Legal Info for Los Angeles Protest/ Occupy L.A.
by Sue Basko
FEEL FREE to copy, link, print up, share, use.
UPDATE: Occupy L.A. is underway. It is peaceful and calm. The plan is for Occupy L.A. to remain peaceful with no arrests or trouble. The event is taking place in City Hall Park and involves day activities, such as walking field trips out to protest at banks and other locations. For those hardy enough, there is sleeping overnight(s) on the city public sidewalk. There is a nightly General Assembly meeting. Volunteer work is available for all. People are invited to come for a few hours, a few days, or the duration.
The Occupy L.A. organizers are working with the police and mayor to make this successful and peaceful. There are certain rules planned to be in place, such as moving tents off the grass onto the sidewalk at night. Please follow the directions of the police or any officials.
SLEEPING OVERNIGHT: The City Hall Park closes from 10:30 pm to 5 am and all people must leave the park then. The lawn has a sprinkler system that goes off at intervals. Sleeping on the public sidewalk IS allowed from 9 pm to 6 am. This applies to the entire City of Los Angeles and is based on a court case settlement of several years ago between the ACLU and the City. This applies to the public sidewalk, not the sidewalk within the park. Sleeping on the sidewalk is not allowed within 10 feet of any driveway.
Keep off the stairs and away from the City Hall doorways.
Also, keep in mind you or the group can be charged for clean-up and repairs, so wherever you go, be sure you do not create any need for clean-up or repairs. Please be very mindful of this. Do not bring flyers or other papers/ leaflets, spray paint, chalk, or silly string. The occupiers are spending precious time cleaning up after everyone. Please be considerate.
Also, there is a movement going asking people to dress nicely - they are calling it "khakis and a polo." This is not a dress code, it is simply something some young men are doing to look good and feel empowered. This is based on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. telling his followers to dress in their "Sunday Best." By day, that makes sense, but dress warmly for night time! Hypothermia is dangerous.
Keep in mind, people are saying this is the largest unpermitted protest demonstration in Los Angeles history. Everyone will be watching. Keep it legal, safe, and peaceful.
THE APPLICABLE LAWS ARE DIFFERENT FROM MOST PROTESTS, because it is taking place in a city park, by a government building, without a permit, and with sleeping overnight(s). This adds many legal elements that are not present in the typical street march protest.
Top 7 Things That Get People Arrested at a Protest
aka How to Not Get Arrested
Getting Arrested: Activist Lawyers are always telling people what to do if they are arrested at a protest. Most people prefer not to get arrested to begin with. From my observation, the top 7 things that get people arrested at a protest demonstration are:
1) Stepping into the street when there is no permit to do so. This is the #1 thing that gets protesters arrested. It is kind of "the test" to see if you are going to be orderly and safe, or not. If you don't have a permit to be in the street, stay on the sidewalk and cross on the walk light.
2) Blocking the sidewalk so others cannot pass.
3) Blocking or getting too close to a doorway or staircase to a building.
4) Making too much noise without a permit or at the wrong times/ places. Almost any megaphone usage violates sound ordinances in any city, so if you don't have a permit for your event or a sound permit, don't use one. Even if you do have a permit, the sound is only allowed to be audible nearby. Noise ordinances in Los Angeles are very detailed and geared to quiet. Click here to read some of the sound ordinances, though there are more that pertain to parks.
5) Damage to public or private property, including hanging banners or signs on buildings, poles or trees, writing on buildings or walks, climbing trees, standing on benches, touching or harming vehicles, etc.
6) Not following reasonable orders or instructions from the police or other officials.
7) Forming a large, uncontrolled group not in an orderly fashion.
Here is a basic list of the laws that apply. This is not legal advice to anyone in particular and may not be a complete list. These are based on provisions of the L.A. Municipal Code, put into everyday language. Everything on this list is reflected in the law and is something for which you could be cited (ticketed) or arrested:
1) DO NOT GO IN THE STREET! Do not interfere with traffic. DO NOT STEP INTO THE STREET!!! This is the most important rule. Cross any street only with the Walk signal and be out of the street on time. Do not wave or shout at cars in such a way that it disturbs traffic flow. This is of crucial importance. Stepping in the street will get you arrested! Do not do anything that disturbs the normal flow of traffic!!!
