Why Are Picket Lines Always Moving?

I have always assumed it had something to do with loitering laws, but have never been certain. Does anyone know the reason why picket lines are always pacing around in circles? If anyone has a link to a specific law, what would be helpful too. :slight_smile:

Having seen picket lines in the US, and having been on picket lines in Australia (including one outside the Parliament of NSW), I am sure that laws on pcket lines vary from place to place. In Australia, you don’t have to move around in a circle – you are allowed to stand still. So I suspect that differences may be more due to different industrial relations laws than to laws about loitering.

A lot of people I see picketing around the Twin Cities are sitting in folding chairs while they hold their signs.

Moving gets a lot more attention from passers-by than someone sitting in a lawn chair holding a sign, but I’m pretty sure there’s no law about it.

It’s so they can march without having to actually go anywhere.

It also may make crossing a picket line a bit more of a hassle (or even intimidating) to some.

I would imagine that it’s some good ol’ fashioned, “gesture magic.” Whereby if everyone is doing something, they don’t realize how silly (and generally unefficacious (?)) standing outside with signs all day is.

That said, it keeps the troops motivated and, here’s the important thing, it really fucks up traffic for people trying to get in and out of the building/down the street. If someone’s just standing around, then people can weave through them, but if they’re moving, it’s a clear signal to stay the fuck out of here. This will draw more attention as a lot of people are really inconvienenced.

Obviously, this will only work if the protest is to be in a highly trafficked area.

Seeing guys sit down, one has to wonder why they’re bothering. Apparently they just decided to take a no-pay day off of work to sit around and drink beer.

Depending on the protest, I highly doubt that they’ll get called on loitering even if that’s exactly what they’re doing - any semi-organized event will have some measure of support that will make life hell for City Hall if they try to crack down on it. IME, if anything the appropriate 3rd parties will try to force the disputing parties to take it to arbitration so they can get their city streets back.

Having been on a couple of picket lines in the past, my understanding is that if you stand still you are blocking access to the premises being picketed, while if you are moving, you are not normally considered to be blocking access (people can at least theoretically slip between the moving picketers). If you are in a jurisdiction which prohibits strikers from blocking access you can avoid arrest by using a moving picket line. If your jurisdiction allows blocking access, then you do it because it’s tradition or it’s less boring than just standing there.

Note that this is a very basic explanation, and real picket lines are subject to differing requirements from national, provincial/state/municipal laws, varying levels of police opposition/cooperation/indifference, etc.

      • It depends on a couple things: local laws, mainly. “Keeping moving” is mainly a method for claiming that you are not blocking access, and in some instances, also a method for escaping anti-loitering laws. Around where I live (central US) people sit around in lawn chairs.

Standing still is also really boring and can lead to leg cramps. Walking around helps keep one loose and alleviates the boredom.

Sounds like there’s a whole confluence of factors that makes walking preferable to standing.

because if the picket line stops moving it will be a ,…“Picket Fence.”