The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on an awkward encounter today between Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones and various occupiers at Kanawha Plaza in downtown Richmond. Earlier in the day, Jimmy Barrett of WRVA interviewed William & Mary law professor Timothy Zick about the legal rights of the city vis-a-vis the occupiers. Bottom line: The occupiers are breaking the law and Richmond has the legitimate authority to enforce the law by removing the occupiers.
The legal analysis is not particularly difficult. The city’s ban on overnight camping in public parks is a content-neutral time-place-manner restriction that leaves open ample alternative means of communication.
The protesters obviously seek to occupy the moral high ground vis-a-vis Wall Street and plutocrats and the like, but they also appear to wish to occupy the moral high ground with respect to the law governing use of the city parks. That seems like a more difficult task.
According to the Times-Dispatch story linked above, “[occupier] Kadrich said that the occupiers were ‘following all legislation that we term to be wholly just.’ He added that if given an ultimatum to leave the plaza by a certain date, many protesters may exercise ‘civil disobedience.’” Yet the protesters already are engaged in civil disobedience. Regardless of whether the city forces the issue, they are in violation of a valid law.