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Camping Out In A Park Is Not A First Amendment Right

As the Occupy Wall Street movement and its progeny move into their third month, the courts are starting to get involved:

Now that Occupy Wall Street has grown from a handful of demonstrators taking over a Lower Manhattan park to spawn offshoots in cities around the U.S., the movement is now occupying courtrooms.

The young movement has lawyered up and filed lawsuits asserting freedom of speech and assembly in federal courts in Cincinnati, Sacramento, Nashville, Dallas and Atlanta, to name a few places.

These lawsuits, launched throughout October and November, are attempts by demonstrators to remain in their encampments while protesting government policies and influential corporations that they hold responsible for America’s lopsided economic system.

Late last week, the first test of those legal arguments came in Sacramento, and resulted in a ruling in favor of the city’s right to enforce curfews in city parks and on city property:

The ordinance banning Occupy Sacramento protesters in the park across the street from City Hall during late night and early morning appears, at this early stage of a legal challenge, to be constitutional, a federal district judge decided Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. said the ordinance does not appear to contravene First Amendment guarantees of free speech and assembly, contrary to arguments by attorneys for the protesters.

The month-old protest is part of a nationwide movement targeting “corporate greed” and other issues

England said the Sacramento ordinance “as drafted and applied” does not discriminate against the views of park occupiers, and it governs in a reasonable way the “time, place and manner” of demonstrations in all city parks.

Moreover, England said, the ordinance gives a reasonable amount of discretion to the city’s respective chiefs of police and parks as to when Cesar Chavez Plaza may be occupied.

He noted the 1981 ordinance “has been in place for 30 years and has never before been challenged.”

The judge made oral findings from the bench at the conclusion of a 75-minute hearing on Occupy Sacramento’s motion for a temporary restraining order barring the city from enforcing the ordinance and arresting demonstrators. He cautioned that his findings were “instructional,” not to be construed as a formal ruling, and he promised to issue a written order “shortly.”

England set Jan. 5 for a hearing on Occupy Sacramento’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the city, a remedy that if granted would remain in place until the lawsuit is either settled out of court or resolved in court on the merits.

This isn’t an entirely surprising outcome given the state of case law on the right to assemble. In short, while the Courts have upheld the right of groups to march and protest and generally always struck down laws or decisions by government entities that attempted to regulate an assembly based on the content of what was being said or advocated (See e.g., National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie), they have also upheld the right of government entities to impose reasonable time, place, and manner regulations on speech as long as it was applied in a content neutral manner. In fact, the Supreme Court dealt with a protest similar to the Occupy movement back in 1981 and issued a ruling that seems to clearly decide this issue.

Beginning in 1981, a group calling itself the Community for Creative Non-Violence began setting up a tent city in Lafeyette Park across the street from the White House to, they said, bring attention to the rise of homelessness under the less-than-a-year-old Reagan Administration. The National Park Service, which controls the park since it’s national land, attempted to limit the groups protests by limiting their permit to prohibit sleeping in the park. The group challenged the permit and, after two rounds of argument at the District Court and Court of Appeals level where the Park Service found its permit restrictions upheld by the District Court but shot down, by the Court of Appeals,  the Supreme Court ruled, in Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, that the Park Service’s regulation did not violate the First Amendment and that it was a content neutral time, place, and manner regulation. This was in 1981, remember, and this was a 7-2 decision, with only Justices Marshall and Brennan dissenting.

As Justice White noted at the time, even if one assumed that overnight sleeping in a park is a form of expression entitled to protection that doesn’t mean it isn’t subject to regulation:

We need not differ with the view of the Court of Appeals that overnight sleeping in connection with the demonstration is expressive conduct protected to some extent by the First Amendment. [n5] We assume for present purposes, but do not decide, that such is the case, cf. United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 376 (1968), but this assumption only begins the inquiry. Expression, whether oral or written or symbolized by conduct, is subject to reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions. We have often noted that restrictions of this kind are valid, provided that they are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and that they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information. City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789 (1984); United States v. Grace, 461 U.S. 171 (1983); Perry Education Assn. v. Perry Local Educators’ Assn., 460 U.S. 37, 45-46 (1983); Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, [p294] Inc., 452 U.S. 640, 647-648 (1981); Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748, 771 (1976); Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Service Comm’n of N.Y., 447 U.S. 530, 535 (1980).

