“Private Property or Public Forum? How the Occupy Movement Implicates Free Speech and Property Rights in Retail Spaces,” USLAW Spring/Summer 2012

“As the legions of Occupy Movement members sprouted tent cities on both public and private property across the nation, the highly publicized movement raised a number of questions beyond the merit or effectiveness of its protest against perceived economic or social inequalities — principal among them the issue of when and how owners and managers can control expressive conduct on their properties,” write Kenneth M. Alweis and Molly M. Ryan, attorneys in Goldberg Segalla’s Business and Commercial and Retail, Hospitality, and Development Practice Groups, in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of USLAW magazine.

“No commercial group is more affected by these issues than the shopping center industry, whose vast parking lots and increasingly public-space-like designs create an attractive forum for protesters to make their stance.”

This article highlights a number of critical concerns for retailers in light of the Occupy Movement, including the Supreme Court’s holding in the seminal PruneYard Shopping decision and other courts’ interpretations regarding the issue of whether a shopping center can constitute a public forum for free speech. It looks at other scenarios as well as a recent decision involving the Occupy Movement in New York to provide owners and property managers with practical tips on handling potentially disruptive conduct by protesters.

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