Night, that mystical flower that only blooms for one short night, the sweet smell of true freedom still lingers on.