Well, the worst has finally happened: though it had hung in one form or another for two years, tenant activist Arthur Nash’s BRING BACK THE BARDS banner was removed from the hotel’s façade at approximately 8:45 this morning. Kinda-sorta manager Arnold Tamasar did the honors in person, as a police officer and a security guard stood by.
Obviously, this was not a police matter, but rather a matter for the city agencies and the courts. The cop’s explanation for allowing the sign’s removal was that only the owners of a buiding are allowed to hang signs on the façade of the building. This is open to debate, and in fact it was being discussed with various city agencies. The cop further stated that, since Arthur didn’t have a door to the balcony (like many residents, he climbs through his window), he was not allowed go onto the balcony at all. We believe that the police officer exceeded his authority in aiding the hotel management in their suppression of Nash’s first amendment rights.
The timing of the hotel’s move against Nash, as well as the (former) location of the banner, are significant. On the weekend of June 18, the hotel, in conjunction with No Longer Empty, is planning an art show (featuring mostly outside artists) in the former Capitol Fishing Tackle storefront. Nash’s sign was positioned on the second floor almost directly above the storefront. Obviously it would be a huge embarrassment to the hotel management to have to explain what the sign meant to everyone attending the event.
We believe this to be an illegal infringement on Nash’s first amendment rights. Plain and simple, this is intimidation and harassment meant to stifle all dissenting voices, and as such represents the end of free speech at the Chelsea—if indeed any pretense of it remained after the ouster of the Bards.