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February, 2012:

Is That Legal – Glitter Bombing

Improv AZ Fake Protest Part Deux by Sheila Dee

I love glitter. This is not a secret. On several occasions I’ve covered myself with glitter hairspray and shed glitter everywhere I went. I’ve even verbally assaulted cars about my enjoyment of glitter. I love the way it sparkles. It makes me happy.

Glitter bombing is when someone throws glitter on an unsuspecting person, usually a public person who has strong anti-LGBT beliefs, to promote equality for the LGBT community. Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum have all been glitter bombed.  When Newt Gingrich was glitter bombed by Nick Espinosa, Nick said, “Feel the rainbow, Newt. Stop the hate. Stop anti-gay politics” and he poured a box of glitter all over him. Marcus Bachman’s “pray the gay away” clinic was glitter bombed by a group of people dressed up as barbarians. When they were told that Marcus wasn’t in the building, they danced and threw glitter in the clinic’s lobby.

I think glitter bombing is entertaining, but is it legal?

Is It Illegal to Throw Glitter on Unsuspecting Persons?
Probably. The law generally criminalizes the offensive touching of another person or putting a person in fear of offensive touching. Pouring or throwing glitter on a person without their consent could put the glitter bomber at risk of being charged with assault and/or battery depending on the applicable state law.

What If Someone Gets Glitter in their Eye and Needs Medical Attention?
We live in a society where we hold people financially responsible for the harm they cause. If a glitter bomb target or innocent bystander gets glitter in their eye and gets a scratched cornea, the glitter bomber can expect to be sued for the damages they caused.

Photo by Nick Russano

Why Aren’t Glitter Bombers Arrested?
I suspect the politicians who have been glitter bombed don’t want to draw a lot of attention to the fact that people throw glitter at them. It might encourage more people to throw glitter at them. It definitely will interfere with them being able to focus on their platforms.

Glitter bombers are generally rock stars for a day or two, and then life goes back to normal. If the glitter bomber is arrested for the assault, it could be in the news for weeks. I think politicians who get glitter bombed would rather their glitter bombers disappear into the background rather than shine a national spotlight on their attackers.

I think glitter bombing is going to be around for a while. It’s a festive public demonstration, and so far I have heard of only one instance where a person was arrested for glitter bombing. I’ve heard of no injuries that would discourage would-be glitter bombers from doing it. The glitter bomb videos I’ve seen suggest that the worst thing that’s likely to happen to anyone is that they’ll been escorted away by the Secret Service or told to get off someone’s private property. But there is always a risk that they’ll be arrested, or face other consequences like being fired from their job or expelled from school.

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Is That Legal – Itsy Bitsy Spider Prank

Spider by vtsr from Flickr

Today, my friend Heather posted a link to the video of Sketch Empire’s Itsy Bitsy Spider Prank on Improv AZ’s Facebook wall. I laughed so hard. It was a great way to start the day.

It looks like this prank took place in a mall. One prankster on an upper floor would lower a big spider on a string down in front of an unsuspecting person below and another prankster would film them freaking out. It’s simple, but funny when you get over-the-top reactions.

One unsuspecting mall patron didn’t think it was funny. After being scared by the spider, he immediately spotted the cameraman across the way and demanded that he delete the footage of him.  He threatened to call the police to make the pranksters delete it.

Is it Illegal to Scare People with Giant Fake Spiders?
I think it’s unlikely that someone would be arrested or cited for a simple practical joke, especially one that lasts only a matter of seconds. When the motive is to be funny, not malicious, I have trouble finding criminal fault.

I could see a situation, however, where someone gets scared by the spider and falls backwards in fright and breaks their wrist when they fall. In that situation, the pranksters are the direct cause of the fall and should be financially liable for the person’s injuries.

Could it Ever be a Crime?
Yes. The law generally criminalizes offensive touching of another person or putting a person in fear of offensive touching. If the pranksters touch someone with the spider or put a reasonable person in fear of being touched by the spider, they could be charged with assault and/or battery depending on the applicable state law.

