Ed is the Legal Director for ACLU-NJ – an invaluable institution in this state. I’d recommend the 2 .pdf’s he includes below the fold to anyone. A citizenry aware of its rights is a beautiful thing. Good luck today! – JG
A day after New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg threatened to make Occupy Wall Street abandon their belongings, he relented. Unfortunately, when New Jersey State Police came to do the same, Occupy Trenton wasn’t so lucky.
On day seven of Occupy Trenton at the World War II Memorial plaza, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs gave protesters new rules: protesters must attend to their property – which may not include camping or “picnicking” items – at all times.
On day eight, authorities took away protest signs, electronic equipment, laptops and coolers, aided by the State Police, who held onto the items they confiscated.
But here’s one thing the protesters have that the police don’t: the law – and the ACLU – on their side.
Trenton Mayor Tony Mack, State Senator Shirley K. Turner, and even Governor Chris Christie have expressed support for the protesters. But voicing approval and respecting your rights are two different things. We need your input to know how freedom is faring in practice.
Since the Oct. 14 incident, the state has failed to produce a statute or ordinance on the books granting the authority to establish the new rules for the public plaza. And the new rules were apparently created by mere fiat – in violation of New Jersey’s required procedures for agency rule-making.
We will be in court today, October 26, to defend the free speech of Occupy Trenton.
But the ACLU-NJ can’t be everywhere in the state at the same time, so we want to know: have you experienced violations of your free speech? We want to clear things up, for the protesters in Trenton and for free speech in New Jersey. Please let us know if you have witnessed or experienced a First Amendment rights violation.
When you’re exercising your right to free speech, it’s important to understand your right to protest (pdf), but also all of your rights. Here’s a guide you can refer to if you’re questioned by police (pdf).
With so many protests taking place, there are more opportunities for infringements on free speech and assembly. Please let us know if you’ve had any interactions with the police during a protest, Occupy or otherwise, that you have found constitutionally troubling.