Americans across the country continue to meet and march in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Protestors say they are marching against police brutality and systemic injustices. But as anyone paying attention to social media and the news, many of the protests have turned violent once police intervene. In the most extreme gatherings, rioters and looters destroy public property and face real possibilities of criminal charges.
Protesting and demonstrating is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. If you plan on participating in a demonstration, remember that you have specific rights. But as the American Civil Liberties Union points out, the police are allowed to place some restrictions on free speech.
Public areas like streets, sidewalks and parks are venues where your rights are the strongest. Protesters can also gather in front of government buildings, so long as they don’t block access to the building. If you are standing on public property, you have the right to photograph and record your surroundings, including the police. The rules change if demonstrators are on private property. The owner can deny access and has the right to tell people what they can an cannot record. This why it is recommended that protestors stay on public property.
Keep in mind that counter-protesters have the same rights and must be respected too.
You don’t need a permit to protest if it is done on public property and does not stop traffic. However, if you’re participating in a march that includes a large number of people that will disrupt traffic, you need a permit in order to shut down roads for a safe path. By law, police and city organizers cannot deny you a permit for an event on the grounds that they do not like the subject or because it will be controversial. The ACLU also says fees for the permit should be waived if those applying for it cannot afford to pay for it.
If you believe your rights are being violated by the police, gather as many photos and videos of the incident as possible. Collecting details about the officer like badge number, name and any other identifying markers can help you while filing a complaint and if necessary, pursuing charges.
Police do not have the right to confiscate or stop you from recording them. Officers also don’t have the right to review or delete any media captured by demonstrators. If you are arrested, the ACLU says you should ask what crime you are accused of committing. You should also remind officers that recording is protected by the First Amendment.
If you have been arrested by the police during a protest or was denied your right to peaceful assembly, call the attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock P.C. Our attorneys are advocates for freedom of speech and have defended numerous clients in criminal defense cases. Call us at (844)556-0102 or contact us on our website to learn what we can do for your case today.