Criminal Law/Legal options against possible harassment
QUESTION: I'm in Illinois and am trying to find out if there are any legal measures I can take against someone who is verbally harassing me. (I am perceiving this as harassment, though I'm not sure if it is considered harassment as far as the law is concerned.) Here is the situation: I am not gay, but am being called names, mostly along the lines of "faggot loving whore", by people in a religious group because I don't agree with their prejudices. They also spend their time proselytizing, telling me I'm going to hell, I have to denounce my evil beliefs to save my soul, and quoting the bible to support their claims and explain what will happen to me in hell. Sometimes they tell me these things directly, but most of the time they set themselves up near me and read their anti-gay religious pamphlets to one another, making a point to be loud enough to be heard by me and anyone else around. For example, instead of coming up to me and saying, "You're going to hell, queer whore.", they will sit and talk to each other, one telling another that "Queer whores, like those in our midst, are going to hell." So far, this has only happened where I work, both inside and outside. I am a tutor and work in a room that is open to the public. My boss has security around to make sure they don't do anything, but when trying to get rid of them is threatened with legal action for trying to prevent their freedom of speech. Outside, they always stand in public areas, on the sidewalk or in the street, and walk with me saying all of this as I go to my car. Once I drive away, they never follow me. They have never specifically threatened to harm me. Is there anything I can do?
Off the top of my head the answer is maybe. It sounds like they are actively protesting in an area and have the permission to do so. It sounds like you are crossing through their designated area. My suggestion would be to call for police escort and assistance should their behavior offend or trouble you. You can take it from there. If you know what they are about and why they are saying the things they do, then you can probably continue to weave in and out of their midst unscathed and leave it at that. Everything rests, however, on your perception. If you feel threatened or if they impede your progress then the police can intervene.
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QUESTION: I do know that they don't have specific permission to be where they are but rather are operating within the limits of the law by not being on private property. What are their limits as far as what they are allowed to do or say on a public sidewalk? Is there anything in particular to look for that would allow police to order them to stop? For example, would this be considered hate speech (it is all anti-gay) and is that illegal in Illinois?
Good question. Under that legal construct the criteria would be any kind of speech or physical activity that impedes your freedom of movement or targets you as an individual. Does that make sense? They can protest generally. However they can't block your path, force you to defend yourself, target you specifically, etc.