Home Demonstration Laws
from No Compromise Issue 20

By Anonymous

If you take only one thing away from this article, remember: hitting abusers at their homes is effective, generally legal, and can be done in more anonymous and often more effective ways than picketing. The purpose of this article, though, is to offer a brief rundown of your rights and laws in general as they relate to home demonstrations.

The fact is that home demonstrations are legal. However, there are laws that limit conduct at those protests. The laws relating to residential picketing vary from state to state, county to county, and city to city. In most areas, it is perfectly legal to maintain a protest on the public sidewalk in front of a residence. However, in some areas, it is illegal to stand directly in front of your target home, and you must instead march throughout the neighborhood. The best approach to determining the laws as they apply to your specific area is to contact a local activist-sympathetic attorney who can research or relay the laws to you.

Because of the varying laws from state to state, this article only intends to guide you through some of the most basic, applicable laws. First, you should know your rights. You have the right to protest. Additionally, you can approach your target’s home to ring the doorbell or knock on the door in most areas. Until the resident, a representative of the resident, or a police officer requests that you leave the property, you are not trespassing, under most states’ trespass laws. Trespass is a law worth learning, as it is applicable in various demonstrations.

Aside from learning local laws to determine the legal approach to home demonstrations in your area and understanding the basics of protest law (e.g., disorderly conduct, trespass, etc.), just remember that the same laws that apply to a protest on public property (such as a mall)apply at home demonstrations on publicly-owned property (such as a sidewalk). And also remember that police are much more likely to ignore your right to protest at private homes, as they are generally inexperienced in dealing with home demonstrations and find them as reprehensible as your target does. So again, be prepared, know your rights, and make it clear that you know them.

If your demonstration simply involves holding placards in front of your target’s residence while standing on a sidewalk and perhaps handing out flyers, in most areas you should be exempt from arrest. Using megaphones generally requires a permit, as it violates neighborhood noise ordinances. However, chanting during a reasonable hour should be perfectly legal (in most areas). Learn your local laws!
In researching local laws, you may find that it is difficult or nearly impossible to carry out a home demonstration at your target’s residence. Do not give up! Simply employ that activist creativity and find ways around the laws or, better yet, ignore them and make quick, effective, and anonymous visits.

Most importantly, make your target aware that we know where they live and that they are going to be treated accordingly. Be it simple picketing or midnight sabotage, know the laws, be careful, and make the maximum impact!