Warning: I just watched a video of protesters at Occupy Wall Street in New York being arrested for being in the street. The situation got violent. To me, it looked like the people intentionally stepped into the street to be arrested, while another person videotaped and a lady shouted narration. Do not fall into such foolish games with counterproductive people like that. There may be manipulative people in any crowd of protesters, trying to lure/trick/ or lead you into situations where you will be arrested and hurt. Do not fall for it! People like that want to turn a nice event into an event of fear - for their own purposes. Follow the laws listed here. This list has been created to help you keep yourself safe. Be smart!
LOS ANGELES - KEEP OUT OF THE STREET!
2) DO NOT block the sidewalk. Anyone walking past should be able to easily walk past. This is one famous reason that people at demonstrations get arrested - blocking the sidewalk. These are NOT legally-allowed reasons for blocking a sidewalk: Listening to a speaker, looking at a performance, handing something out. No excuses or explanations, you can't block a sidewalk.
3) DO NOT block doorways or staircases into buildings. Anyone that wants to walk in should be able to walk in easily and not feel threatened or harassed. Keep off Handicapped ramps unless you are handicapped. This is another major reason people at demonstrations get arrested - blocking entry or exit to buildings. Keep off the stairs and away from the City Hall doorways.
4) DO not damage public (or private) property. The Los Angeles ordinance forbids hanging a sign or banner on any public building, pole, or tree; making any mark on anything; tampering with any water fountain, light, or other fixture; and many other things.
5) Sign Sticks. Use signs with no sticks or with sticks that meet the legal requirement. Sticks can be, at most, 1/4 inch thick by 2 inches thick. This is like the shape of a yardstick. If the stick is rounded, it can only be 3/4 inch wide at most. Demonstrators cannot carry any other sticks or lumber.
6) GLASS containers, full or empty, are NOT allowed on public property. Keep glass containers at home.
7) Toilet. Use a real indoor toilet. Do not defecate or urinate outdoors anywhere, even by a bush. Some porta-potties are on-site. Bring toilet paper, please.
8) CAMPING is not allowed in Los Angeles, except in actual campground spaces. The police are allowing people to put tents on the lawn as long as they move them to the sidewalk for the night time by 10:30 pm. Sleeping on the main public sidewalk adjacent to the streets is allowed from 9 pm to 6 am. Dress warmly! Sidewalks are cold! The City Hall lawn has timed sprinklers that saturate the ground at intervals. The City Hall park area closes at 10:30 pm and you are subject to a citation (or possible arrest) if you or your tent are in the park area after 10:30 pm. Hence, the night time move to the public/ main sidewalks adjacent to the streets.
9) It is illegal to post, hang, affix, or attach any signs or banners or streamers onto public trees, street poles, lamps, or buildings. This is considered damage to public property.
10) DO not post any signs on trees. Do not touch trees or bushes, do not climb trees, do not hang anything in trees. Do not let anyone else climb or touch trees. Do not take or break any branches. Do not pick any flowers or plants. This is all considered damage to public property or to park property.
11) NO Amplifiers, megaphones, or bullhorns. Please let the event organizers plan all the sound, as they are the ones that know their own situation with regard to sound permits and sound limits. They are required to have their event follow the law; please do not interfere with their ability to do so. Click here to read some parts of the sound ordinance.
12) Music - No amplifiers or loud speakers. Please let the event organizers control all sound and noise. They are the ones legally in charge of and responsible for their event. Please respect their efforts. Noise ordinances in Los Angeles are very complex, sound levels and times and locations are restricted, and the use of amplifiers is strictly limited. "Loud and raucous" noise is also prohibited. Since this is a park, no amplified music is allowed at all without a sound permit. All musical instruments must stop by 10 pm. Soft, live acoustic music and singing without amplifiers is probably fine. Things that are too loud where the sound carries too far -- especially at night or during work hours when City Hall and nearby offices are open are: Drums, drum circles, tambourines, flutes. Oddly, playing hurdy-gurdys or hand organs is specifically illegal in public places in Los Angeles. So leave your hurdy-gurdys at home.
