Occupy the Docket

As the Occupy Movement continues to make national headlines, the struggle to hold America’s ‘1%’ accountable is increasingly being played out through the Federal and State Court Systems.

On Wednesday, a South Carolina State Circuit Judge permitted Occupy Columbia protesters to return to the grounds of the State Capitol after attempts by Governor Haley to evict them. This followed Monday’s announcement that two members of Occupy Austin had filed suit against their City, claiming that the use of Criminal Trespass Notices infringed upon free expression, assembly and the right to petition one’s government.

Up and down the country, Courts are being asked to evaluate not only the rights of protesters but also the possible actions which police officers can take while trying to enforce evictions.

Of course, many would argue that the role of the legal system in the ‘Occupy’ story is unsurprising given that, even in the age of alternative dispute resolution, America remains a heavily litigious society – one in which First Amendment Rights are embedded in the public pysche.

However, even outside the United States, the various progeny of Occupy Wall Street, which have sprung up around the globe, are increasingly finding themselves in Court – either positively seeking protections or defending against hostile local authorities.

On Tuesday, the British Columbia Supreme Court granted cfficials an injunction to remove members of Occupy Vancouver  from the grounds in front of the city’s art gallery. Similarly, on Thursday, the London High Court set a date for determening the legality of the tented city which has developed outside of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The UK case will be particularly interesting as any judgment is likely to consider the extent to which OccupyProtesters are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). A positive ruling for London City Coroporation (the city authorities) may have the effect of encouraging other European officials to adopt harsher measures against the individuals who are currently occupying their cities.

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