Constitutionally Protected Symbolic Speech - by Stephen Lendman
Tent cities are constitutionally protected.
Symbolic speech examples include leafleting, picketing, demonstrating, marching, speaking publicly, flag burning, displaying t-shirts, armbands, banners and placards, sit-ins, as well as camping out in public places.
With some exceptions, all have First Amendment protection. Numerous Supreme Court decisions addressed the issue. Some agreed. Others didn't.
For example, in Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization (1939), Justice Owen Roberts expressed the Court's plurality opinion, saying:
"Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions."
"Such use of the streets and public places has from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens."
While most Justices didn't concur, subsequent opinions endorsed symbolic speech rights. In Schneider v. State (1939), the Court ruled that city ordinances to keep streets clean and presentable didn't justify prohibiting literature and leaflet distribution to willing recipients.
In Kunz v. New York (1951), the Court held that mandating permits to speak publicly on religious issues was unconstitutional.