Venn Diagram: "Using a tent is not always just camping."

Link to larger size, from @punkboyinsf.


  1. Soneone doesn’t understand Venn diagrams. The tent is in the “Camping” circle, so using a tent is camping. It’s in another circle, so it’s something else as well, but it’s still camping.

    The general rule of thumb here is that something does not become either legal or illegal because it’s being done as a protest or demonstration. If you can walk down the street chanting and carrying a placard (which you can), then you can do it as a protest. If you can’t put up a tent in Trafalgar Square and sleep overnight (which you can’t, or a lot of backpackers would find London a lot cheaper), then you can’t do it as a protest.

    1. In the US, the first amendment guarantees us free speech in general, but it especially guarantees us the right to political protest against the government.  So your rule of thumb isn’t correct here; there are activities which are legal or protected in the context of political protest which wouldn’t be allowed otherwise (for example, in an advertising campaign).  Political protest trumps many other concerns.  At least, in theory.

      This is the cornerstone of any truly democratic society: the recognition that opposition to the status quo will make some waves, but that those waves must be tolerated as the cost of preserving a democratic society.

      People today seem to think we can have both: a democratic society and strict law and order, respect for proper decorum, etc.  We never have and never will.

      1. The first amendment doesn’t guarantee a right to free speech — we have that right as incarnate beings — instead it limits the government from taking actions that abridge that inalienable right.

    2. What’s your point? The poster isn’t claiming throwing up a tent is legal, only that it isn’t about roasting marshmallows. Civil rights sit-ins weren’t legal, either.

    3. The general rule of thumb here is that something does not become either legal or illegal because it’s being done as a protest or demonstration.

      I’m sure it varies from country to country, and it certainly depends on interpretation, but a sensible way to read the First Amendment is that the only requirement the Government can place on an assembly of citizens petitioning it for a redress of grievances is that the assembly is peaceable. In other words, the government can place plenty of restrictions on day-to-day public behaviour for health, safety, convenience, and other purposes, but these restrictions go out of the window whenever citizens wish to protest the government – political speech, provided it is peaceful, trumps all other considerations.

      It makes perfect sense too. If not, governments, while they are still popular, can pass all sorts of laws regulating day-to-day activities, which would then restrict grass-roots political speech into complete ineffectiveness when conditions change. The First Amendment, I would argue, was designed to protect against exactly this.

      1. That might be “sensible” but by now I am sure you are aware of the time, method, place restrictions that have been found to be reasonable over and over and over and over. Your decision to pretend those cases are not there does not change the law.

  2. IMO, the best approach, although it would mean less people out there, would be to have three shifts of protesters.

    That way, sanitation issues are almost entirely eliminated, camping arguments are eliminated, it’s far harder to destroy personal property if it isn’t there, public support may even go up, etc., etc.

  3. The Venn Diagram is incorrect.  The circle on the left should be “Tent Use” rather than “Camping” so that Camping falls within Tent Use but not within Petitioning Government.
    However, you can do illegal things as a protest.  Lunch counter sit-ins were illegal AND they were a protest.  That is indisputable.

    1. No, it’s correct; the other items in the Camping group (fishing, swimming, hiking, etc) do not necessarily involve tent use. Tent use is a member of Camping as well as Petitioning Government.

      I’m not sure about the ≠ though.  Is it an exclusionary not-equal, as in “4 ≠ 5”, or does it mean “not synonymous,” as in “‘even number’ ≠ 4”?  (That is, while 4 is an even number, the two terms are not the same thing.)

      1. That is a good point.  I was thinking that they should put camping as one thing in the tent use circle that was outside of the middle ground.

        If they meant “not synonymous,” then they need to change the =/= sign.  Not equal is not the same thing as “not synonymous” or “not necessarily equal.”

        In any case, I think there is a clash of ideas between the main text of the sign and the Venn Diagram which makes the sign confusing.

  4. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight.

    It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

    You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

    Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.

    — President Andrew Shepherd, The American President

  5. “I notice you’re pitching a tent.  Are you petitioning government for redress of grievances, or are you just happy to see me?”

  6. Read the signage at any rest stop along an interstate. They almost universally define “camping” to be any extended stop, whether or not tents or recreational activities are involved.

    The only rational way to resolve this is get the government to codify what “camping” actually means. I propose a new branch of the government that publishes an official dictionary with definitions backed by law.

  7. I don’t think any informed person is unaware that the campouts are illegal. That’s just part of civil disobedience. The Boston Tea Party was even more illegal and Americans regard it as one the proudest moments of their ancestors. 