During the work week, the allowed sound level is quite low so it does not interfere with the nearby offices. Please respect this.
GOOD live music choices, to be used without any amplification and only before 10 pm, are: Singing, acoustic guitar, ukulele, violin, and other acoustic stringed instruments. Harmonicas are small and easy to carry and have a long history in folk, blues, and protest music, so these are especially good. Be sure to safeguard your musical instrument against breakage, theft, or water damage. Use headphones for your personal devices.
13) No littering. Do not put any paper, wrapper, or empty bottle on the ground even for a second. Hold all litter and carry it to a trash can or take it home. See section below on FLYERS.
14) No one should solicit anyone for money. If someone needs to collect money to buy food or something, this should be done quietly between friends. Aggressive solicitation is illegal.
15) Do not erect any structures. DO not set up any stages, platforms, ramps, art pieces, fabric hangings, banners, props, sound systems, projectors, lights, big signs, domes, etc. Remember, this event does not have a Special Event permit. At a permitted event, these types of items are inspected in advance by the City to be sure they are safe and won't injure participants. Since that is not happening in this case, do not bring any of these items.
16) Do not shout out at anyone, follow anyone, laugh at anyone, harass anyone in any way.
17) If the police tell you to do something/ not to do something, do it and be polite!
18) DO not tinker with or harm any utilities or facilities such as sprinklers, water fountains, fire hydrants, plumbing, sewers, street signs, railings, windows, etc.
19) No skating. No skateboards. Park and lock bikes in legal location.
20) NO dogs or other pets, even on a leash, even for a short time. Dogs are only allowed in certain Los Angeles parks, and this is not one of them.
21) Watch for and follow all the signs. IF a sign says not to do something, do not do it. A sign is letting you know there is a particular law in effect at that location.
22) No smoking on park property! The lighting of any match, lighter, smoking material of any kind, throwing a cigarette, etc., on park property is illegal. You may not carry a lit cigarette, cigar, pipe, incense, etc.
23) No smoking marijuana or using illegal drugs on public property.
24) Do not throw a ball or frisbee in the park because this is prohibited in parks except in areas where it is specifically authorized and posted with a sign.
25) DO NOT do any gymnastics, parkour, have running races, etc. DO not climb anything such as trees, onto cars, up the side of the building, poles, etc. Do not balance or run on railings or ramps. Do not do flips off anything or jump off anything.
26) DO NOT throw anything in the air for any reason. This can turn a "protest" into a "riot."
27) DO NOT light any fires or burn anything, for any reason, even a bonfire or to stay warm. It is not okay to start a fire in a container. Do not bring propane. Absolutely NO flames of any kind allowed in the park.
28) DO NOT BRING guns, knives, fireworks, explosives, sticks, martial arts equipment of any kind, glass containers, pipes, heaters, barbecue grills, propane, sky lanterns, chains, large rings of keys, bike locks or other locks (except to lock your bike, not to carry with you), laser pointers or other lasers, frisbees, boomerangs, yo-yos, kites, hooks, sprays, canisters, chemicals, poisons, cleaning fluids, or any other type of potentially dangerous item.
29) Do not bring any spray paint, other paint, paint markers, or chalk. DO not do any tagging or graffiti. Do not write or draw on anything other than your own piece of paper. It is illegal to make any mark on any public or park property.
30) No alcohol possession or drinking in the park. No public intoxication.
31) No cooking or barbecuing. No flame of any kind allowed. Pack cold food.
FOOD NEARBY: If you want to go for a walk to buy cooked or prepared, healthy food at inexpensive prices, Grand Central Market at 317 South Broadway, an indoor open market with many food sellers, is a great place to buy meals in to-go boxes to eat there or bring with you. They have fish, tacos, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian barbecue, pizzas, pupusas, pastries, coffee, juices, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, yogurt, ice cream, and many other wonderful things. There is a 99 Cents Store in the basement for any odds and ends you might need. Open every day 9 am to 6 pm.
