Occupy Wall Street: Legal Information

If you are participating in actions on or following September 17 related to Occupy Wall Street, you might want to familiarize yourself with the following legal information:

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Preparation

If you receive a phone call from the Intelligence Division of the Police Department asking for information about September 17, you are not required to answer them. It is recommended that you arrive to Wall Street with legal contact information written on your wrist or ankle; there is no guarantee that information written on paper will be accessible in the event of arrest.

During the Occupation

Provided that you do not block building entrances or more than half of a sidewalk, it is legal
to have a moving picket line and hand out literature. You are also legally allowed to use whistles, drums, and any other non-amplified generators of sound. Unless a permit is obtained, it is unlawful to march in the streets, have a procession with 50 or more automobiles or bicycles, gather with more than 20 people in a public park, or use amplified sound. Public parks close at 10 PM. A permit is not being requested for the occupation. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, amplified sound is prohibited “within 500 feet of a school, courthouse or church during hours of school court or worship, or within 500 feet of a hospital… [and] between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. in nonresidential areas.”

It is illegal for more than two people to wear masks, including bandanas, during a demonstration. The New York City Police Department will take away any signs that use wooden sticks, metal, or PVC pipes, as well as any signs that are affixed to public property. Hanging a banner from a bridge can lead to being charged with reckless endangerment.

You are allowed to sleep on the sidewalk as part of a political protest without a permit (Met Council v. NYPD, 2000); however, you must keep half of the sidewalk clear for pedestrians. It is unlawful for structures such as tents to be erected.

If You Come into Contact with the Police During the action, if police prevent you from leaving, ask if you are free to go. If they ask to search you or your bag, you should repeatedly state, “I do not consent to a search.” The New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild advises that if you are arrested, it is best to say, “I am going to remain silent. I want to speak to a lawyer.” The police can legally lie when attempting to acquire information from you. You have the right to ask for an officer’s name and badge number. If you are mistreated, obtain this information as well as contact information of witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible. Lastly, the National Lawyers Guild states, “If you are undocumented, out of status, a legal permanent resident (green card holder), or a citizen, you do not have to answer any questions about your immigration history [to government officers].”

Sources:
NLG: NYC Chapter – “Know Your Rights!” (2008) (tinyurl.com/legalinfo917a)
NLG – “You Have the Right to Remain Silent” (2010) (tinyurl.com/legalinfo917b)
NYCLU – “Demonstrating in New York City” (2009) (tinyurl.com/legalinfo917c)

In case of arrest, you can contact the NYC chapter of the National Lawyers Guild at (212) 679 6018.

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