The catcall video considered: Is it illegal in MN?

No doubt, the creepiest part of the video I posted a day or so ago featuring the woman walking in New York, is the person who walked alongside her for several minutes.

Allow me to refresh your memory.

Obnoxious? Yes. It’s also illegal in Minnesota and several other states, the Washington Post’s Wonkblog points out today.

No doubt, these men are also oblivious to the fact that what they’re doing — in New York and many other states — may in some cases be illegal. New York’s disorderly conduct law bars obscene language or gestures in a public place. Its harassment law bars someone from making alarming or seriously annoying comments to you at least twice (both violations: a $250 fine and/or up to 15 days in jail).

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to follow people (as happens to the woman in the video twice). In the District of Columbia, it’s illegal to engage in abusive language or conduct that disturbs a person’s path through public space.

Minnesota is one of just 7 states that makes this sort of thing illegal, according to a state-by-state guide published by Stop Street Harassment.

If a harasser is engaging in offensive, boisterous or noisy conduct – such as yelling at you, following you, blocking your path, or making a scene –on the street, public transportation, or even on a school bus, you can report him/her.

Here’s the disorderly conduct law in Minnesota, cited by the guide.

Whoever does any of the following in a public or private place, including on a school bus, knowing, or having reasonable grounds to know that it will, or will tend to, alarm, anger or disturb others or provoke an assault or breach of the peace, is guilty of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor:
(1) engages in brawling or fighting; or
(2) disturbs an assembly or meeting, not unlawful in its character; or
(3) engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.

A person does not violate this section if the person’s disorderly conduct was caused by an epileptic seizure.

The stalker in the video doesn’t violate any of those provisions and there’s no element of it that bans following someone. And “Have a good day” and “God bless you” aren’t considered “fighting words”, as the guide suggests.

Here’s the provision, however, that does make what happened in the video a possible crime in Minnesota.

(2) follows, monitors, or pursues another, whether in person or through any available technological or other means;

It’s the state’s anti-stalking law, which defines what happened in the video as only a gross misdemeanor, if you could convince an authority to take it seriously enough.

Seriousness, by the way, isn’t something Funny or Die approaches the issue with in its somewhat pathetic video today showing how this might’ve gone if a man had not been allowed to walk down the street without being subject to catcalls.


(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)