The anti-capitalist OccupyDC street demonstrators in Washington aren’t just idealistic. They are tough about their street rights.
Today at 15th & K St, NW in downtown Washington some organizers were handing out laminated cards from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless to make sure activists know how to assert themselves when confronted by police or city authorities.
The organizers hope their liberties — tied to the rights of the homeless — can be used as they try to set up a tent city or a 24-hour presence at McPherson Square in downtown Washington, two blocks from the White House. A flyer handed out by “OccupyDC” urges citizens to “camp out overnight at McPherson Square” if they wish. The flyer says the occupation period will be “indefinite.”
Among the rights they say demonstrators should assert if confronted:
– “‘Vagrancy’ or loitering is not a crime — you can’t be stopped or arrested simply for being in a public space like a sidewalk pro park. Police cannot force you to move from public property if you are doing nothing illegal.
– “You generally have there right to lie down or sleep in public (except on federal parkland) as long as you are not blocking the sidewalk.
– “If you are approached or questioned by an MPD (Metropolitan Police Department) officer or are not told you are suspected of a crime, you do not have to answer any questions or give any information.
– “If the police ask or order you to move from a particular area, you do not have to move unless you are violating the law by being there.
– “If you are stopped by the police, always ask for the names and badge numbers of the officers and write this down immediately.”
Throughout the afternoon there were about ten to twenty protestors, waving signs on K Street. They are mostly young students and a few jobless people. All insist they will be peaceful. A number of those present had just come from the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York. One boasted he had been arrested twice by New York City police.