Did the Guy’s Argument that the Pranksters Invaded his Personal Space have Merit?
Probably not. In general, a person does not have an expectation of privacy in their whereabouts in public. Our movements are videotaped all the time by security cameras. A person with a smartphone or flip is just one of many cameras on us any time we’re in public.

If the mall had a policy against videotaping on the premises, the patron might have had a legitimate expectation of privacy while he was there, but I don’t know of any mall that doesn’t have security cameras.

You do have a privacy right related to the commercialization of your image. If the pranksters are making money off that video, the guy might have an argument that the video interfered with that right, but still couldn’t prohibit the shooting of the video itself.

Could the Pranksters get in Trouble with the Mall?
It depends. Malls are private property and the mall cops have the responsibility to keep the peace. If they caught the pranksters scaring people with a giant spider, they would have the authority to tell them stop.

Some malls have rules that prohibit patrons from taking pictures or shooting videos inside the mall. If that’s the rule at this mall, the pranksters could be told to stop filming or told to leave.

I think the Itsy Bitsy Spider Prank is hilarious and pretty harmless. I think their biggest issue will be not getting caught by the mall cops if they continue to do it. Improv AZ learned the hard way that even when you think you’re taking all the proper precautions and are willing to leave upon request, the mall cops can still freak out and call the real cops, which isn’t fun at the time but makes for great YouTube footage.

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How I Got A Pony

 

I’m someone who usually doesn’t ask for a lot of material things. When Santa Claus asks me for my Christmas list, I generally ask for gift certificates, and I fill gaps in my wardrobe. I don’t need much to be happy.

One year while I was in college, I visited my parents for Thanksgiving. Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and there really wasn’t anything I had my heart set on. I responded, “I don’t know Mom. Get me a pony.”

She got me a pony.

Ok, so it’s 4 inches long and made of plastic, but it’s a pony. It’s been over 10 years since that Christmas and I still have it.

Since that Christmas, I’ve acquired a pony collection. I have my plastic pony, pony socks, a pony calendar, and an awesome pony tote bag. I have not purchased a single piece of my collection, but it keeps growing. That might be because my response to a lot questions and statements is still, “I want a pony.”

In 2010, my parents took a trip to Italy (and took my world-traveling red plastic slinky with them). Mom was so tickled when she saw a pony (ok it was a horse) in a plaza in Florence that was wearing a warning sign that said, “I bite.” She took a picture of it for me.

The pony has acquired a dual meaning for me:

  1. Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it; and
  2. Ask for what you want. You just might get it.

I think they’re both valuable lessons . . . and my pony collection continues to grow.

I like to randomly ask people for a pony, like when my server at a restaurant asks if I need anything else. The reactions I get run the spectrum. A few years ago, I asked a server at Five & Diner, a ‘50’s style diner, for a pony, and she drew a sketch of a pony on my bill. She got a great tip that night, and I still have the sketch on my fridge.

Is That Legal – Freaky The Scary Snowman

Freaky The Scary Snowman

Photo by Freaky The Scary Snowman

Freaky The Scary Snowman is an ingenious spectacle on the East Coast. Freaky is really a shell of a snowman made primarily out of chicken wire and insulation foam. One person puts of the Freaky costume and stands unassumingly on the sidewalk. When someone walks by, Freaky turns his head or his whole body and scares the bejezus out of them. One of the other masterminds tapes these incidents and compiles them into YouTube videos.

I’m biased when it comes to Freaky. I think he’s hilarious. I look forward to every new video.

Recently the guys were filming Freaky in Providence, Rhode lsland and they were approached by a police officer. The officer told them that the guys had to leave because the police had received “a lot of complaints” about Freaky and that people were “falling off the curb.” None of the recently released videos showed anyone falling down. The most I saw were people stepping off the curb. It made me question the legalities of Freaky the Snowman.

Does Freaky Commit Disorderly Conduct?
I think that’s a stretch. Disorderly conduct in Rhode Island involves engaging “in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.” I don’t think being a barely moving snowman counts as threatening behavior, even if it results in people being momentarily frightened.

