Thursday, May 15, 2008

On The Police and Our Legal Right to Protest

A few comments on my last post:

Blogger ManySigns said...

Would it be possible to get some sort of legal notice or documentation of our right to protest there, of which we can give a copy to any store owner who causes us problems? We have the right to be there, and we're not disrupting their business every day of the week, or even once every week. One or two days out of the entire month is not something to get that irate over, especially when there's only a handful of people showing up. We have the right to be there, unless I'm gravely mistaken (and all the police officers who haven't given us trouble are gravely mistaken), and while I don't want to cause problems with the locals, I don't want to be pushed out by some irate asshole who gets upset because his 'special imports' store doesn't do quite as well on the day or two out of each month we protest as it usually does.

I say we consult with local law enforcement, and local legal counsel, if possible, to confirm our rights in the matter, and then if we are in the right, continue to protest in front of the Scientology building, while staying as much out of in front of the problem stores as possible, and simply ignore the store owners if they continue to be threatening and hostile and irate, beyond making further (reasonable) effort to stay out from in front of their stores.

May 13, 2008 4:11 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. I agree. We do have a legal right to be there. I don't know what to do do appease the store owner but if we get some sort of legal documentation to show the store owner, he can be mad all he wants but there will be nothing he can do about it.


We definitely need to establish a more solid connection with the South Side police department prior to June 14th, and to get written confirmation of what exactly our legal rights are while protesting. At this point, I think the best way might be to have a couple of us go to the police department in person sometime in the next few weeks and speak with someone there and try to establish some kind of contact person within that precinct who will be willing to work with us.

A few issues to bring up during such a consultation (please comment with more!)

-What, precisely, does "blocking the sidewalk" mean? Does it mean completely barring passersby from using it, or can it also mean taking up about half the width of it for prolonged periods of time, as we do in a standing protest?

-How should we react if, provided a standing protest IS indisputably legal, the import store owner confronts us and threatens us again? Do they advise that we escalate the situation to a 911 call, as the desk sergeant instructed when we called them on 5/10, or is there a better way to resolve the situation? Would it be possible for the police department to contact the store owner in question to warn him about crossing the line when we're there?

-Would it be possible for the officers we speak with to send out an email or memo (we can provide the text, they would only have to facilitate its delivery to other officers) about the protest and what we'll be allowed to do, to prevent misinformed officers from ordering us to leave?

-We may want to offer some information about WHY we protest in the first place, to make our cause a bit more sympathetic and understandable, rather than us just being the weird kids in masks who freak out the neighborhood once a month. The off-duty officer outside the Scientology store last time was very friendly, but he had absolutely no idea why we were protesting Scientology. They had already shown him the Anonymous Exposed video, and he was confused because we didn't seem like such huge bad guys, but he also had no idea why we'd stage a protest, either.

Now, one thing -- talking to the police in person about this and establishing a contact within the department will require going down there without masks, willing to give our names and some basic contact info for them to keep in touch. Is there anyone still in the city who would be willing to do this sometime soon? I may have a bit of trouble scheduling a visit to the station given my new full-time summer work schedule, but I'm willing to try and work it out if anyone would like to accompany me. Xenu has already left town for the summer, as have several of the other Anons I've worked with to organize previous protests.

I don't think we need to be TOO worried at this point -- it all seems like logistical problems to me. They don't think we're hardened criminals -- we're just weird and we picked an inconvenient place to stand, in their eyes. I don't think the black PR has gotten to them much yet. Yes, apparently that one officer told the Anons wearing shirts over their heads and carrying no signs on their way to the protest that they "looked like terrorists," but at this point, I don't think there's a correlation between that and the allegations Scientology has made about Anonymous engaging in terrorist activity -- those guys weren't really associated with us yet, in the officer's mind.

So, let's do some preventative/restorative work on our image with the local law enforcement and see how it turns out. If a standing protest as we have done in the past is considered blocking the sidewalk under the city code, then we'll adapt. Before we write it off though, let's try and talk to the police.


ManySigns said...

Great comments. If my financial situation were a bit more stable (i.e. I had the gas money to spare), I wouldn't have any problem driving up to meet with the police department with other local anons, but unless things change drastically in the next couple weeks, I probably won't be able to do that.

However, I would suggest emphasizing our willingness to work with the local store owners, if they are willing to work with us. We understand that we may be inconveniencing them and hurting their business when we protest, and we're willing to work with them to minimize our impact on their business. But, they need to understand our right to be there to protest, and accept that we aren't going to stop just because we may be inconveniencing them. We're quite willing to be cooperative and work with them, but it has to go both ways, they need to be willing to cooperate with us, as well.

Miss Anonymous said...

Yeah, good ideas. And I totally understand about the financial situation thing. I'm going to give it a week or two for Anons to come forward and volunteer for the conference with police before I make any plans to go down there -- I know its summer now, and they might not be keeping up with stuff quite as often -- there's not really a rush yet. I also cross-posted this on enturb.

anon4justice said...

I have a M-F, 9 to 5 kind of schedule myself but if a weekend or evening meeting is scheduled, I think I'm in.

Miss Anonymous said...

I can do most evenings, but not weekends. I'm in retail, so I work pretty much all Saturdays and Sundays. Weekdays though, except Friday, I usually work mornings, until around 3 or so. So I can work in an evening time if people are so inclined.

Anonymous said...

I would be willing to go if u think having a 17 year old will help. If so as long as i had some time to schedule off work ill be there.

Miss Anonymous said...

I don't think it'll matter whether you're seventeen XD

I doubt our ages will even come up, since there shouldn't be a need for a formal permit application -- just introduce yourself using your name.

Anonymous said...

Don't just stand there. Walk around. You aren't blocking the sidewalk if you are moving - you're simply using the sidewalk for its intended purpose.