It is also true that a message may be delivered by conduct that is intended to be communicative and that, in context, would reasonably be understood by the viewer to be communicative. Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405″]418 U.S. 405 (1974); 418 U.S. 405 (1974); Tinker v. Des Moines School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). Symbolic expression of this kind may be forbidden or regulated if the conduct itself may constitutionally be regulated, if the regulation is narrowly drawn to further a substantial governmental interest, and if the interest is unrelated to the suppression of free speech. United States v. O’Brien, supra.

Petitioners submit, as they did in the Court of Appeals, that the regulation forbidding sleeping is defensible either as a time, place, or manner restriction or as a regulation of symbolic conduct. We agree with that assessment. The permit that was issued authorized the demonstration, but required compliance with 36 CFR § 50.19 (1983), which prohibits “camping” on park lands, that is, the use of park lands for living accommodations, such as sleeping, storing personal belongings, making fires, digging, or cooking. These provisions, including the ban on sleeping, are clearly limitations on the manner in which the demonstration could be carried out. That sleeping, like the symbolic tents themselves, may be expressive and part of the message delivered by the demonstration does not make the ban any less a limitation on the manner of demonstrating, for reasonable time, place, or manner regulations normally have the purpose and direct effect of limiting expression, but are nevertheless valid. City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, supra; Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc., supra; Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77 (1949). Neither does the fact that sleeping, arguendo, may be expressive [p295] conduct, rather than oral or written expression, render the sleeping prohibition any less a time, place, or manner regulation. To the contrary, the Park Service neither attempts to ban sleeping generally nor to ban it everywhere in the parks. It has established areas for camping, and forbids it elsewhere, including Lafayette Park and the Mall. Considered as such, we have very little trouble concluding that the Park Service may prohibit overnight sleeping in the parks involved here.

In his ruling on the Sacramento statute, Judge Morrison England argues that, like the regulations in Clark, the Occupy Sacramento lawyers have failed to show that the relevant municipal statute is anything other than a reasonable time, place, and manner regulation:

On its face, § 12.72.090 appears to be content neutral: it does not make any reference to speech and it merely regulates the hours that anyone can remain or loiter in City  parks. While § 12.72.090 does have the direct effect of limiting speech and expressive activities in City parks during those hours during which people are not permitted to remain or loiter in the parks, “reasonable time, place, or manner regulations normally have the purpose and direct effect of limiting expression but are nevertheless valid.” Clark, 468 U.S. at 294 (citation omit ted). Plaintiffs have not alleged any content-based purpose behind § 12.72.090 and it is unlikely that they will be able to do so.

Second, Plaintiffs have not presented any compelling evidence that § 12.72.090 is not narrowly-tailored. A regulation of speech or speech-related conduct is overbroad-and therefore facially invalid-if it punishes a substantial amount of protected speech, judged in relation to the regulation’s plainly legitimate sweep. Virginia v. Hicks, 539 U.S. 113 (2003). The regulation must be narrowly tailored to advance a government’s legitimate, content-neutral interest, but need not be the least restrictive or least intrusive means of doing so. Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 798 (1989). Plaintiffs argument that § 12.72.090 is either over-broad or under-inclusive is not compelling.

The ordinance is limited to City parks and limited to five or six hours a day between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Section 12.72.090 does not prevent Plaintiffs from conducting their expressive activities twenty-four hours a day on adjoining sidewalks or in other public spaces if they so choose. It just prevents them from doing so by remaining or loitering in City parks after the hours established by the ordinance if they do not have a permit to do so. It is therefore not over-broad. Neither is it under-inclusive. The fact that § 12.72.090 applies to parks and not to sidewalks or other public places does not lead inevitably to the conclusion that the hours restrictions are intended to stifle free expression in City parks, as Plaintiffs suggest.

Third, § 12.72.090 appears to support a substantial government interest. In his declaration, the Director asserted the following government interests for this ordinance: (1) the general public’s enjoyment of park facilities; (2) the viability and maintenance of those facilities; (3) the public’s health, safety and welfare; and (4) the protection of the City’s parks and public property from overuse and unsanitary conditions. These interests appear to be narrowly-tailored and substantial and similar to the interests the Supreme Court found

This seems like an entirely reasonable view of the issue. Even a First Amendment zealot must surely recognize that the “right to assemble” — and it’s worth noting that the actual words in the First Amendment are “the right to peaceably assemble” — is not absolute any more than freedom of the speech or of the press are absolute. Just as we have libel and slander laws that, within the bounds of the First Amendment, allow people who have been wronged by untruthful speech to seek redress, so we have regulations on the use of public property that regulate how and when it can be used. As long as these laws are applied in a non-discriminatory manner, there is no question that they are Constitutional, and that the idea that camping out in a public park forever is a “right” is just nonsense on stilts. It’s unlikely that the Occupy movement will last long enough for this to happen, but if this issue ever got to the Supreme Court, especially under its current makeup, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Court would uphold the right of Sacramento and other cities to reasonably regulate the use of their property.

