Winter Solstice Celebrants Arrested

December 23, 1998

Source: The New York Times

On December 23, 1998 the New York Times reported that 33 participants in a Winter Solstice celebration were charged with trespassing. The Staten Island beach is technically closed after dusk, and the ritual fire was seen as problematic. "Ms. Henes, 53, said she had held at least 15 solstice ceremonies on South Beach and never run into a problem before. 'In the past,' she said, 'sometimes the Fire Department has come because someone has seen the fire, and we say, look, this is our religion, and they have been very respectful and let us finish the ceremony.'" (NYT, December 22, 1998, Section B, Page 5, Column 1, Metropolitan Desk) The next day, the paper reported that the ACLU was asking the City to drop all charges before the court date, scheduled for January 25. The executive director of the ACLU, Norman Siegel commented, "'What the city should be doing is accommodating these diverse religious, cultural and political events that help make up the zaniness of New York City. But instead of enhancing them, they are making it a crime.'"