What About Blocking the Sidewalk?
You can commit disorderly conduct if you obstruct a sidewalk in Rhode Island; however, Freaky isn’t big enough to obstruct a sidewalk if he’s standing up. A person could easily share a sidewalk with him.

Can Freaky Scaring People be an Assault?
In Rhode Island, you commit assault by putting someone in fear of physical contact, without ever laying a finger on the victim. People who are scared by Freaky sometimes raise a fist as if to defend themselves when they see him move. That could be evidence of assault. I think Freaky’s best argument is he doesn’t have any arms to hit with which to hit anyone and he usually turns in place towards the person. He rarely gets physically closer to the unsuspecting person than the person voluntarily put themselves.

Could Freaky Face Civil Charges?
I would think this could be a bigger concern than criminal charges. There is lots of footage of people stepping off the sidewalk when they’re scared. If a person stepped off the curb and into oncoming traffic, the Freaky guys could be held liable.

Freaky doesn’t have any arms. If he falls there’s no way he can break his fall or prevent himself from falling on whatever’s in his path. There was an incident where a man punched Freaky out of fear. Freaky fell like a stone and took out a small child. Don’t worry, the kid was fine. If someone ever gets hurt by a falling Freaky, the guys could be at least held partially responsible.

I’m not completely convinced that the Providence Police had enough evidence to make Freaky leave, but I think the guys made the right choice to move on. The end of their latest video shows Freaky in Newport where a police officer was standing on the corner laughing while Freaky was down the street, scaring people passing by.

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 4 of 4

This is the final installation of my four-part story with cyberbullying. You can read it from the beginning here. Back to the story . . .

After finals were over, I filed a formal report with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. They said there was nothing they could do at that point, but that people like her engage in the same behavior repeatedly. They suggested that I send my bully an email informing her that any future contact was unwanted and would be reported to the university as harassment. If she contacted me again, it would be actionable. I disagreed with their assessment, but I sent my bully the email.

Seclusion & Serenity by Iwona Erskine-Kellie

Thankfully, my bully only had one more semester of school and we didn’t have any classes together. If we had been in any of the same classes, I would have asked the school to make her change. It was still nerve-wracking to see her on campus, but we never had direct contact again. Last I heard, she moved to California. Shortly after graduation, I blocked my bully and my other former exec on Facebook. Doing that made me feel like I was closing the door on that chapter of my life.

I had an unsettling experience last week with my bully – she asked to connect on LinkedIn! I was surprised she would want to be a connection given her animosity towards me. I suspect she uploaded all her contacts to her LinkedIn account and requested to connect with all of them, not thinking that there might be people in her contacts list that she doesn’t want to be connected to. I looked for the ability to block someone on LinkedIn and was shocked to learn that LinkedIn doesn’t provide that ability. The best you can do is deny someone the ability to connect with you. I expected them to have a stronger anti-harassment provision. I would like to block her on that site too, but that is not an option at this time.

So there’s my story. It was hellaciously stressful to be the victim of cyberbullying. I’m so grateful that I had support from my friends, my family, and the law school. I can’t imagine how much worse it could have been if I had to endure it alone. Unfortunately, that’s what happens to too many children. They’re ostracized from their peers and they’re too afraid to ask for help from their parents or teachers.

To all the victims of cyberbullying, I know it’s hard to admit that you’re being bullied, and I know it’s scary to ask for help, but do it. You don’t have to go through this alone and you don’t have to continue to be the victim.

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 3 of 4

This is the third part of my four-part story with cyberbullying. You can read it from the beginning here. Back to the story . . .

Walking Away by Jeremy Raff-Reynolds

At that point, I was done with her harassment. I investigated whether I had options for recourse through the school given that I was experiencing student-on-student harassment and all the emails were sent over the ASU email system. My research revealed provisions of the Arizona Board of Regents Student Code of Conduct that prohibited harassment and discriminatory activities.

I set up a meeting with the Assistant Dean of the law school where I explained what had been occurring and showed him all her emails. By then the semester was drawing to a close. He and I decided that the best course of action was for him to meet with my bully after she was finished with finals to discuss the inappropriateness of her behavior. At the end of the meeting, I turned over my copies of the emails to him to put in her permanent file. If anyone calls the school to ask for a reference for my bully, they may be told a report was made against her for cyberharassment.

