Signs May Be Allowed Into Public Atrium Used by Protesters

A lawyer for Deutsche Bank, the landlord of a public atrium in the Financial District that Occupy Wall Street organizers were using to hold meetings, described in a letter an apparent refinement of a policy forbidding signs in the atrium, which some critics had called unconstitutional.

“Deutsche Bank is not prohibiting Occupy Wall Street participants or any other individual from carrying or displaying signs,” a bank official wrote in a letter dated Dec. 20 to a lawyer representing the protesters. “What Deutsche Bank prohibits is the attachment of any signs or posters to the walls, trees or other furnishings or fixtures at the Atrium.”

Sometime in November, rules were posted in the atrium of 60 Wall Street listing bans on loitering, sitting on the floor and rearranging tables and chairs.

The rules also included a line that read “signs and posters are not allowed.”

People associated with Occupy Wall Street said that private security guards and police officers had told them they were not allowed to display or hold up signs indicating which of their committees were holding meetings in different parts of the atrium.

The atrium, on the ground floor of the North American headquarters of Deutsche Bank, is one of about 500 privately owned public spaces in New York City, which developers and landlords are obliged to provide and maintain in exchange for additional floor area or other zoning concessions.

Last week, two lawyers, Norman Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum, wrote to Deutsche Bank, expressing concerns about that regulation, saying that it violated the First Amendment and appeared to discriminate against members of Occupy Wall Street.

In the Dec. 20 letter from Deutsche Bank, Anne Marie Palfrey, a managing director and senior counsel, wrote to Mr. Siegel that the policy described in her letter did not reflect a “change of any substance from Deutsche Bank’s preexisting policy against the posting of signs and posters.”

She added: “While Deutsche Bank reserves the right to change its regulations and procedures governing the use of the Atrium as it deems appropriate, it does not currently intend to interfere with the display of signs in the Atrium that are not attached to any part of the premises.”

Mr. Siegel said that he would ask the bank to change the wording on the rules displayed inside the atrium to conform with the policy outlined in Ms. Palfrey’s letter.

“We are pleased that people, including O.W.S. supporters and participants, can carry and have signs at 60 Wall Street,” he said by telephone on Wednesday evening. “We need to protect and enhance expressive activity, not prohibit or restrict it.”

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