Tomorrow, on July 27th, several tenants’ rights groups within California will be staging a statewide renters’ protest. According to the organization, Tenant’s Together, hundreds of protesters in several cities will be storming multiple property management offices, owner’s offices, and possibly associations to demand a rent freeze and urge the repeal of the Costa Hawkins act.
Here are the cities that are currently targeted:
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco/Oakland
- San Diego
While their Facebook event page has a mere 95 people confirmed going (with 355 people interested), we urge property management companies and rental agencies to take special precautions.
First Amendment Rights
The right to protest is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and generally the constitution protects all types of free speech in traditional “public forums” such as streets, sidewalks and parks. Plazas in front of government buildings are also often protected as well. According to both the ACLU of North and South California, protests cannot take place on private property absent the consent of the property owner. If you are a business tenant, you will need to find out if protesting has been permitted by your landlord. If a protester disobeys a property owner’s rules, violators can be ordered off the property.
How to Prepare if a Protest Comes to Your Business
Every protest is different; some are peaceful and some are aggressive, some have numbers and some are made up of a select few. Some protests seek to just occupy the space and attract the attention of the media, while some propose objective demands and goals. While preparing for a protest can be difficult when you’re not sure what you’ll get, here are a few guidelines you should try to follow.
- Know your Rights
Read up on what your company’s rights (both constitutional and state-wide) are in case a protest tries to get up close and personal. Quickly train your staff on their rights as well, as protesters might try to prevent staff members from entering the building.
- Ramp up Security Measures
Lock your doors throughout the day before and the day of. If you’re in a corporate office, start requiring identification (like office ID badges) or a scheduled appointment to gain entry. Draw up an emergency escape plan for your employees. Make your office building’s security company aware.
- Stay Calm, Respectful and Professional
If you or your staff members interact with an aggressive protester, stay calm and professional. While this isn’t the case for all, some protester might be trying to get a reaction from you.
- Don’t Engage
If talking doesn’t work, just don’t engage. Let their words and actions speak for itself. Responding on the defensive can not only intensify the tension and add fuel to the fire, but hurt you or your company’s reputation.
- Give your Staff a Break
Handling shouting, angry protesters is extremely taxing, and just one mistake or heated comment from a tired staff member can change the game. Let your staff work in shifts to not only ensure your employee’s safety but maintain a positive, professional image.
- Let the Police Deal with it
Posting hired security (or “goons”) never looks good in the eyes of the public. If protesters gain access to your office, let the police handle it.
Whether you are affected or not by this particular tenants’ rights protest, it’s important to plan accordingly in case you become the target for a future protest. As always, don’t forget to protect your properties internally by performing thorough tenant screening.
This article is not meant as legal advice. Protect yourself by contacting your attorney.
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