Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Rebels without a Case

A New York judge upheld the constitutionality of Mayor Bloomberg's decision to prevent Occupy Wall Street protestors from sleeping in the Zuccotti Park.

And frankly, it wasn't even a close call.

The Supreme Court has made it quite clear that laws prohibiting sleeping in public spaces apply just as equally to protestors as they do to everyone else. In Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, the Court held that the National Park Service could enforce such a law against homeless advocates who wished to sleep on the Washington Mall.

Specifically: "Damage to the parks, as well as their partial inaccessibility to other members of the public, can as easily result from camping by demonstrators as by nondemonstrators. In neither case must the government tolerate it." The Court resolved that this ruling is "a reaffirmation that reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on expression are constitutionally acceptable."

The Court's rationale is very simple: protestors have to follow the same rules as everybody else. In this case, Occupy protestors have no more of a right to create a public health hazard than those who are legitimately homeless. Furthermore, Occupy Wall Street's argument is even weaker because Zuccotti Park is not public property; it is privately owned, and its owners wanted the protestors off their property.

The Occupy protests are a terrific distraction from the drudgeries of actually working for a living, but they don't have a legal leg to stand on.

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