A tent is apparently not a free speech zone

I hope somebody does a Michael Bloomberg approval poll sometime soon, because from this vantage point, he’s squandering whatever’s left of his credibility:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, speaking Monday as Occupy Wall Street protesters celebrated the passage of a month encamped in Zuccotti Park, said he was trying to strike a balance between protecting protesters’ right to free speech and the needs of Lower Manhattan residents.

“The Constitution doesn’t protect tents,” he said at a news conference in Queens. “It protects speech and assembly.”

The mayor expressed concern that those exercising a “right to be silent” might be getting drowned out amid the din of the protests.

“We can’t have a place where only one point of view is allowed,” he said. “There are places where I think it’s appropriate to express yourself, and there are other places that are appropriate to set up Tent City. They don’t necessarily have to be one and the same.”

Bloomberg’s foray into originalism notwithstanding, the focus on tents also apparently extends to medicine. Because hours after the mayor made this statement, the NYPD tried to take down the medical tent at Zuccotti Park. Jesse Jackson, who was randomly on the scene in the middle of the night when this went down, helped save the tent, which is apparently not Constitutionally protected. The blog Animal has photos. Incidentally, because tents are otherwise banned, the medical tent is the only tent at Zuccotti Park. So Bloomberg must really have it out for that tent. Such an eyesore!

The advocacy by Bloomberg for “places where I think it’s appropriate to express yourself” is basically the thinking behind free speech zones. There’s been a variety of litigation around that concept, but at the root you have Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, and the precedent is that public spaces “have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.” Zuccotti Park is a privately held public space, which brings up a host of other questions. And we’ll have to get a ruling on the tent.

…Incidentally, Bloomberg is out on a limb on an 87-10 issue in New York City by questioning the speech rights of the protesters.