Forget Tents, They're Occupying the Courts

Lutz says his arrest was “the best thing that could have happened” to his cause

A combination of rulings against Occupy San Diego demonstrators has quite possibly worked to their advantage, one supporter said.

A US district judge denied members of the movement a restraining order against police Thursday. In his ruling, Judge William Hayes stated that a restraining order is not necessary, since police were not causing protesters “irreparable harm.”

The protesters who requested the restraining order also alleged that the municipal code police used to evict them from their campsite on Oct. 14 was too vague. Police said the tents were a violation of of an ordinance banning encroachment.

Hayes said in the ruling that the code's language gave the protesters “fair warning” of police enforcement.

Read Hayes's ruling here.

However, occupiers interpret the ruling as a green light for setting up tables and handing out pamphlets, said Ray Lutz, former congressional candidate and Occupy San Diego protester.

The order cited a similar appeals case in which tables were used as “expressive activities.” But in that case, the appeals court did not say whether or not tables could be protected by the Constitution’s free speech amendment.

In other words, Lutz said, the ruling is still vague, leaving the door open for further legislation and tabling activity.

“This is the first step of a multi-step process,” he said of Hayes’s denial.

In response, Lt. Andra Brown with the San Diego Police department said that Hayes’s ruling was not at all vague, and that tables would still be considered encroachments as originally established.

“The intent was spelled out very clearly,” she said. “The law was clear and we’re going to continue to enforce it.”

Lutz was arrested Wednesday for trespassing on private property after he set up a voter registration table in Civic Center Plaza, police said.

He said this, along with Judge Hayes ruling on the restraining order, were the perfect opportunities for Occupy San Diego to continue their movement.

As soon as Lutz was released on Wednesday, he filed a complaint against the management of the building where he was arrested. In the false imprisonment claim, he says he was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech. Police say he was trespassing on private property.

He said a similar case set precedence for his. In Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, petitioning was upheld as a constitutional right in California.

The lawsuit will give him an opportunity to overrule the city municipal code – making it possible for all occupiers to set up tables and hand out literature in Civic Center Plaza, he said.

“Really, being arrested was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me,” he said.

Watch video of Lutz's arrest Wednesday.

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