Here’s the opinion in the Sacramento case:

Occupy Sacramento v. City of Sacramento

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Delmar says:

    Major missteps of the OWS:
    1- It never struck its tents and got the army out of camp. Evidently, these students did not know their history well: this was the major defect of General McClellan and why Lincoln got rid of him.
    2- It is a flat organization. At some point, someone has to step up, take the leadership reigns, and give some kind of direction.
    3- Momentum and attention lost. Around October, the country’s attention turns to Halloween and football. The news media soon went on to other things: the Cain and Penn State problems; Murray trial. Attention spans are short these days.
    4- Logistical problems: from sanitation to cold weather, you have to have the resources and the organization for the long haul.
    5- Divisions: arguing and dissension eventually became rampant – the inevitable result of “tent fever”
    6- Cause was weakened by people who brought baggage: increasing numbers of homeless, felons on the run, and people looking for everything from free drugs to a fling.
    7- With friends like Rev. Al and Michael Moore, who needs enemies? Really – do those kind of “fringe of a fringe” people represent the middle class? The 99%? They spend their time railing against the economic system, yet have made millions off of it. The sight of these two and a few others in the OWS camps brought discredit to the movement.
    8- Symbols: mainly the picture of a person holding up a sign wanting taxpayers to bail out his ivy league graduate school debt. You think the 99% is going to identify and support this? The 99% is trying to get food on the table and gas to get to work. This gave an unrealistic image to the whole thing.
    9- Crime, disease, interference with local business and residents, and other problems started getting the attention of the news and the public.
    The “tea party” made some of the same mistakes.

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  2. superdestroyer says:

    The first idea that liberals support is that the rules are for others but not for themselves. How else do you geta group that believes that freedom of speech means the freedom to shout down others.

    One of the reason that people have little belief in the government is that liberals believes that there is one set of rules for middle class and upper middle class whites and one set of rules for the core groups of the Democratic Party.

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  3. J. Stephen says:

    Public nuisance arguments aside, these campouts are effectively depriving the use of public space to the rest of the members of the public that might choose to use them, and for an extended period of time.

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  4. john personna says:

    It is amazing that 235 years into our democracy we are only now noticing that “protest” sometimes involves “civil disobedience” and that disobedience is sometimes “illegal.”

    I mean, who would have thought?

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  5. Civil disobedience means a recognition that you are breaking the law and a willingness to be arrested for it, even to spend time in jail. Just ask Martin Luther King Jr.

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  6. john personna says:

    Another for the “shocking” category:

    “For UC Berkeley graduate student Alex Barnard, the most disempowering moment of Wednesday night was not when he was repeatedly hit with a police baton, cracking one of his ribs. Instead, the most disturbing moment of his experience came afterward, when he says an officer told him he had ‘no rights.'”

    Imagine, that in a protest situation the police themselves might lose the thread …

    I mean, who would have thought?

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  7. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Exactly. People are going to jail and getting bones broken here.

    Are you late to this party?

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  8. No, they are filing court pleadings to try to get a judge to say that they can stay forever if they want

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  9. And, John perhaps their “civil disobedience” would garner more attention if they actually stood for something concrete and didn’t elect dogs as their leader.

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  10. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Why the heck would you say “no” and some idiot downgrade me for saying something that is absolutely, factually, correct?

    (Yes, in parallel some are filing cases or whatever, but it is basic dishonesty to say that is the whole story.)

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  11. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Maybe you’d garner more attention with a serious argument.

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  12. @john personna:

    You’re right. Bring Shelby the Border Collie and I’ll talk to him. He’s probably more rational than the people who elected him anyway

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  13. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If your goal in these threads is to destroy any respect we might have for your ability to form rational, and non-emotional, argument. Then +1 dude. +1.

    Just to be clear, rational argument accepts all facts, and not the select few needed to stack a skewed screed.

