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What is illegal at protests?

seeking info about legal issues
I've been sometimes confused about the way that police seem to make up the rules as they go along at protests... and I have some protest ideas that seem to me borderline illegal, but who knows maybe they're not. Does anyone know a good source of information about what exactly is legal or illegal at protests?

I'm just thinking some random examples... When the police try to arrest someone... and a crowd of protesters move in to grab that person away, is that illegal? Is it legal if you don't touch the officer in the process? If you brought a loud but portable sound system to a protest, is that legal? If you threw confetti at an officer, would they have the right to kneel on your head? And what's the whole deal with protests on the sidewalk vs in the streets?

I don't think I'm in search for the answers to these specific questions as much as I'm looking for a larger source of info. Any ideas? If it needs to be regional, I'm thinking portland metro. Geez, you know, you'd think the police would provide this info! Do they?
I think it's mostly made up as they go along 11.Sep.2003 12:56


It seems like if things are legal, somehow it becomes illegal. what i mean is in seattle, at the LEIU protest, there was permit, for a specific area...and yet, mid-protest, seemingly nothing going on, the protesters had their permit rights revoked. we had to leave [tho we had a couple hours left] and we were forced into westlake center [tho the permit allowed a downtown block]. i'm no expert so i recommend contacting someone at the ACLU or National Lawyers Guild in Portland, or Seattle. The NLG offered legal observers at the LEIU action. Sorry I can't offer more, it just seems like what's legal can easily be turned illegal at the whim of the police enforcement.

info 11.Sep.2003 13:17


The information is available. They are called "laws" and they are put into place by "governments" They are available for the cost of printing from the government printing office, or for reference at the library. In response to your specific questions, unarresting someone is interfeence and is quite illegal. Throwing anything at an officer is assault on an officer (someone was even prosecuted once for accidentally spilling soda on an officer). Sidewalk/street depends on the circumstances and place. You will have to discuss this with the police (they like making things illegal even when they aren't on the books... for instance, I was once IDed and detained for "trespassing on public property".... come on now..... if it is public propery, how can you trespass on it? Check into local laws, or contact an attorney... BEWARE!!!: When speaking with attorneys, you must make it very clear that your questions are ONLY theoretical and that you are just curious. They are required to report you if they know you are planning to do something illegal or they are considered an accesory. Try to be as broad as possible when speaking with them, but DO include enough detail for them to actually be able to determine legality..... for instance "In theory, if some person at some protest in this (or such-n-such) area were to jump over some fence that was set up for that particular protest and try to hit some official type person with some sort of edible, soft substance, what would be the possible charges against that person?......
have fun.

General rule 11.Sep.2003 18:15


It's not illegal if you don't get caught. The police can literally make anything illegal if they want to, in Columbia park they sequentially made it illegal to be in the street, then to be on the sidewalk, and then to just be standing in the park, all the "procedures" they follow are just a smoke screen to try to give some legitimacy to their exercise of raw power. Technically every march in Portland since March 15th has been "illegal", since none of them had a permit. The laws are far from concrete and enforcement usually boils down to the moods of a few officers at the time.