El Pollo Loco, 260 South Broadway, Los Angeles, 90012, 213-626-7975. Open each day 10 am to 11 pm. Very affordable, excellent food. Flame-broiled chicken, veggies, bean burritos.
Subway, 308 South Broadway, Los Angeles, 90013, 213-626-1605. Saturday and Sunday, 7 am to 9 pm. Monday - Friday, 6 am - 10 pm. Sandwiches, hot meatball and chicken sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, coffee in the morning, very affordable.
32) NO selling anything without a permit.
33) No abusive language, arguing, threatening, curse words, profanities, shouting.
34) Do not touch or harm any vehicles.
35) DO not engage in any sort of gambling, card reading, fortune telling, or magic. All that is illegal on the public way.
36) Do not allow anyone to bring stickers, since anywhere these are placed causes damage, for which you may be charged. The damage caused by one sticker may be several hundred dollars, in addition to the fine.
37) Because this is a city park area, the Municipal Code requires decent, non-revealing clothing, including prohibiting low-cut tops on women. The law on this is specific, quite graphic. Just keep all your privates well-covered.
1) Dress very warmly. At night, you have to dress much warmer so you don't get hypothermia.
2) Bring cell phones, ipods, ipads, mp3 players, batteries, books, puzzle books, paper and pen, cameras, and other quiet ways to entertain yourself. Many participants are creating media such as photos, videos, live streaming video or audio, tweets, blogs, facebook posts, etc. Use headphones. Keep it quiet.
3) Use a real toilet. Bring toilet paper.
4) Bring water, but no glass containers of any kind. Glass containers, empty or full, are not allowed to be carried onto the public way.
5) Talk, but don't use a megaphone or amplifier. Let the event organizers be in charge of the sound, since they are the ones responsible for sound levels and following the law.
6) Sing or make soft music, but don't drum or make loud noise. Don't bring any amplifiers. Let the event organizers be in charge of the sound levels, since they are legally responsible for following the sound ordinances.
7) DO be polite and kind to everyone.
FLYERS/ HAND-BILLS: In the Los Angeles Municipal Code, flyers are called hand-bills. All flyers must have printed on their face the name and address of the person that caused the flyer to be distributed. When distributing flyers in a park, you are required by law to pick up and remove all flyers that have been dropped or left behind. When distributing flyers on the street, you must pick up all flyers that have been dropped within 100 feet. That includes all flyers from your group.
L.A. Municipal Code Sec 28.01.1 (c) states: No person shall distribute any hand-bill on public property:
(1) on the roadway, center divider or median of a street;
(2) to any person in an unparked vehicle;
(3) within ten feet of an entrance to a building;
(4) within ten feet of a marked or unmarked crosswalk;
(5) along or within ten feet of a construction fence; or
(6) on any portion of a driveway.
In addition, Los Angeles law also prohibits distribution of any handbill/ flyer in any library. Also, you cannot trespass onto any LAUSD school property to pass out flyers. Also, no flyers may be placed onto parked cars or thrown onto porches. If a building or apartment has posted a sign saying "No Advertising," you may not distribute flyers unless you have written permission of the owner or person in charge.
WHAT TO DO IF SOMEONE IS DOING ILLEGAL THINGS:
If someone is doing something illegal, do not follow them. Walk quickly away from them and do not participate. At protests, there will be people who want to be arrested or want to cause a commotion, for their own counterproductive reasons. Often, they want to provoke you to get arrested to satisfy their needs. These people are called the French term "agents provocateurs." There have been protest leaders at Occupy L.A. carrying signs warning to watch for and avoid such people. DO NOT GET INVOLVED! Warn others also not to get involved.
This is a peaceful protest for peaceful, productive people only. Those inciting or engaging in violence are not welcome.
For example, if someone steps into the street, do not follow. If someone starts throwing something, move away. If someone starts any flame, move away quickly. If someone tries to stir up trouble, avoid them. These people will most likely be arrested, and generally, that is for the safety of everyone. Keep in mind -- they must want to be arrested or they would not be doing those things at a protest (or in any crowd situation). They know better than this and they are doing it on purpose. Let them have their drama and don't become a part of it. This event is ONLY for peaceful, productive people.