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  14. michael reynolds says:

    I support OWS, but as a simple political realty, Delmar above is right. They missed their moment. They lost focus, didn’t pivot, didn’t advance, lost momentum.

    Anarchy doesn’t work, they needed at some point to generate hierarchy and organization. (Where’s their Southern Christian Leadership Conference? Or even a Mobe?) They did themselves amazing damage with stupid moves like sending a spokesperson who calls herself “Catsup” (or possibly Ketchup) to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert.

    Seen as a narrative problem they forgot they need a second act and a third.

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  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    Maybe we could cover some of the rapes and violence and anti semitism?

    Maybe?

    I mean page after page of crap anonymous and gold digger claims about sexual harassment(I felt uncomfortable)supposedly, we think um,er,oh,ah, but the ******* guilty!!! crucify him!!!! vs. the crap these anarchists, gangs, communists,Islamists, brainwashed liberals and white supremacists are doing in these parks.

    The 99%, lol, of criminals, idiots, and cry babies….

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  16. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It would certainly have been a cleaner narrative, and a more middle-age friendly plan, to pivot from protest to political movement a few weeks ago.

    But … when they’ve got Doug arguing that “disobedience is illegal” then they are still out there. They have not gone quietly into the night.

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  17. @john personna:

    My goal, as always, has been to figure out what, if anything those OWS stand for. what policies they propose change, and how they propose changing them.

    You say they’re engaged in civil disobedience? Toward what end? To protect some supposed right to camp out in parks all night? Their tactics have almost nothing to do with the message it is they seem to be wanting to make, and their tactics make them look silly.

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  18. john personna says:

    (What an amazing straw-man argument of the day. We should be shocked, shocked, that protests push the line of legality, both in courts and on the street. What the hell, man.)

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  19. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think you just yielded the whole legality and disobedience argument, and have now shifted to your stand-by for OWS discussions.

    That is “with my eyes tight shut, I can’t see the point.”

    FWIW, there have been many serious treatments, but I’d challenge you to rise to Tyler Cowen’s level. He is not at all an OWS supporter, but dude can write.

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  20. @john personna:

    I concede nothing on the legal side. You simply refuse to admit, apparently, that civil disobedience means engaging in acts that break the law and doing so for a purpose. Again I point to King, and Ghandi, as an example of that.

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  21. anjin-san says:

    if they actually stood for something concrete

    In saying that, you sound rather like a blind man describing a rainbow…

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  22. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: It’s so obvious to anyone who reads this blog that the last thing you want to do is figure out what OWS stands for. Unless you’ve been struck blind and lost the ability to transfer information from short to long term memory, there is simply no way you could have read the hundreds — possibly thousands — of explanations posted in response to your continued messages of contempt.

    It’s fine if you choose to loathe those who protest the massive inequality in this country. But this pretense that you just can’t figure out what it’s all about it making you look silly. I often disagree with your philosophy, but you generally come across as someone who cares about ideas. Not so in your OWS responses.

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  23. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Again, what the hell? You are arguing from complete cognitive dissonance.

    You see OWS breaking the law, but then you say they can’t be doing civil disobedience because that would be breaking the law.

    (I sure as hell hope you know that Ghandi spent time in British courts!)

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  24. @john personna:

    They can call it civil disobedience if they want, but it strikes me as very ineffective and ultimately pointless civil disobedience.

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  25. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    I live in the San Francisco Bay area, a couple of soviets south of what the locals like to refer to as “The City”. I don’t know how fruit much court rulings such as the above will bring forth in an era when the rule of law has morphed into the ruler’s law.

    Over the last coupe of decades, I have had a kind of catbird seat on the local apparat’s administration of all things demonstrable and there is a identifiable trend that all demonstrators are not treated equal, in fact, some are not treated at all. The foreseeable result is that the citizenry’s right to freely travel and do its commerce is sacrificed to the hysterias of demonstrators from the leftist end of the political spectrum.

    Rarely are there any arrests. And when there are, a simple citation is the preferred level of effort regardless of the level of disruption. The local prosecutors have little interest in exacting much of a penalty from the malfeasant and the local media even less in publicizing the results of any legal action. The outcome, in the tradition of B.F. Skinner’s “rewarded behavior tends to be repeated” tradition, is an organized coterie of demonstrators whose favorite pastime seems to be a non-video game of “cops and demonstrators” and tough luck on the citizenry who make their living elsewise.