My bully reportedly left town immediately after her last final, so the assistant dean was unable to get her into his office for a meeting. Instead, he spoke with her by phone. According to him, she wasn’t very receptive to what he had to say and didn’t take any responsibility for her behavior. Shortly after the call ended, she made the following post on Facebook:

“ruth carter is a giant cunt and a poor person. tell the world I said this.”

She must have realized that creating that post was a poor decision and removed it, but not before I took a screenshot of it and sent it to the school.

The assistant dean and I were astonished by her behavior, and I had concerns about her level of impulsivity. I still had one final to go, and the finals schedule is post publicly, so she had access to information regarding when/where I would be on campus. We weren’t certain that she had actually left town or that she wouldn’t come back.

We decided it was be better to be safe than dead. To protect my physical safety, we decided it would be best if I took my last final in a different location, so I took it in a windowless room, by myself, where only one other person knew where I was.

Read the conclusion to my cyberbullying story in Part 4 of I Was Cyberbullied.

 

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 2 of 4

This is the second of my four-part experience with cyberbullying. You can read Part 1 here. Back to the story . . .

Alone by Tanya Little

For weeks, I was anxious every time I went to campus. I was so nervous that it made me sweat profusely. I stopped wearing professional clothes to school out of fear I would ruin them with sweat stains. Instead, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, and kept a fresh shirt in my locker. It was common for me to change my shirt during lunch because my first one was soaked with sweat. I got down to my lowest weight in law school that semester because I was too anxious to eat and I was sweating so much.

My bully was in one of my classes that semester – trial advocacy – and she sat right next to me. There were only 12 of us in the class and only 12 seats in our seating area. I didn’t want to ask someone to exchange seats because it would have brought up questions about the situation. So every day we had class, I sat there, sweating like crazy, but refusing to let her know how much she bothered me.

My trial advocacy final was a mock trial. Thankfully my bully wasn’t my co-counsel or the opposing counsel for my mock trial. Our trials were on a Friday night, and we didn’t finish until after 10pm. Her group finished before mine. I was petrified walking to the parking garage that night. I didn’t know if she’d be waiting there for me. I was so relieved when I didn’t see anyone in the garage.

My goal for the student club that my bully and I were executives for became to get the club through the end of the school year, pass it off the next year’s executives, and be done with my bully and the other executive. The club’s faculty advisor caught wind of what was going on and asked to meet with me. When I told her about the emails, she said my bully was out of line and she would do what she could to help get the club through the end of the year.

Our advisor called a meeting for all the executives to plan the remaining weeks of the semester. When my bully and the other exec tried to bring up the gala invitations, she immediately cut them off and refocused on the club’s future. I walked out of the meeting with the impression that my bully and the other exec were not going to stop trying to turn the gala invitations into a group decision and that they were going to view everything I did in a negative light. I decided at that point to resign my leadership role. It wasn’t worth my effort to keep putting up with them.

All the executives in this club were equals when I was in it. We didn’t have designated roles like president and vice president. All club decisions were made by a majority vote. However, I was often the point person on projects and a lot of people sought me out when they had a question about the club. After I resigned, I had nothing to do with the club. When anyone asked me about the club, I referred them to the club’s email address.

Shortly before I got my bully, I was the point person on an event put on by my and another law student club. The post-event paperwork didn’t get done until after I resigned. An exec from the other club started it and asked for my help, but by then I couldn’t sign off on anything because I wasn’t a leader anymore. I referred her to the club’s remaining execs.

I could have done the work in less than 3 minutes, but I wanted to take a stand. I wanted my bully and the other exec to know that when they make it impossible to work with them, I’m not going to work with them. By then, I had no obligations to them or the club. I responded to all their emails by politely informing them that it would be inappropriate for a non-executive to fill out executive paperwork. That resulted in my bully sending me the nastiest email to date:

“Ruth you are a giant cunt and a poor person.”

Read how I responded to her nastiness in Part 3 of I Was Cyberbullied.

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