"Occupy Wall Street" and Protesters' Rights
This week hundreds of "Occupy Wall Street" protestors around the country have been arrested, sometimes clashing with police dressed in riot gear. But protesters and police in D.C. have largely avoided the confrontations seen in other cities. We explore the laws that govern police actions and protester rights in Washington.
D.C.’s “First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act”
Following an investigation into police actions during anti-globalization protests, the D.C. Council passed the “First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004.” The law created a new set of guidelines for police activity during demonstrations, banning such practices as “kettling” or “trap and detain” actions. It also made it easier for protesters to acquire permits for demonstrations larger than fifty people, and allows smaller groups to demonstrate downtown without a permit. Current Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh helped draft the law as Special Counsel to the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee. In this 2005 academic paper, she describes “lessons learned” from the investigative process.