    What the OWS demonstrations clearly show is that there is, in fact, a political Jim Crow system under which, leftist demonstrators are consistently allowed to wreak their havoc on the public and its spaces while ideologically aligned administrations wring their hands and allow these disruptions to continue. Like the proverbial right to throw a left hook that must end before the beginning of my fine nose, our current crop of public officials have now decided that some contact is acceptable. All demonstrators are equal; some demonstrators are more equal.

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  26. @WR:

    I understand very fully what they are complaining about. But complaining gets you nowhere unless you propose how to change things. Instead, many of the OWS people seem to think that it’s in their interest to not have any agenda at all. How one wins a political argument without actually proposing a policy is beyond me, but hey it’s obvious that the bongo-players and the inventors “up twinkles” are so much smarter than the rest of us.

    I was being sarcastic in that last sentence, in case it’s unclear.

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  27. Herb says:

    I went downtown for lunch yesterday and ran smack dab into the middle of the OWS march down the 16th Street Mall. Through a strange convergence of events, the protesters passed the new H&M store, which just opened (first one in Denver!) and had a line around the block of people trying to get in. The OWS protesters paused to harass the shoppers for a while, but then were herded along to their destination at Civic Center Park.

    On approach, I saw squads of riot police on both 15th street and 17th, shadowing the protesters’ every move.

    Very few of the protesters looked like they would be willing to risk a confrontation with the authorities. They had no qualms, however, about confronting the teen girls queuing up to buy cute clothes at H&M.

    I just don’t see how any of this can be called “civil disobedience.” Instead I saw a bunch of obnoxious but rather obedient people woefully unprepared to defy the authorities or do anything helpful to their cause.

    And I say that as a guy who agrees with many of the things written on their signs.

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  28. john personna says:

    @Herb:

    I think the strange thing (and perhaps the undercurrent here) is that you can pick your own city to cite as an example of the whole. I would not have thought of Denver as the model, before this.

    As I say above, we might have hoped for a more middle-aged protest, but the truth of the mess has to be that it is a mess, still breaking out in many, many, cities. We may not like OWS creating their new reality through conflict, but they are.

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  29. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    They have not gone quietly into the night.

    Yeah, and I think they can still figure out their second act. (If cops in various cities continue to act like thugs the cops will write the second act themselves.) What we have now is a situation vaguely analogous to the early days of the soviets that were spread all around Russia, un-coordinated, and fractured.

    I don’t think it’s a case of needing to be middle-age friendly, it’s just reality: sooner or later you need hierarchy. Even Reddit needs mods. It’s time for OWS to figure out the “what next,” because if they don’t they will be reduced to a handful of freezing homeless people.

    This is a perceptions war, and they can go in a heartbeat from noble to embarrassing. It’s already shifting against them and it’s irritating because they had acquired some momentum. Unfortunately I think they’re becoming too convinced of their own wonderfulness, too enamored of their lack of structure, and losing focus on the fact that they have a designated enemy. They’re polishing their armor not sharpening their swords.

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  30. Herb says:

    @john personna: Hmm…not sure any city’s protest should be representative of the whole, considering that the movement is disorganized and dispersed. (If there’s any kind of national coordination, I’m not really aware of it.)

    If anything, though, the OWS protesters I saw yesterday are representative of the movement to the people of Denver. Are there other cities where the OWS guys are actually accomplishing things? If so, they are probably using methods other than what I saw yesterday.

    Like I said, I’m sympathetic to some of the ideas behind the movement. But I think it’s wishful thinking at best (and delusional at worse) to think that camping out in a park will get them closer to accomplishing their goals.

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  31. concreteblue says:

    @G.A.Phillips: Anti-semitism? Care to justify this statement? (hint:quoting anything from BIG anything sites DOES NOT COUNT!) The guy that is consistently pointed out as a skinhead/nazi/anti-semite at OWS was at Tea Party Rallies last year claiming solidarity too. It is everywhere on the net. Google it, and stop regurgitating FOX…..

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  32. Herb says:

    @michael reynolds: I wish I shared your confidence that these guys will get their sh!t together. The success of mass movement protests in the past seems to have convinced a new generation of protesters that “marching in the streets” is sufficient to enact social change on its own.

    History shows us there’s more to it than that. I think if the movement is going to survive the winter, they’re going to need fewer activists….and more action.

