The <strong>First Amendment</strong> allows American citizens the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. This portion of the <strong>Bill of Rights</strong> has been the cornerstone of <strong>Occupy Wall Street</strong>, which started two months ago when swarms of concerned people took over Manhattan’s <strong>Zuccotti Park</strong> to protest the drastic inequalities between the rich and poor.
The movement has since spread to similar occupations around the country and globe, resulting in civil unrest that some government officials are not too fond of. Despite the occupiers' right to assemble, law enforcement officials have begun unearthing rarely used legal loopholes to evict protesters. Most recently, Zuccotti Park was temporarily cleared out during a late night raid to clean up the grounds. Although protesters were allowed to return, they were unable to bring along tents and sleeping bags due to city ordinances. <strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/occupywallst/152743/12_most_absurd_laws_used_to_stifle_the_occupy_wall_st._movement_around_the_country?page=1" target="_blank">AlterNet</a></strong> compiled 12 of the most absurd laws used to stop the Occupy Wall Street movement.
<li><strong>No Snoozing In Public</strong></li>
<li>Most cities have an anti-camping ordinance on the books that prohibits camping or sleeping in public spaces, particularly public parks, to minimize the risk of nighttime criminal activity. But the ordinances are frequently used to cleanse cities of the inconvenient and uncomfortable scenery of homeless people; police in <strong>San Francisco</strong> are known for enforcing the city's camping ordinance primarily against the homeless. But now, all over the country, anti-camping ordinances are being used to arrest and deter protesters from occupying public spaces.</li>
<li>Due to a city ordinance that prohibits sleeping in Los Angeles public parks, <strong>Occupy LA</strong> activists move their tents to the sidewalk every night, and move them back to the park every morning. <strong>Occupy Chicago</strong> protesters have resorted to staying awake in shifts, then switching with one another to sleep in cars or someone's home nearby to get around the ban against sleeping on the public sidewalk.</li>
Fortunately for the <strong>Occupy Wall Street</strong> protesters in NYC, the privately owned Zuccotti Park is open 24 hours a day, unlike city-owned parks that are usually closed in the late night to early morning hours. However, in city and state-owned parks occupied by protesters throughout the country, authorities are using park curfews to their advantage. Just after 3am on the morning of Friday, October 14, Denver police raided the <strong>Occupy Denver</strong> encampment citing an 11pm to 5am curfew at state parks, making at least 21 arrests. A similar 11pm curfew in Iowa led to 32 arrests on October 9. The same thing happened at <strong>Occupy Sacramento</strong>.
<li><strong>No Sitting or Lying Down</strong></li>
The San Francisco Police Department informed protesters that they were in violation of a sit-lie law that prohibits sitting or laying down on San Francisco sidewalks between 7am and 11pm. This criminal offense can result in a fine starting at $50 and possibly lead to jail time.
Want to know what other legal loopholes are being used to thwart the Occupy Wall Street movement? <strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/occupywallst/152743/12_most_absurd_laws_used_to_stifle_the_occupy_wall_st._movement_around_the_country?page=1" target="_blank">Click here</a></strong> to read the rest on <strong>AlterNet</strong>.