You might think the U.S. Supreme Court never addressed the idea that camping out is protected speech. But if you thought that, you would be wrong.
In Clark v. Community for Creative Nonviolence (1984) the court directly addressed the question. Here’s what they said:
In 1982, the National Park Service issued a permit to respondent Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) to conduct a demonstration in Lafayette Park and the Mall, which are National Parks in the heart of Washington, D.C. The purpose of the demonstration was to call attention to the plight of the homeless, and the permit authorized the erection of two symbolic tent cities. However, the Park Service, relying on its regulations — particularly one that permits “camping” (defined as including sleeping activities) only in designated campgrounds, no campgrounds having ever been designated in Lafayette Park or the Mall — denied CCNV’s request that demonstrators be permitted to sleep in the symbolic tents. CCNV and the individual respondents then filed an action in Federal District Court, alleging, inter alia, that application of the regulations to prevent sleeping in the tents violated the First Amendment. The District Court granted summary judgment for the Park Service, but the Court of Appeals reversed.
Held: The challenged application of the Park Service regulations does not violate the First Amendment.
a) Assuming that overnight sleeping in connection with the demonstration is expressive conduct protected to some extent by the First Amendment, the regulation forbidding sleeping meets the requirements for a reasonable time, place, or manner restriction of expression, whether oral, written, or symbolized by conduct. The regulation is neutral with regard to the message presented, and leaves open ample alternative methods of communicating the intended message concerning the plight of the homeless. Moreover, the regulation narrowly focuses on the Government’s substantial interest in maintaining the parks in the heart of the Capital in an attractive and intact condition, readily available to the millions of people who wish to see and enjoy them by their presence. To permit camping would be totally inimical to these purposes. The validity of the regulation need not be judged solely by reference to the demonstration at hand, and none of its provisions are unrelated to the ends that it was designed to serve.
(b) Similarly, the challenged regulation is also sustainable as meeting the standards for a valid regulation of expressive conduct. Aside from its impact on speech, a rule against camping or overnight sleeping in public parks is not beyond the constitutional power of the Government to enforce. And as noted above, there is a substantial Government interest, unrelated to suppression of expression, in conserving park property that is served by the proscription of sleeping.
It appears that the Oregon Police are giving some protesters a workshop in constitutional law:
Police in Oregon dismantled two “Occupy Portland” protest campsites Sunday, just hours after protesters declared victory following a standoff with officers.
Protesters did little to resist as police took down tents in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, according to The Oregonian.
As they said in the Sixties, “Declare victory and go home.”
BTW – You shouldn’t whine about your rights if you’re going to sneer at the rule of law. The latter gave birth to the former.