Political activists considered soapboxing a 1st Amendment right.
Law enforcement authorities frequently viewed it as an impediment to the public right-of-way
(New York City, October 1908).
The decades immediately preceding World War I have been called the "Golden Age of Soapbox Oratory." Working people had little money to spend and tub-thumping public speakers pushing their social or political agendas provided a form of mass entertainment.Radical political parties, intent on bringing what they perceived as an emancipatory message to the working class, were particularly intent upon making use of "street meetings," with their speeches and leaflets, to advance their specific message.
Street-corner oratory could also present its share of problems. Chief among these was the policy of local law enforcement authorities, who sometimes saw in radical political discourse a form of incitement to crime and violence and a threat to public order. Additionally, large street corner crowds listening to "soapboxers" would often obstruct public walkways or spill into public streets, creating inconveniences to pedestrians or vehicular traffic alike. Consequently, local authorities would oftentimes attempt to restrict public oratory through licensing or prescriptive banning. Source: Wikipedia Soapbox History
Zuccotti Park was closed to OWS protestors today, Mayor Bloomberg saying “health and safety conditions became intolerable” in the park.So the more things change, the more they stay the same. Fewer options are open to those without money and power, grabbing your soapbox and standing your ground in a public park is sometimes all you have left when you want to get your point across.