    1. What’s hilarious is that the modern Tea Party really do represent the spirit of the original Tea Party: a bunch of upper middle class white dudes who don’t want to have to pay their taxes.  (Sam and John Adams, Ben Franklin, T Jefferson, George Washington — all of them were 1%ers.)

  8. “The general rule of thumb here is that something does not become either legal or illegal because it’s being done as a protest or demonstration. If you can walk down the street chanting and carrying a placard (which you can), then you can do it as a protest. If you can’t put up a tent in Trafalgar Square and sleep overnight (which you can’t, or a lot of backpackers would find London a lot cheaper), then you can’t do it as a protest.”

    Then how do you explain that using a tent to go shopping, say for waiting in line for Black Friday, or waiting in line for concert tickets, is not something that you can’t do.

    I think what we have here is that Using a Tent to further the interests of big business and wall street is ok, and tolerated. But apparently Using a Tent to Protest the interests of big business and wall street is not ok, and is not tolerated. And this is hypocrisy.

    1. The difference:

      When people put tents outside of Best Buy, they’re doing it on Best Buy’s property, not public property. Best Buy appreciates and condones this camp out because it helps their bottom line. This is opposed to OWS, where the occupation was on private land and unwelcome by the owners. I certainly support the intent of OWS, but when you own private property, you have certain rights to determine how that property is used.

      In reply to other commenters who compare this to civil rights sit-ins:
      The sit-ins were directly related to the illegality of the action. They sat in Woolworth’s because it was illegal and because that was a direct protest to that law. OWS doesn’t want to pitch tents to protest the illegality of camping. They’re pitching tents as a secondary convenience that enables their actual protest.

      1. Sure, waiting for Black Friday at a Best Buy puts you on their property. But there are plenty of instances of people doing the same in urban situations on City streets where the same “camping” behavior is tolerated. Look at people waiting outside the Apple Store in San Francisco or NYC for that matter. The same behavior is tolerated on public property.

        You are making excuses, and they don’t hold water.

        1. And most of those businesses have sidewalk licenses, which legalizes that activity. Ever wonder why it’s ok for a cafe to set up tables on a public sidewalk? It’s because the business is paying to license that space.

  9. Man… if only there was a book one could use to look up the meaning of words. Oh wait – there is!

    camp noun
    1. a place where an army or other group of persons or an individual is lodged in a tent or tents or other temporary means of shelter.
    2. such tents or shelters collectively: The regiment transported its camp in trucks.
    3. the persons so sheltered: The camp slept through the storm.
    4. the act of camping out: Camp is far more pleasant in summer than in winter.
    5. any temporary structure, as a tent or cabin, used on an outing or vacation.

    6. to occupy a spawn point or other area that allows one to get many kills while being in little danger: I am going to go camp point Alpha.

    So clearlly if you are living in temporary tents in a park you are camping.

    I wondered why tent cities are a must with this? I can understand having things like food or first aid set up, but why not tear it down and put it up every day? PITA, sure, but you are less likely to be forced out at midnight if you are already packed up and it is just protestors.

  10. Sure a restaurant gets a license for sidewalk tables. This is not  what happens with concert tickets, or iphones. Its tolerated. There is a double standard here.

    Look, I find it offensive that you defend this intolerance for protest. I don’t want to talk to you any more.

    1. And I find it offensive that you find civil discourse offensive. 

      In many cities, businesses actually own portions of the sidewalks. In other cities, those businesses get licenses to use the sidewalks. Simply saying “that’s not what happens” doesn’t mean you’re actually correct. 

      Look, I absolutely wish that the owners of Zucotti Park were more welcoming of OWS. But as property owners, they are not required to be. You are a private citizen. You likely rent or own a home. Do you believe that you have a right to say who can use your home and for what purpose? Are you obligated to host protestors in your living room? Are you going to be a little more receptive to someone setting up a tent in your back yard if they’re giving you $400 for the privilege?

      1. Dude, Brookfield is a corporation.  It doesn’t live in Zucotti park, it doesn’t go camping there, and it can’t really be inconvenienced by anything because it is a legal fiction.  As far as I can tell, OWS is a protest against the fact that legal fictions — corporations — have more rights now in American than human beings do.

        So maybe this IS a whole lot like the lunch counter sit ins.  A corporation’s claim to a public park shouldn’t trump the claims of human beings to that same part, or so the argument goes, but according to the law it does.  OWS is breaking that law to protest corporate personhood.

        Of course, then you make up some other bullshit reason to hate on OWS.

        1. A company CAN be inconvenienced by protestors causing damage to private property. No, a Brookfield CEO isn’t going to be personally inconvenienced in the same way that I’d be annoyed by a squatter stinking up my living room or taking all my hot water in the morning. But it’s still a financial blow to repair damage caused by protestors. No matter how large or evil a company is, damaging private property is illegal (as it should be). 