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  33. michael reynolds says:

    @Herb: I’m not al all confident, just saying they could still. I think unfortunately they’ve become impressed by their own lack of hierarchy, which bodes ill for developing same.

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  34. Console says:

    It isn’t “protected” speech if we go with our ad hoc court opinions on the subject. But the right to peaceably assemble is rather plainly written. The restrictions we allow may be reasonable, but I’d rather not pretend they are actually implied by the first amendment.

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  35. Hey Norm says:

    OWS can’t stay in the park…
    But Cantor and Ryan etc can sleep in the Capitol.
    And that’s all you need to know.

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  36. G.A.Phillips says:

    Anti-semitism? Care to justify this statement? (hint:quoting anything from BIG anything sites DOES NOT COUNT!) The guy that is consistently pointed out as a skinhead/nazi/anti-semite at OWS was at Tea Party Rallies last year claiming solidarity too. It is everywhere on the net. Google it, and stop regurgitating FOX…..

    lol who? I hardly view FOX since Beck left….

    But its all over the internet and the none lib news…and is old news…lol, stop regulating disbelief in what the this crap movement is all about.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/more-anti-semitism-at-occupy-wall-st-protester-calls-jewish-man-dumb-motherfuer/

    Ya I know the Blaze lies too….like I said its all over the internet….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  37. G.A.Phillips says:

    But the right to peaceably assemble is rather plainly written.

    yup, peaceably. Don’t say much about squatting in and pooping in the place, for months…….

    Or anything about rape, vandalism, theft and violence….That must be a definition the libs came up with…They are real good at figuring out what stuff really means….

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  38. ponce says:

    Too funny.

    The wingnuts who, months ago, were saying OWS wouldn’t amount to anything, are now calling on activist judges to violate OWS’s First Amendment rights.

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  39. Explain to me how following a 30 year old precedent by the relatively moderate Burger Court is being a “activist”

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  40. Also Ponce, you should be aware that the people seeking to enforce the time, place, and manner laws are the Democratic leaders of cities controlled by Democrats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  41. Herb says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m holding out hope that the OWS somewhere else will eventually get it together. I think I’m calling it on Occupy Denver, though.

    These guys are a joke. From Westword:

    ​A force of at least 200 police officers grouped and flanked protesters on all sides before moving in when the area grew dark and quickly removing the group’s three tents. Protesters sang and hummed the imperial march, Darth Vader’s Star Wars theme song, as officers closed in on them. The efficiency of the spectacle was notable: Officers remained in formation and shouted sharp commands for all protesters to back off, regardless of their position. Those who did not respond with immediate haste received pepper spray reinforcement.

    One side is taking this more seriously than the other….

    Side note: Broncos beat the Chiefs. Teboooooooooow!

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  42. ponce says:

    Also Ponce, you should be aware that the people seeking to enforce…

    Judge Morrison C. England Jr. is a wingnut appointed by George W. Bush, Doug.

    OWS is exactly the kind of peaceful assembly our Founding Fathers sought to protect.

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  43. Liberty60 says:

    Actually, we in the Occupy movement knew all about the “time, place and manner” stuff on Day One.

    There never was any misconception that staying overnight was in any way legal; but the intention is to demonstrate the rage that so many feel about the inequality in American economy.

    But as I mentioned on other threads, it iS time to move on to other tactics; there is talk of an Occupy convention next year, maybe that will bring some leadership and focus to the group.

    The conditions that sparked this haven’t lessened or gone away- most Americans do sense that something is terribly wrong with our nation and economy and are looking for some way to channel that anger into action.

    So even as the parks are emptied, the people who have taken part in this are radicalized, and policitally active, some for the first time.

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  44. jan says:

    Delmars list of OWS major missteps is a spot on opening salvo, as to the deterioration of this movement’s original intent. There are so many stories rampaging around about the problems in various encampments, throughout the nation, that, in a way, OWS is turning into a national eyesore and a carnival of dysfunctional people.

    For instance: there’s a rape in
    Philadelphia; arrests made in Salt Lake City; Oakland’s unrest; a drug overdose and
    report no rape to the police policy in Portland, similar to what is bringing down Penn State;
    extraordinary costs of $529,000 hitting Seattle; growing health and sanitation issues in New York; and a shooting in Burlington….just to cite a few of the reported problems. Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles are compiling grievances, damages and costs of their own.

