Picture the Homeless does lots of sleep-out protests. And of course, the cops are usually not happy to see us. But they've NEVER arrested a single one of us for sleeping on the sidewalk.
Part of that is because some of our members are extraordinary police negotiators - getting hassled or arrested every single night for nonsense will build your police interaction skills pretty fast. Part of that is because we put a lot of organizational emphasis on discipline and taking leadership from our tactical team, who's there to keep us safe. And part of it is because we always go out there armed with a copy of this New York State District Court decision, in which a judge ruled that the NYPD did not have the power to arrest demonstrators who are sleeping on the sidewalk as a form of political protest, as long as they did not violate other laws like blocking pedestrian traffic or public intoxication or anything else. In fact, when we did one in midtown Manhattan, a police officer told us "I arrest people every night for doing this on their own, but because there's a bunch of you it's a First Amendment issue."
Here's that decision - click on the image to download a PDF of it. Occupiers and anyone else who is looking to sleep out in an organized act of protest should print up copies and take it with them, and make sure their police liaison has it on hand for negotiations!