          Your last argument is good, but it rests on the idea that Zuccotti is a public park. It’s not. It’s private property. I’m certainly in favor of protesting corporate personhood. Corporations shouldn’t have any more rights than an individual person. But under the same token, if I can’t occupy your house, I’d prefer that you not occupy my place of business. 

          And again, practicing civil discourse: some issues aren’t black and white. OWS isn’t a “you’re either with us or against us” movement. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t disagree with the movement, and I don’t “hate on OWS.” I’m simply acknowledging that a lot of the comparisons being made don’t hold up. Most of the restrictions being made to OWS are time/place/manner restrictions, not content-based, as set by Supreme Court precedent.

          1. Actually, it’s more complicated than that:


            Long story short: the city made zoning concessions to the builders of 1 liberty park in exchange for making Zuccotti park publicly available 24/7.  So it’s not as cut-and-dried as you’ve presented it.

            So you’re ignoring a lot of complicating factors to make your point.  Why?  Why not bring all the details into the conversation to let people judge for themselves? 

            Edit: the zoning concession was extra vertical space on 1 liberty park estimated in the linked article to be worth about $9 million a year. That means Brookfield is getting about $9 million a year in return for keeping Zuccotti park open to the public. Seems to me like Brookfield gets the better end of that bargain no matter how you slice it.

        2. I think Dani4a made a good point about public/private property.  If a bunch of “young Republicans” started camping on your front lawn protesting against OWS, you’d probably have your fingers dialing 911 faster than Rick Perry can forget his middle name.  It doesn’t matter if you live there or are renting it out, it’s your property.

          People protest for all sorts of reasons but it’s hypocritical to protest for your rights at the expense of others.

          1. As I’ve been pointing out, Brookfield is legally barred from doing anything profitable with the land in question.  They are legally obligated to keep it open to the public.  This is not the simple property rights issue you’re trying to make it.

          2. That really is the exact same situation. Bravo.

            Also, it would be like if hippies were playing drums in your bathroom. Would you tolerate that? I wouldn’t. Say no to protest!

  11. I have used fists*, groups of three people, and cameras in my camping at various times.  They should be in with the tent.  

    *for tent pegs.  Just so that’s clear.  Your camping might be different.

  12. Dani4a, including Daniel’s posts about the complicated public/private patchwork for Zuccotti, you’re ignoring all of the instances of OWS camping on ground that is clearly part of the commons and not on private property. Sidewalks in my town are considered public, and people have been sleeping on them (with sleeping bags!) for weeks now. Zuccotti and other complex spaces raise more questions: when does the “private property” that is chartered as a public space supersede the private property of the protesters (laptops, their library, their own bodies, ect)? Moreover, what about OWS camps that are in abandoned or condemned private property? If the owners are dead, insolvent, or the title somehow got lost in fraudulent mortgage paperwork, what then? This public/private binary that you characterize so starkly sounds like armchair theory. 

    Lets recall the reasons why Brookfield evicted the protesters: they claimed their tents were a fire and safety hazard. This was Brookfield’s claims in court. If that was the concern all along, why did it take them two months to make this claim and follow through with eviction? I’m sure Brookfield wanted them gone from day 1, but their park rules were too muddled to make that happen. In effect, Brookfield changed the park rules AFTER OWS began, and the city approved their petition to prohibit everything from sitting down to sleeping bags. Only then did the city evict them on the grounds that OWS wasn’t obeying these “(new) rules.” 

    There’s also a moral argument that needs to be clarified when we compare OWS to civil rights sit-ins. Private business owners made the same claims about the sanctity of their private property in stores like Woolworths: that they can do what they want with it and exclude/include whom they want. Partially similar to racial segregation, OWS’s strategy seems to be based on the MORAL (not legal) dynamics of class exclusion. Hence, setting up an annoying protest in the middle of Wall Street makes sense because they’re either a) not allowed to participate in Wall St wealth because of class segregation or 2) exploited by Wall St itself (bailout double standards, causing mass unemployment, financial terrorism, ect). When viewed through a class power lens, we see how removing tents from Wall St isnt really about a “fire hazard” or property rights, it’s about limiting the ability to assemble in public through time/space limits. Which aren’t in the constitution last time I checked.

    I still waver on whether the accessories of protest (tents) are constitutionally protected as necessary for peaceful assembly in all circumstances (if govts think they are, then civil disobedience loses its power), but what I do know is this: when you repeatedly ask nicely for permission to protest, you look like a compliant fool. Like the Richmond  Tea Party who demanded a refund of $10K in permit fees for their events, while OWS said “screw that, the constitution is our permit.” See:

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