Is That Legal – The Zombathalon

Zombathalon - Zombies shamble forth! by Moriartys from Flickr

Zombathalon – Zombies shamble forth! by Moriartys from Flickr

Around Halloween there are a lot of organized zombie walks and zombie races, but we wanted to see what would happen if we created a zombie outbreak in an unexpected location.

Zombathalon - Zombie Outbreak Warning! by Moriartys from Flickr

Zombathalon – Zombie Outbreak Warning! by Moriartys from Flickr

Improv AZ organized a group of 13 zombies that invaded the Arizona Canal, a popular running/walking/biking path in Phoenix over the weekend. For about 30 minutes we stumbled and groaned up and down a section of the canal while covered in fake blood, ripped clothes, and with pasty white makeup covering our skin. We warned people that they were coming upon a gaggle of zombies by posting yellow signs covered in fake blood that said, “Warning: Zombie Outbreak.”

We had an awesome time entertaining, surprising, and scaring our unsuspecting audience, but was it legal?

Did We Commit Trespassing?
No. It was a public path. Everyone’s welcome to use it.

Did We Commit Assault?
No. Assault requires intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing a physical injury or putting someone in reasonable fear of physical injury. Most of the time we were moving too slowly to get close enough to anyone to even touch them. I doubt anyone thought we were trying to injure anyone. I think they figured out that it was all in good fun.

The only time we had physical contact with any runners was when they initiated contact with us with high fives, fist bumps, and one person jokingly threw water at one of us.

What About Intimidation? Unlawful Imprisonment?
No. That would require us threatening to cause physical injury, serious damage to property, or serious public inconvenience. Public inconvenience is things like forcing the evacuation of a building. Putting people in a situation where they have to run around us – an extra 5 steps to their run – hardly counts as a public inconvenience. Imprisonment requires restraining a person. We may have been in the way, temporarily, but we didn’t prohibit anyone from moving down the path.

It’s probably not a public inconvenience if the people are laughing about it while they’re doing it.

We did this flash mob to entertain our unsuspecting audience and everyone seemed to have a good time. We had a lot of people laugh and make jokes when they saw us.

We had to be more careful than zombies in an organized zombie race because at those events the racers know they will be navigating a course where there are zombies who try to attack them. They know and consent in advance to being approached and touched by those zombies so there’s little risk that those zombies will be accused of wrongdoing either.

You can check out the video from The Zombathalon here.

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Is That Legal: International Pillow Fight Day


AZ Pillow Fight by Sheila Dee

International Pillow Fight Day is always on the first Saturday in April. Over 100 pillow fights will be taking place all over the world this year. Public pillow fights are lots of fun, but of course, there is always the question of whether they are legal.

Doesn’t a Pillow Fight Count as Assault and Battery?
Probably not. Most state laws regarding assault and battery require offensive touching or an imminent threat of offensive touching. Some laws require physical injury or at least intentionally touching someone with the intent to provoke or insult them. As long as you’re hitting other pillow fighters, you’re probably not committing assault and battery.

There was an incident at a pillow fight in New York a few years ago where a woman was arrested for hitting a cop with her pillow. Don’t do that.

Be sure to check your state laws for laws against fighting or mutual combat. It might be hiding in a catch-all law like disorderly conduct.

What If My Pillow Explodes?
I don’t think pillows explode. I think people cut their pillows so the feathers fly everywhere.

Regardless of the cause of your pillow’s explosion, clean it up. There are laws against littering. If the feathers from your pillow cause any damage, you might be responsible for that too. There was a pillow fight on a rainy Valentine’s Day in San Francisco in 2009. Wet feathers clogged drains and caused ~$20,000 in damage due to flooding and clean-up costs.

Where’s a Good Place to Hold a Public Pillow Fight?
If I were to organize a public pillow fight, I’d look for a big public park. If you’re not on private property (like a mall), it’s harder to be arrested for trespassing. I’d pick a place that does not interfering with other’s enjoyment of the park and wouldn’t block any sidewalks or thoroughfares.

What If the Cops Find Out about the Pillow Fight – Can They Stop It Before It Happens?
I don’t think so, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. In 2009, the Detroit police confiscated pillows at a park before the fight was scheduled to occur. Carrying a pillow in public is not illegal, so I don’t think the cops had the authority to prevent the fight was happening. I think the better course of action was to warn people about what laws they might break if they strike someone with their pillows and to warn them that they would be cited or arrested if they broke any laws.

The laws that apply to public pillow fights are mainly state criminal laws so be sure to consult your state’s statutes before having a pillow fight. When in doubt, consult an attorney who specializes in flash mob law.