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Are Flash Mobs Illegal?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Social-media fueled "flash mobs" at first started off rather harmlessly. Except now, "flash mobs" are starting to live up to their "mob" moniker, which begs the question - are flash mobs illegal? Or, are flash mobs a First Amendment issue that is constitutionally protected?

Los Angeles has felt the sting of the flash mob. Earlier in the week, DJ Kaskade tweeted to his 92,000 Twitter followers that he was going to have a "block party."

It may not have been his intent to start a near-riot, but that's what happened. Thousands showed up, and some even vandalized police cars who shot bean bag rounds at the party-goers, reports MediaPost.

The existence of flash mobs have also encouraged Cleveland's city council to create a new crime called "Improper Use of Social Media," which can add a misdemeanor charge to those who are arrested for disorderly conduct, failure to disperse or unlawful congregation if the incident is the result of social media.

Obviously, law enforcement officials - and lawmakers - are now taking note of how easy it is to set up "flash mobs" through one single 140-charcter Tweet.

Though, it seems that most "flash mobs" would likely be protected under the First Amendment, which grants citizens the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.

The government can place restrictions on free speech, such as on the time, place or manner of expression, if it is justified and serves a significant government interest, which leaves alternative channels of communication. The restriction also has to be content-neutral.

Of course, those who use the "flash mobs" for illegal activity - such as vandalizing or committing robbery - will still be legally liable. Though, it seems very likely that the right to have a flash mob is First Amendment-protected.

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