    A well-known, conservative military historian, Victor Davis Hanson, has summed it up well in his piece Occupy Wall Street and Horseman of the Apocalypse.

    Tuberculosis, Zuccotti lung, rape, murder, and assault — the various Occupy Wall Street protests nationwide have now seen almost everything. The autumn protests, which had some resonance with the American people who were burned by Wall Street and resent its bailouts and mega-bonuses that weren’t performance based, have degenerated into a wintry vagrancy and sixties-style street carnival.
    It wasn’t ever a movement that could translate directly into political advantage the way the Tea Party led to the near-historic 2010 midterm upheavals, given its incoherence. For who exactly were the culpable 1 percent on Wall Street — liberal former governor Jon Corzine, under whose leadership MF Global’s speculation led to bankruptcy and a missing $600 million? Clintonite Jamie Gorelick, who took $26 million from a bankrupt Fannie Mae for her financial brilliance? The banking expert Rahm Emanuel who went in and out of the financial world rather quickly for his $16 million? Peter Orszag, who went through the revolving door from OMB to Citigroup in a wink? Franklin Rains, Chris Dodd (of Countrywide fame), Jim Johnson, or the profit-minded Pelosis? Perhaps George Soros, whose currency speculations nearly broke the Bank of England? What about Barack Obama, the largest recipient of Wall Street cash in history, a bounty that in part allowed him to be the first candidate in over 30 years to renounce public campaign financing

    Finally, here is one person’s idea of the difference, as described in a humorous cartoon, between a terrorist and a patriot.

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  45. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: It’s possible that the real missing element in this protest will be the conviction that “it is better to die than to live like this.” A protest that seeks a “sea change” of this sort cannot prevail against entropy Revolutions are not won by spokespersons or the policy paper that Mataconis needs to see to grant the movement his approval. They may have been expecting a revolution on the cheap–not easy to come by.

    If we look seriously at the Tea Party, we will see the same phenomenon at work. A loosly confederated “grassroots” protest movement whose only success at changing the system was to elect a crop of newbies who are turning out to be just a feckless as the one’s they replaced. Call it success if you want to.

    “The rivers run endlessly into the sea, and yet, the sea is never full.”

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  46. jan says:

    @Liberty60:

    This one is for you Liberty60.

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  47. bgwillia says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    A simple compare and contrast is in order:

    The only thing in common between the TEA Party and OWS is the premise there is a problem about Government collusion with special interests, Government shouldn’t give special treatment to favored businesses, and that the bailouts were wrong.

    After that, OWS has their beliefs in: breaking the system, they should be bailed out too, getting money out of politics except for left-wing groups, they deserve other peoples’ money, having Government KEEP spending MORE money the country doesn’t have, having Government obtain even more power over the economy, blaming everyone except ‘special people’, taxing the rich into oblivion, and replacing the U.S. Constitution;

    This is totally at odds with the TEA Party beliefs in: fixing the system, nobody should be bailed out, getting politics out of money – period, people deserve to keep what they earn, reigning in government spending, reducing government power over the free market, getting rid of big-spending politicians, no more taxes, and restoring the U.S. Constitution.

    This difference is vitality important to notice.

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  48. Fiona says:

    While I sympathize with OWS, I also agree with Michael Reynolds, Herb, and others who are saying that OWS needs to come up with a second act and greater focus if they want the movement to continue and bear actual political fruit. So far, they’ve done a great job in drawing attention to the growing income inequity in this county that 30 years of “trickle down” Reaganomics has wrought. But it’s now time for them to move on to the next step, much like the Tea Party did when it started offering and endorsing candidates.

    Much as I think Doug has a bug up his ass when it comes to OWS, he’s right that the First Amendment does not guarantee protestors a right to camp overnight in public parts and that the federal judge in Sacramento who ruled against OWS follows 30 years of precedent. Civil disobedience has a price.

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  49. Liberty60 says:

    @jan:

    I read that article.

    The Chapel Hill action was actually a very brave and shrewd tactic by their group.
    Although they got arrested, they forced the issue of abandoned buildings and disinvestment of urban spaces onto the front page.

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  50. Liberty60 says:

    @bgwillia:

    So you think those who are rich and powerful should be allowed to keep more of their riches.

    You believe that massive global corporations should not be obligated to follow regulations.

    Wow. What a plucky band of rebels you are!

    Mahama Ghandi, Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela- weaklings and quislings, compared to you folk!

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