America is crying out for justice after George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police. Hundreds of protests, rallies, and vigils have been erupting across our country’s cities.
Are you thinking about attending a demonstration, or were you recently arrested for protesting? Knowing your rights as a protester is the best way to keep yourself safe while having your voice heard.
Read on to learn what to do before and after a protest arrest.
Know Your Protester Rights
If you were recently arrested for protesting, it’s helpful to know all of your rights. Here are 4 rights you have at a protest:
When you’re protesting in a public area, like the sidewalk, or street, you have the strongest rights. If you plan on speaking out in public, it’s absolutely within your rights to gather at certain public places such as plazas. However, you have to be careful to not block any access to the buildings you’re around.
Can People Come on Private Property?
You don’t have the right to speak publicly on someone else’s private property unless they permit you. If you’re speaking out in protest on your property, you’ll be acting within your rights.
How to Protest With Counter-Protesters
If counterprotesters appear, you have to grant them the same rights to free speech as you have yourself. Police can separate groups that appear to be provoking each other. However, both groups of protesters and counterprotesters will maintain the right to stay visible and heard.
Laws About Taking Photos
Were you were protesting lawfully in a public place and taking photographs? No worries. You have the right to take pictures of anything you can see.
Once again, the rules will change if you’re on private property. Whenever you’re on private property the owner will be the one setting the rules, including photography rules.
Anticipate Arrest Scenarios
Are you going to a demonstration that you suspect will have a lot of arrests? Prepare yourself by packing the right supplies ahead of time.
Here’s a list of supplies you should have with you when you protest:
Having your identification on you could help prevent an arrest from happening at all. Police officers can often issue tickets or warnings if they’re able to confirm your identity. If you have your I.D. with you, they’ll give you the ticket, but if not they have to take you in.
Next, you should bring any medications with you that you take daily. If it’s a prescription medication, make sure it says your name on the bottle.
Have a Lawyer on Speed Dial
Do you have legal representation? Before you go to the protest, find a lawyer you can trust and put them on your speed dial. After an arrest, the first person you should call is your lawyer.
One call, that’s all attorney professionals need to start assisting you. Let your attorney know exactly what happened and follow whatever advice they give you.
Know the Types of Offenses
What type of charges are you dealing with? There are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Depending on where you live, your state will decide what actions constitute each level of offense.
Dealing With Infractions
Did you jaywalk during the protest or commit some other type of street traffic violation? Similar to running a stop sign when you’re driving, police officers aren’t likely to arrest you for failing to obey a traffic rule.
Instead, your state will likely consider small incidents to be infractions. An infraction is something that you can usually receive a ticket for and then go on about your business.
Remember though, if you don’t have your I.D. with you, the police officers will have to take you to the station, even for small infractions. Luckily, by having your I.D., you can simply sign your ticket, and be on your way. If you fail to sign the ticket, the police officer will once again have to take you to the station.
Dealing With Misdemeanors
A misdemeanor is an offense that’s one step above an infraction. If you obstruct a police officer, that’s likely to be a misdemeanor. Getting a misdemeanor usually means you have to go to the police station.
Once there police officers will photograph and fingerprint you. If you have your identification with you and sign the ticket, they’ll likely release you the same day.
Dealing With a Felony
If you vandalize property or assault a police officer, you’ll be dealing with a felony offense. Felonies mean the police can put you in jail. However, you will have the option to bail out right away.
How to Handle Rights Violations
Do you believe the police are guilty of violating your rights as a protester? You’ll need to begin gathering as much information as possible.
The arresting officer’s name, badge and patrol car numbers, as well as their precinct. The more information you can gather about the police officers involved, the stronger your case will be.
Next, gather any contact information you can find from witnesses. If there’s a video of the violation, get a copy to your lawyer right away. You’ll also want to photograph any injuries you suffered.
After gathering all of this information, you’ll want to do 2 things with it. First, give the information to your attorney. Next, with your attorney’s permission, file a complaint with the police officers’ internal affairs division.
Please Stay Safe
Now you know what your rights are as a protester. We hope that our article will arm you with the knowledge you need to keep yourself safe. For more articles like this, check out the rest of this site.