Tag Archives | SEIU Residential Picketing

Another Item on the SEIU Protest

The Washington Examiner had reported that the SEIU protesters who picketed a Bank of America executive’s home — and possibly trespassed, or violated a Montgomery County residential picketing ban — were escorted by D.C. police, even though the picketing was outside D.C. I hadn’t noted that in my posts, but it came up in the comments, and my sense is that the claim has been pretty prominently circulated.

I therefore thought that I’d note that the Fraternal Order of Police has denied this, as has the D.C. police department; the Examiner quotes both statements. According to the police department,

The reporting that the Metropolitan Police Department led members into Montgomery County and to the home of a bank executive is wholly false. The MPD shadowed the unpermitted march, while in the District of Columbia, to ensure that no one in the march was injured. At NO time did the MPD enter Montgomery County, Maryland. Upon arriving at the Maryland line the MPD notified the Montgomery County Police of the approaching march and then stayed in the District of Columbia.

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Was SEIU’s Picketing Illegal, Whether or Not They Trespassed?

As I understand it, the SEIU picketing of the Bank of America executive’s residence took place in Montgomery County, Maryland. As it happens, that county has an ordinance that provides, “A person or group of persons must not picket in front of or adjacent to any private residence,” with “picket” defined as “to post a person or persons at a particular place to convey a message.” There are some exceptions (for marching without stopping at any particular home, picketing when the home is “the occupant’s sole place of business,” and picketing during a “public meeting,” which in context seems to refer to a meeting held within the house); but none of these apply here. Also, I think that the ordinance as it’s worded is content-neutral and therefore constitutional, since the classifications relate to what the home is being used for, and not to the content of the picketers’ speech.

[UPDATE: Meant to include this paragraph, but then completely forgot; thanks to David Gerstman (Soccer Dad) for the reminder:] I think this ordinance is also applicable in incorporated towns or cities in the County, since Montgomery County is the same sort of art. IX-A charter county as Prince George’s County, which was held to have such power: “countywide legislation may operate equally in all municipalities throughout the county,” whether or not the municipality has an ordinance on the subject. But I’m not completely sure, especially given this story. If you know which municipality, if any, the picketing took place in, please let me know so I can check the local municipal code; likewise, please let me know if you know more than I do about Maryland home rule law, and whether a county’s ordinances are valid within incorporated municipalities in the county. What I write below [...]

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SEIU Picketing on Someone’s Front Porch?

Nina Easton at Fortune writes about an SEIU protest at a Bank of America executive’s house, and reports that “hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses, up Baer’s steps, and onto his front porch.” (Easton is Baer’s neighbor, and is apparently reporting based on her own personal observation. [UPDATE: I neglected to mention that the story is accompanied with a photo that strongly supports Easton’s account.]) Reader Sean Mattingly asks whether this could lead to a civil lawsuit against SEIU.

I’m inclined to say that it indeed can, if it is right that the SEIU protesters went onto Baer’s property, and if they did so beyond just having a couple of people come up briefly to ring the doorbell. Intentionally going on another’s property without his permission is a trespass, and can lead to compensatory and punitive damages. What’s more, if this was seen as part of the SEIU’s organizational plan, and not just as the actions of some stray low-level members, then I think the SEIU itself would be liable.

There are limits to this in situations where such behavior is customarily allowed, and where no contrary statement has been made by the property owner. “Permission may be implied where the owner acquiesces in the known, customary use of property by the public.” (See also Alvin v. Simpson, 491 N.W.2d 604 (Mich. Ct. App. 1992), acknowledging this as to residential property, there a back yard; Keesecker v. G.M. McKelvey Co., 47 N.E.2d 211 (Ohio 1943) (implied license as defense to trespass was a question for the jury because, “in this day and age it is a matter of general knowledge that deliverymen, tradespeople and others having business or prospective business with the occupants of a private dwelling, or being in quest of information, [...]

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