I am often told by police to “move along” from public areas. Is that legal?
Not necessarily. If the area is public and not posted as having particular hours, you generally have a right to be there as long as you are engaged in lawful activity. Public places belong to everyone, and are also often places of public accommodation to which non-discrimination rules apply. Even if a police officer wants to deter crime, or suspects some kind of unlawful intent, they have no general right to request people to move from one place to another unless there is unlawful conduct (Commonwealth v. Carpenter, 325 Mass. 519, 521 (1950) (sauntering and loitering in public places is right of every person); Benefit v. City of Cambridge, 424 Mass. 918 (1997) (streets and other public areas are “quintessential public forums” for expression); Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 126 (1958)).